Accuracy in Media

Mainstream media no longer can claim President Donald Trump’s campaign was not spied upon, so they now claim the spying was legitimate, and Trump has only himself to blame.

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post produced a story typical of this last week, entitled, “Barr offers yet another slanted quote about the Russia investigation.”  

“Attorney General William P. Barr has been a skeptic about the origins of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election since even before the Nunes memo,” read Blake’s lead. “And on Monday, he offered yet another curious comment framing the whole thing in a pretty pro-Trump and anti-FBI way.”

Blake pointed readers to a New York Times interview, in which Barr was asked to explain what questions he wanted answered in this investigation of the investigators. “Pay close attention to the second sentence,” Blake wrote.

Barr’s quote: “What we’re looking at is: What was the predicate for conducting a counterintelligence investigation on the Trump campaign? How did the bogus narrative begin that Trump was essentially in cahoots with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election.”

After two years and $40 million worth of investigation, all of which the Trump administration cooperated with completely, special counsel Robert Mueller wrote in his report that he could not determine whether 10 acts he described – including firing the FBI director and joking that if the press came up with the 33,000 emails missing from Hillary Clinton’s private server that readers would be interested – amounted to obstruction of justice.

But he unequivocally stated there was no evidence Trump or his campaign had colluded or sought to collude with Russia despite numerous entreaties from the Russians to do so.

So, Blake’s problem is with the characterization of the claim as bogus – a notion he has been fighting in print all year. In January, he wrote: “William Barr tries to clean up his Clinton comments – but stumbles into a new Mueller problem” – subhead: “A newly released email makes clear Barr Thought Clinton probes were more warranted than Mueller’s collusion probe.”

That story dealt with a quote Barr gave to the New York Times saying that he saw more basis for investigating the Clinton-Uranium 1 deal than supposed collusion between Trump and Russia.

Blake wrote that “Barr’s attempt to explain way those comments didn’t make a whole lot of sense. And, in sum, they suggest he didn’t think much of Mueller’s collusion investigation either.”

In last week’s piece, Blake again listed the reasons he thinks the FBI “might have legitimately suspected or at least wanted to investigate a potential Trump campaign conspiracy with Russians.”

They included George Papadopoulos, the one-time low-level Trump campaign adviser, “telling a foreign diplomat that Russia had dirt on Clinton,” a proposition Papadopoulos takes issue with in his new book.

Others included: Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, “attended a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” that he hired Carter Page, “a campaign adviser with Russian ties,” that Paul Manafort, who served briefly as Trump’s campaign manager, “worked for a Russia-allied president of Ukraine” and that Trump “asked the Russians, publicly, to hack opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails, after we learned Russia had already done something similar with other Democrats.”

Blake goes on to say: “the framing of Barr’s second sentence seems to give away the game” because Barr is “tacitly ascribing the ‘bogus narrative’ to the investigators.” He admits there were “political actors and pundits who were over their skis in declaring this to be a conspiracy, but this suggests law enforcement had decided what happened from the jump.”

Christopher Wray, the FBI director, and others “don’t use that term and/or think it to be too loaded.”

Then, in summary, he wrote: “This is a guy who sounds like he developed strong feelings long ago – before, even he has admitted, he was privy to all the information – that the collusion investigation was unfounded and launched for suspicious purposes. And his commentary to this day is consistently uncharitable to the law enforcement personnel who serve beneath him.”

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