Accuracy in Media

Paul Manafort is a lobbyist, so President Trump must be guilty of something, according to an article Monday from Slate.

The story – “Behind Paul Manafort’s sordid career: Hints of a much larger Trump conspiracy” – subhead: “It wasn’t the ‘big reveal’ Mueller junkies hoped for, but 800 pages on Manafort’s crimes was just the appetizer” – by Heather Digby Parton, covered the release of an 800-page memo on Saturday in which special counsel Robert Mueller recommended sentencing for Manafort for tax avoidance that took place 10 years before he became involved briefly with the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016.

Parton wrote that she longed for “the ‘Big Reveal’ and for Mueller to “lay out whatever he’s got,” but what she got was disappointing. “Unfortunately, as far as the sentencing memo revealing anything more about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign goes, it was a dud.”

What she did get was a document that laid out “Paul Manafort’s sordid history of criminality” – one that revealed “there is little doubt that this man has spent a lifetime consorting with terrible people doing terrible things and making a lot of money at it. You’d think Donald Trump would have done a little bit of research before he tapped such a person to run his campaign, particularly since one of his major campaign promises was that he would only hire the very best people.”

She later states: “There has never been a more motley group of misfits populating one presidency in American history.”

The “dud” did not mean Mueller has come up empty in his two-year, multi-million-dollar search for collusion between Trump and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. Indeed, “some hints we had already seen in previous filings and court transcripts that point to the possibility of a broader conspiracy theory were left out of this mammoth filing.”

That’s “quite unusual,” Parton admitted, because “Mueller’s previous sentencing memos have gone farther than strictly necessary in laying out details, creating a larger narrative that has unfolded in chapters as each case is presented to the courts.”

But that was not because they had been explained in other ways or Mueller had dropped them as lines of inquiry after not finding evidence to support them. Indeed, what it means is the writer is buying into a theory promoted by Philip Bump of the Washington Post that Mueller is pursuing a “frog slowly boiling in hot water” strategy.

Imagine if all the preceding indictments had “landed in a thud on the attorney general’s desk,” Bump wrote in the story she quoted.

This is smarter, Parton suggested.

“The slow-motion revelations, one after the other, have allowed the president and his henchmen, as Bump says, to ‘lump every new revelation into a big snowball labeled ‘no collusion,’ parroting the same refrain as the snowball grows.’ You lose track of it, never really grasping the bigger picture because we lurch from one scandal and one revelation to the next in a sort of fog. But if you step back just a little, it’s clear this is a tremendous story of corruption and malfeasance.”

All the indictments, of Russians and Americans alike, “overlap ‘at only one point: involvement in the 2016 election.’ In any ordinary administration, it’s hard to imagine we’d be seeing the president who ran such a corrupt enterprise gearing up for a re-election campaign.”

For now, Parton is focusing on something not mentioned in the memo but which Mueller henchman Andrew Weissmann “so intriguingly hinted at in the previous week’s court transcripts as ‘the heart of the case’ – the alleged exchange of polling data with a man the FBI believes is associated with Russian intelligence.”

The “fact that Mueller didn’t include any details about a larger conspiracy” argues not that those facts don’t exist, Parton insisted. Rather, it “argues for the idea that there’s more to come.”

Meawnhile, the special counsel is said to be closing up shop and quietly warning Democrats not to get too excited about his report.

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