Conduct of media and Trump questioned after release of Mueller summary

So far just a summary of the report of the inquiry by Special Counsel (Robert Muller) has been released, but claims and accusations are flying, with the media bearing the brunt of most criticism.

Trump is justifiably very please with the outcome, but as usual has made inaccurate statements – he has not been fully exonerated as he claims, and his conduct during the inquiry, in particular his accusations against Mueller, was far from presidential.

But the media is copping most of the flak.

Politico:  Media stares down ‘reckoning’ after Mueller report underwhelms

Fox News host Sean Hannity accused “CNN, MSNBC, and the mainstream media” of having “lied” for two years in his first tweet on Sunday after a four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions was made public.

Pot, kettle.

“Now they will be held accountable,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump. Jr. accused “CNN, MSNBC, BuzzFeed and the rest of the mainstream media” of “non-stop conspiracy theories” in a statement, while urging “honest journalists within the media” to “have the courage to hold these now fully debunked truthers accountable.”

That Mueller concluded no one from Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia in attempting to influence the election has ramped up scrutiny of the news media’s handling of the two-year investigation.

There may be some truth in that, but it is an over generalisation – Lowry is a part of the media and I presume he isn’t criticising himself.

Longtime Rolling Stone writer and author Matt Taibbi published an excerpt from his new book on Saturday which argued that “Russiagate is this generation’s WMD,” a reference to news coverage during the run-up the Iraq war, widely seen as the greatest journalistic failure in modern memory.

“The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess”.

But as with some of the media on the collusion accusations, this may be premature, until details of the inquiry findings are released – and if they are not all released, it will provide scope for continued questions.

It may be premature to castigate the news media when a lot questions remain unanswered. Attorney General William Barr only provided a four-page summary of Mueller’s report, which notably on the issue of obstruction, “does not conclude that the president committed a crime,” but “also does not exonerate him.” It remains unclear why, exactly, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded over the weekend that there was not sufficient evidence to support obstruction — especially as the president was never interviewed.

Also, blaming “the media” writ large is problematic in potentially lumping unsupported speculation — whether on cable news or on social media — with dogged reporting on an investigation which led to a half-dozen Trump associates, including a former campaign chairman and national security adviser, either being charged or pleading guilty to crimes. Not to mention, there are still a dozen investigations, largely based in New York, stemming from the special counsel’s investigation.

Some journalists have already pushed back on the weekend criticism. “Given the issues, stakes, and seriousness with which special counsel treated all of this, the media’s coverage of Russia-Trump connection and possible obstruction over the last two years was somewhere between about right and not quite aggressive enough,” tweeted Esquire’s Ryan Lizza.

Of course there are valid criticisms of the modern media (all of it). Lance Morrow (City Journal): Journalism Dies in Self-Importance

I suppose it’s true that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as the Washington Post’s slogan says. But journalism may also die, by morphing into forms that can no longer be described as journalism. Journalism may come to mean a crooked scandal sheet, or high-minded propaganda. Sometimes squalor and self-righteousness are equally disreputable.

The other day, Ted Koppel, a voice from the late-twentieth-century practice of journalism, spoke about what has become of his old business in the age of Trump. “We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were,” Koppel said, in an understatement. The Left always cites Fox News in this regard. He singled out the Washington Post and the New York Times, saying that they have gone overboard in their bias, transforming themselves into anti-Trump advocates.

“We are not talking about the Washington Post [or New York Times] of 50 years ago,” Koppel said. “We’re talking about organizations that . . . have decided, as organizations, that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States.”

Other media, or at least parts of it (like Fox), have at times blatantly taken Trump’s side.

Koppel made clear that he does not disagree with the verdict that Trump is “bad for the United States.” He means only that the Post and Times abandon their journalistic responsibility when they take sides so blatantly.

Today, opinion and dogmatic speculation are the currency of politics and journalism. Facts have become elusive or even unnecessary, except for, say, the body counts at mass shootings. Otherwise, the world is fluid and angry and ideological. Among other things, the new journalism—more theater than journalism, a slugfest of memes—is a lot easier to practice. Much of it, on either side, is little more than noise.

Washington Times:  Media pulled off big con with Russia collusion story

America got conned again.

