If the crime is promoting distrust in institutions, the evidence is strongest against the FBI and media.
Millions of Americans despise Donald Trump and probably think it was justified or at least good clean fun when the Hillary Clinton campaign manufactured fake evidence of collusion with Russia, and the FBI and other branches of government used this information to trammel his presidency. At least this view, whatever its faults, isn’t stupid.
But stop the presses: Now we have a real case of collusion. Since the Ukraine war, Russia’s PR operation has published lists of individuals under meaningless Kremlin sanctions. These lists are scanned by pundits, wonks and politicians to see if they can brag about being unpopular with Vladimir Putin.
Last week Russia came out with 500 more names, including some criticized by Donald Trump, like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who certified his 2020 defeat in the state, and the Capitol policeman who shot Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 riot. Press commentary universally portrayed this as a Kremlin attempt to “help” Mr. Trump, but how does it help Mr. Trump, and how could Russia fail to know exactly how its action would be played in the U.S. press? How is the press, therefore, not playing along with Russia?
The word we’ve needed all along for the press and its fellow collusion-hoax promoters is disingenuous—defined by Oxford as “not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.”
Disingenuous was the press’s handling of a collusion story it always knew was partisan, implausible and unsupported. Disingenuous was the New York Times harrumphing last week that the latest John Durham report fails to live up to “years of political hype.” Of course, it shouldn’t have. Hype is short for hyperbole—exaggeration. Do we want prosecutors to cleave to hype or to facts? Read on and the hype Mr. Durham failed to live up to was Donald Trump’s—the paper relies on Mr. Trump to tell it how to frame the news.
I could go on. Disingenuous was the Vox writer who trumpeted that Mr. Durham failed to prove a criminal conspiracy by Democrats. Mr. Durham not only failed to prove it, he failed to charge it, and never suggested by word or deed this was his intention. In his three measured criminal cases, he never cited conspiracy charges. He also did not leak. He did not rush his work to influence elections.
This studied disingenuousness has been the press’s consistent method on collusion for six years, instead of asking the obvious question, “What is true?”
And it continues. To convince itself the FBI was on the up and up, the press continues to place impossible weight on the fact that, in officially opening a Trump investigation, the agency made a point of citing the one piece of evidence that didn’t originate with the Clinton campaign. The press continues to distort the plain words of the Justice Department inspector general, who explained at length why he is prohibited from inferring improper motives from improper acts by FBI officials.
And when all else fails, rely on insinuation and the unprovability of a negative.
But politicized and partisan aren’t the same thing. In my reading of events, the FBI’s leadership, while suffused with contempt for Mr. Trump, mainly assumed Mrs. Clinton would win. Then Mr. Trump won and a desperate coverup was born. Just put into words what happened: In response to fake and possibly planted Russian intelligence, the FBI improperly and insubordinately meddled in the Clinton email case (as per the inspector general) in a way that accidentally helped elect Mr. Trump.
This story, still hidden in a classified appendix of the inspector general’s report, is an agreed blind spot by Mr. Trump and the FBI. Neither is keen to emphasize the agency’s contribution to his 2016 victory. The one stone left unturned by Mr. Durham, except in a single footnote, is the spate of illegal leaks, a potential avenue for imposing criminal liability on FBI leadership for the cavalcade of misadventure it inflicted on the country. For whether you despise Mr. Trump and wish he were never elected or believe he should have been given a chance, both sides can blame James Comey. Hard to exaggerate is how much damage this one man did to our country in 2016 and 2017. You think Mr. Comey and his intelligence confrères were protecting the country from Mr. Trump? They couldn’t care less: They were trying to protect themselves from blowback for their own actions.
All along, the press has been shockingly incompetent and dishonest. I’m not given to categorical predictions, but here’s one: If the New York Times, Washington Post and other top-tier news outlets treated any one of the following stories the way they would have if Donald Trump didn’t exist—the collusion hoax, the Hunter Biden laptop evasion, the Biden clan’s influence-peddling—Mr. Trump would be a fading force in U.S. politics by now. The thing that primarily keeps him afloat is the contemptible behavior of his enemies, including a press that insists on positioning itself as his enemy whatever the damage to its own standards of factual and intellectual honesty.
Which brings us to where we started. The right way to report the new Russian sanctions list would have been to be upfront with readers and viewers about the Kremlin’s desire to inflame again the collusion controversy, to keep Americans divided and distrustful of each other and their institutions.
But of course this might have opened the question of the press’s “collusion” with Russia in whipping up the collusion hoax in the first place.