Accuracy in Media

With the release of the report from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz on the origins of the 2016 election now “imminent,” in the words of Attorney General William Barr, mainstream media has stepped forth to discredit it in advance of what are expected to be devastating findings and possibly even criminal referrals of Democrats.

The Washington Post claimed the Justice Department was not allowing witnesses to submit written feedback to the report, only to backtrack hours later and blame the confusion on Justice Department spokespeople.

MSNBC reported that Barr met with Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday and the two – along with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone – had held an “animated conversation” and submitted, without evidence, that this could mean the president is growing impatient with his attorney general.

Susan Hennessey, the executive editor of the Lawfare blog, a CNN legal analyst and senior fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, got sarcastic in a series of tweets suggesting the president and attorney general should not meet while such an investigation is drawing to a close.

“What’s that you say? A normal Attorney General might try to go out of his way to observe norms and procedures for an IG investigation aimed at people the president has deemed political enemies so as not to erode confidence in the findings? Nonsense!” she said in one tweet.

“Pointing out the mounting departures from norms designed to safeguard against political interference and lend procedural credibility to outcomes can ONLY MEAN you’re scared of righteous truths,” she wrote in a follow-up tweet.

The Post’s claim was refuted within hours by the Justice Department, and a later story revealed the Post had relied on anonymous sources for its claim that witnesses would not be allowed to submit written responses but could respond verbally.

The Post claimed without evidence that Democrats were “hopeful Horowitz will disprove various conspiracy theories that have been offered about the case and refute Trump’s assertion that Mueller’s probe was a ‘witch hunt’ tainted by political bias against the president. But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), said the findings would be “stunning” and “damning” and indicative of a “system being off the rails,” and most suspect he is on the mark.

It also painted the report as “likely to be a major credibility test for Barr, who has suggested impropriety by past leadership at the FBI.”

The NBC segment began with Brian Williams asking Philip Rucker of the Washington Post to “speculate wildly” on “what was going on in the Oval Office late today.”

He said “Marine One is idling, and it’s not quiet when it is. It’s very clear your ride has arrived if you’re the president. But he stayed behind in the Oval Office and again, all we saw was gesticulation and both men with his AG are talking in the Oval Office.”

Rucker said there were two things to remember about Barr – he is overseeing an investigation that the president “cares personally very deeply about” and that Barr has “himself traveled to several foreign countries to get to the bottom of, and there’s a desire among the president’s conservative allies for a conclusion to that investigation to be reached sometime this fall as a way to kind of detract attention away from the impeachment proceedings, as if that would be possible.”

He further said this “is not the first time we’ve seen a moment like this” … that Trump previously had kept a helicopter waiting while he shouted at former White House counsel Don McGahn, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former adviser Steve Bannon.

An account in The Week said: “President Trump’s departure for a political rally in Louisiana was delayed by about 45 minutes on Thursday evening because he was having an ‘animated’ conversation” with Barr and others. It cited the White House press corps pool report, which noted Trump was meeting with Barr but said nothing about the conversation being “animated.”

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