It was all a big set-up. A ruse. A dirty canard.

The whole thing was one giant lie.

And everybody peddling it — from House Democratic leaders, to Senate Democrats running for president, to the Senate Republican who reported the whole thing in the first place, to the roaring lions of the Great White Media…

I presume the Washington Times excludes themselves from ‘Great White Media’.

Media defends itself. Politico – Week 96: Trump Might Not Be Guilty, But Neither Is the Press

Trump walked away victorious if bloodied from the announcement, hailing the Barr letter, in a classic bit of exaggeration, as a “complete and total exoneration” as he boarded Air Force One in Florida. But Trump had every right to revel.

Mueller’s air-tight inquiry—did his team ever leak?—encouraged political speculation from Democrats and journalistic supposition on the part of reporters that Russian monkey wrenching of the election, which almost everyone now concedes happened, had succeeded in penetrating and influencing the Trump campaign.

No information should not be an automatic excuse for speculation.

Mueller’s failure to connect Trumpworld directly to Russian skullduggery in a way that would hold up in a court of law made a shambles—for the time being, at least—of the theories formed by pols and reporters studying the issue from outside Mueller’s cone of knowledge.

Did the press blow the Trump story? That’s what journalist Matt Taibbi wrote in his newsletter the day before the release of the Barr letter, excoriating “every pundit and Democratic pol” who hyped an emerging Russia headline. He dings CNN, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, the New York Times, and others for what he considers credulous and gullible reporting, comparing their output to the faulty coverage of WMD during the Iraq War run-up. The Taibbi tirade will be cringemaking for every reporter whose extrapolations of the Russian story now place them on the wrong side of the Barr précis.

But there’s a major difference between the press coverage of the WMD story and the Russia business, one that deserves highlighting.

Media should have reported on the Mueller inquiry. It was a big deal and quite newsworthy. But in the absence of facts ‘reporting’ and ‘news’ were often overrun with speculation and predictions.

In defense of the coverage, let’s remember that charges of collusion didn’t arise in a vacuum. Thanks to Mueller, we now know about the steady and suspicious dalliances with Russians during the campaign by the easily compromised, ethically challenged, political amateurs inside Trumpworld—George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. (and Michael Flynn after the campaign).

Recall how many documented lies Mueller has caught the president’s men telling. Recall again the relationship between Manafort and his business associate Konstantin V. Kilimnik, believed by Mueller to be allied with Russian intelligence.

There was a lot of news that justified reporting.

The dishonesty and lying of senior members of trump’s campaign team, and their prosecutions and findings of guilt, were big news.

So with all due respect to Donald Jr., who was quick on Sunday to turn the absence of more indictments from Mueller into an indictment of what he called “the Collusion Truthers,” I will not be “apologizing for needlessly destabilizing the country.” Quite the opposite. Investigators investigated. Reporters reported. The republic still stands.

As long as Trump is bestowing exoneration on himself today, let’s not forget to mention Mueller and his much-reviled deep-state warriors—remember all those “13 angry Democrats” tweets?—who proved they could wield the law in a fair and impartial matter.

There was misreporting and preposterous claims in the absence of facts from across the media spectrum.

Can the Mueller findings be trusted? At this stage only a brief summary has been revealed by the Attorney General, who was appointed by Trump.

Remember that one prominent person was scathing of Mueller and his inquiry.

NZ Herald chose to publish this from David Von Drehle:

For nearly two years as special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller has endured a nearly constant barrage of insults and character assassination from a Twittering President Donald Trump and his bootlicking propagandists.

There is only one explanation for the president’s relentless attacks. He thought that Mueller was likely to throw the book at him. And there are only two explanations for that expectation. Either Trump knew he deserved it, or Trump assumed Mueller would sink to his own level of mendacity and self-serving to pervert justice. The idea that a public servant, indeed, a team of public servants, would quietly discharge a mission with honour was utterly beyond Trump’s fathoming.

America had an unpleasant job that needed doing. The president of the United States had surrounded himself with people who lied about their contacts with highly placed Russians. He had fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, and within hours he personally assured the Russian ambassador that he did so to shut down an inquiry into these lies.

It was possible all this could be explained as the product of incompetence and naivete, because Trump had been utterly unprepared for the presidency and was surrounded by gangsters and clowns.

But it was also possible something intentional was going on.

Someone had to sort out the facts. The task would be exhausting, it would be thankless and it would likely end in some degree of vilification.

Mueller’s report has not yet been published, and there will be more to say about it when more of it has been seen. Perhaps parts of it will remain secret for years, if not decades. But we can say that Mueller ran the tightest ship Washington has seen in a very long time, leakproof and diligent. And it appears he was more than fair to the president and the first family. According to Attorney General William Barr, Mueller alleged no collusion with the Russians.

That seems more than fair. Maybe the president will apologise now for his many months of attacks on the silent Mueller. “I’m sorry,” Trump might say, “I guess you weren’t on a witch hunt after all. I guess you didn’t hire a bunch of partisan hacks, as I repeatedly charged. Thank you for doing your job with honesty and integrity.”

Nothing like an apology From trump yet, Just a typical misrepresentation of the summary findings.

On ‘Obstruction of Justice’ the Attorney General’s letter states that the Special Counsel said “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

Mueller found no evidence of collusion, and  “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offence’.

But what was clear during the investigation was that claims from both the media and Trump were inappropriate.

The Mueller report should put an end to questions of collusion, but what appears to be an exemplary investigation by Muller is in stark contrast to the performances of the President and the media. If neither change their approach to their respective jobs then the disrepute of politics and political reporting remains a stain on the United States.

 

23 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 26, 2019

    Trump defending himself from incessant false political attacks was not inappropriate.

    You cannot obstruct justice if there is no crime unless you attempt to manufacture one. It is pretty clear who was doing that.

  2. adamsmith1922

     /  March 26, 2019

    Trump expended huge effort on trying to denigrate Mueller and his team. Yet Mueller appears to have performed perfectly appropriately unlike Trump

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  March 26, 2019

      How many investigations take two years to find someone innocent?

      • The Mueller investigation was complex, involving international players. It was hampered and delayed by lying and obstruction of justice.

        It took a year for a working group in New Zealand to find that Labour wanted a Capital gains Tax but wanted someone else to suggest it for them.

        It often takes months if not a year or more to investigate single crimes like murders and bring them to trial – i expect the Christchurch terrorist trial won’t be happening until next year at the earliest.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  March 26, 2019

          A year would have been the outside limit of reasonable to leave a charge like this hanging over a President.

      • Zedd

         /  March 26, 2019

        ‘How many investigations take two years to find someone innocent?’ sez AW

        I thought the report said ‘no collusion’ was proved BUT did NOT exonerate MrT..
        Now who is parroting FAKE news ?

        • High Flying Duck

           /  March 26, 2019

          The report said no collusion and no connection with the DNC server hack.
          It did not prove nor exonerate Trump on obstruction. But as it was alleged obstruction on a non-existent crime, does that part really matter?

          To be clear though the Barr letter includes a quote from the report that doesn’t say there was “no evidence”. It says it “did not establish” so whether this means no evidence or not enough evidence will have to wait the final report being released – if it ever is.

        • Duker

           /  March 26, 2019

          The summary from Trump’s Attorney General claims no collusion.
          It only uses 45 or so WORDS that are from Mueller in Barr’s 4 pages.

        • Zedd

           /  March 26, 2019

          as I said yesterday.. Nixon claimed ‘I am not a crook’ after Watergate; it did not save his sorry arse !

          btw; I see there is a debate on ‘Democracy now !’ (USA Indep news) should be worth a watch ?

          • Zedd

             /  March 26, 2019

            I watched the debate: Glenn Greenwald V David Cay Johnston (pulitzers prize winners) going ‘head to head’.

            Greenwald claims that this whole issue, has been a ‘media conspiracy theory’ to distract from the REAL issues around MrT (corruption, tax evasion & other ‘criminal activity’ etc. etc.)

            Johnston used the Greek translation for ‘IDiot’ : someone totally ‘Self obsessed’ & unconcerned about the rest of the world OR its demise ?
            He also mentioned a previous ‘business colleague’ of MrT who was convicted for DRUG-dealing & brushed way claims of his ‘possible collusion’ in this matter ??

  3. High Flying Duck

     /  March 26, 2019

    The David Von Drehle article posted above is complete dribble.
    His straw man “only one explanation” line is complete BS.
    If Trump knew he was innocent while having relentless attacks from the media and the Democrats saying they “knew he was guilty”, he would do…exactly what he did, which was attack the need for the enquiry and the time it was taking.
    I’m sure this more likely innocent explanation would not even occur to him – and that is symptomatic of how the media, in general, have treated Trump from day one.
    The reporting from many media – NYT, WaPo, MSNBC and CNN most of all was far more certain in its accusations than most of the above makes out, which is the reason they are so culpable. The minimisation and obfuscation in trying to justify the painfully one-sided reportage which has now been shown (provisionally) to be misguided and false really leaves little hope that the necessary self-reflection on the part of the media will occur.
    Remember there have been dozens (over 50) of news stories over the last 2 years that have had to be retracted for being wrong – every single one of them pointing to Trump being guilty. All prominent in the reporting and hidden in the retraction.
    As I replied to Blazer yesterday, I have no time for Trump and his boorishness, but it’s hard not to have sympathy given the relentlessness of the so far unfounded attacks on him since before the election.
    The Matt Taibbi piece sums it up well.

  4. duperez

     /  March 26, 2019

    The biggest con of the generation could be around the ‘fake news’ label. As AW said, Trump (and anyone) has the right to defend himself from false political attacks.

    When there’s been a clear strategy to put out false information and an obvious campaign to have the media undermined with the world sceptical and untrusting of it, there will be some unwanted consequences. It’s a feral world. Propagating that then bitching about getting washed away in the tide is a bit rich.

    Maybe Rich Lowry should note the adage, ‘beware those calling others obsessed & hysterical.’ A tide he helped create sweeps away. A pity he lost his mirror way back.

  5. admiralvonspee

     /  March 26, 2019

    Occam’s Razor suggested this was a nothing burger long ago.

  6. The Consultant

     /  March 26, 2019

    NZ Herald chose to publish…

    Heh. Of course. Had to find something to throw to their readers. God, they’re more pathetic than the foreign MSM they feed off, who at least could come up with original bullshit.

    And I see no mention in all this of the various reporters who were directly or indirectly fed information by key players:

    – starting with the Glenn Simpson/GPS “report” that kicked all this off. Read about Simpson’s fave reporters, Greg Gordon and Peter Stone of McClatchy News, who are still at it. And of course others at “fabled” MSM institutions like the NYT and WaPo fed off them in turn.

    – The Hillary Clinton campaign: time-honoured campaign technique of course, but still, they were a source and the MSM did not see fit to be skeptical because Trump.

    – John McCain: shopped the Simpson report around the media, thereby lending it “credibility”.

    – James Comey: while still the FBI director, he leaked to reporters via his old Columbia Law School chum, to keep his fingers out of it, supposedly confidential discussions with the President.

    – Various actors within the US government itself who decided that they knew better and that Trump must be stopped. A dozen or more have now been fired, resigned or re-assigned but given the volume of information, there are other players who also must have leaked to the MSM and have not yet been caught. No MSM skepticism there either, because they thought the same way.

    Alcoholics can’t fix themselves unless they acknowledge they have a problem, and all these pieces demonstrate that the MSM don’t think they do have a problem, and serious players like Tabbi and retired, big-time, respected journos like Koppel are not numerous enough to counter this self-delusion.

    But It probably does not matter. The MSM are dying and they know it. This just delivered a huge hammer blow to them. From now on, anybody would be perfectly justified in assuming that a report from CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo, the three US broadcast TV channels and almost all the rest, is simply a hysterical untruth,half-truth or an outright lie, especially when it comes to Trump, for which their hatred has completely twisted their reporting.

    Certainly their ideological motivations – and in the case of the USA, their partisan motiviations – mean that Left-Wingers should now cast the same gaze at their reporting that they do at FoxNews and its ilk.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  March 26, 2019

      The origins of the enquiry and the rumours are still very murky and there has been little media effort to unearth how a discredited dossier funded by Democrats was suddenly in the media and being used to obtain warrants.

      • Duker

         /  March 26, 2019

        The origins of the enquiry?
        That was all the US intelligence agencies who concluded that Russia interfered in the election ,one to help Trump and discredit Clinton and sow confusion and distrust of the election process. There were all the off the record meetings from Trump’s advisors and campaign staff with Russian officials and Kremlin connections.

        • High Flying Duck

           /  March 26, 2019

          Except it actually wasn’t “all the agencies”.
          “In the case of the famed “17 intelligence agencies said Russia was behind the hacking” story (it was actually four: the Director of National Intelligence “hand-picking” a team from the FBI, CIA, and NSA).a hand picked team from 4 agencies out of 17. That was one of the retractions that needed to be made.

  7. High Flying Duck

     /  March 26, 2019

    Part of the Origin tale:

    “Perhaps worst of all was the episode involving Yahoo! reporter Michael Isikoff. He had already been part of one strange tale: the FBI double-dipping when it sought a FISA warrant to conduct secret surveillance of Carter Page, the would-be mastermind who was supposed to have brokered a deal with oligarch Sechin.

    In its FISA application, the FBI included both the unconfirmed Steele report and Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 Yahoo! story, “U.S. Intel Officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” The Isikoff story, which claimed Page had met with “high ranking sanctioned officials” in Russia, had relied upon Steele as an unnamed source.

    This was similar to a laundering technique used in the WMD episode called “stove-piping,” i.e. officials using the press to “confirm” information the officials themselves fed the reporter.

    But there was virtually no non-conservative press about this problem apart from a Washington Post story pooh-poohing the issue. (Every news story that casts any doubt on the collusion issue seems to meet with an instantaneous “fact check” in the Post.) The Post insisted the FISA issue wasn’t serious among other things because Steele was not the “foundation” of Isikoff’s piece.

    Isikoff was perhaps the reporter most familiar with Steele. He and Corn of Mother Jones, who also dealt with the ex-spy, wrote a bestselling book that relied upon theories from Steele, Russian Roulette, including a rumination on the “pee” episode. Yet Isikoff in late 2018 suddenly said he believed the Steele report would turn out to be “mostly false.”

    https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million

  8. High Flying Duck

     /  March 26, 2019

  9. Just a reminder that we haven’t seen Mueller’s report yet and the summary that we are all talking about is Barr’s summary, not Mueller’s .

    Barr introduced his letter to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees by saying: “I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and to inform you of the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.”

    This introduction does not fit his letter, though: If one wanted to advise of the report’s “principal conclusions,” one would expect that more of the “principal conclusions” actually be shared.

    Instead, Barr distributed parts of four of Mueller’s sentences throughout his letter—three of which offer any kind of conclusions, and none of which even appear to be complete sentences from Mueller’s text.

    Those sentences are obviously helpful for Trump legally and politically, but Barr’s short letter—one page on Russia, one page on obstruction—raises more questions than it even tries to answer.

    What Barr put out on Sunday was not Mueller’s summary, nor even a summary of Mueller.

    It literally contains more of Barr’s legal conclusions—after just 48 hours of review—than of Mueller’s own conclusions over almost two years of investigation. It contained no details at all of the evidence that led to either man’s conclusions.

    Mueller surely wrote an executive summary of his findings for Barr, and it clearly would have been easier for Barr simply to give Congress and the public Mueller’s summary than to write this letter himself.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  March 26, 2019

      Surely Barr had to advise their determination on the obstruction accusation given Mueller’s appropriate response of merely summarising the evidence given that it pertained to his own investigation?

      The report will have to be vetted for security and conflicts with current court cases before public release and that will cover any executive summary as well as the rest of the report.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  March 26, 2019

      The AG does not have carte blanche to misrepresent a Special Counsel in his summary to Congress. Particularly when Congress will be receiving the full report.
      The summary is not just Barr’s. It is Barr in conjunction with Rosenstein and the office of legal counsel.
      He clearly notes in his letter that the review is ongoing but he is providing the “principal conclusions” per Meuller’s report.
      The Dems can’t have it both ways – they wanted the results as quickly as possible and now they are upset that an entire confidential report including much that must be sub judice due to ongoing court cases hasn’t been put into the public arena.

  1. Conduct of media and Trump questioned after release of Mueller summary — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition