There's the narrative of "the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to hack the election." And then there's the narrative of "Trump obstructed justice by telling Comey to go easy on Flynn" or maybe "by firing Comey." How many news stories have you read in the months since the election promoting one or both of these two narratives? 500? 1000? More? Do you think that the people promoting these narratives would be feeling a bit embarrassed by now?
But of course it's the opposite. Even today, long after both narratives have completely fallen apart, their promoters -- and particularly the nutcases at the New York Times -- continue their desperate search for some crumb to report to keep one or the other of these narratives alive. Which of the two is crazier? You be the judge!
And thus on the front page of the New York Times for August 29 we learn that their crack team of reporters has finally gotten their hands on a real live email showing that Trump colluded with the Russians. Or something like that. The story, headlined "Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected,'" is by Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman. It seems that the Trump Organization has produced emails to the House Intelligence Committee in connection with the ongoing investigation of Russian "meddling" in the 2016 election, and involvement of the Trump campaign in same, if any. The Times reporters have managed to get access to some of the emails. What is the best they can find in this trove of information?
It's a November 3, 2015 email from a guy named Felix Sater to Michael Cohen, one of the in-house counsel at the Trump Organization. The Times's characterization:
A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.
The text of the email?:
Michael I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin's private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin. I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected. . . . I know how to play it and we will get this done. Buddy our boy will become President of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this . . . .
Well, did anybody ever follow up on this, and did anything happen with it?
There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises, and one email suggests that Mr. Sater overstated his Russian ties. In January 2016, Mr. Cohen wrote to Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, asking for help restarting the Trump Tower project, which had stalled. But Mr. Cohen did not appear to have Mr. Peskov’s direct email, and instead wrote to a general inbox for press inquiries. The project never got government permits or financing, and died weeks later.
Yes, this article was on the front page. Dozens of reporters and hundreds of hours of work, and this is all they've come up with. And still they soldier on!
But is that crazier than the "obstruction of justice" narrative? On that narrative, we have a big front page story today, "Mueller Has Early Draft of Trump Letter Giving Reasons for Firing Comey," by Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman. Yes, it's the same Maggie Haberman -- she's the official mistress of conspiracy theories at Pravda.
The overriding story is that special counsel Robert Mueller supposedly continues to investigate the subject of Trump's potential "obstruction of justice" by giving directions to Comey or firing him or something like that. Today's nugget that supposedly justifies a front-page article is that there was a draft of a letter to Comey, firing him, that was prepared by President Trump and White House counselor Stephen Miller. That draft was different from the final version of the letter delivered to Comey! The White House counsel weighed in and modified the letter, including to give different reasons for the firing than appeared in the original Trump/Miller draft! Of course, the Times reporters have not actually seen the draft, and cannot give us the specifics of what was changed.
So you ask, what if anything does this have to do with obstruction of justice? You won't find the answer to that question in this article. Are you shocked to learn that lawyers sometimes review drafts of letters and suggest modifications to the client to keep him out of legal trouble?
Over at National Review, Andrew McCarthy makes the points that we have been making here at Manhattan Contrarian since back in June and July:
As we have repeatedly observed . . . it makes no more sense to talk about an obstruction indictment of the president over his urging the FBI director or the attorney general to shut down an investigation than it does to talk about such an indictment over a presidential pardon. . . . [T]he president’s subordinates have [no] power to countermand him. The “independence of law enforcement” is an aspiration — and a worthy one in most instances. But it is not even a fact, much less a legal rule. Notwithstanding the grandiloquence of high-ranking law-enforcement officials about their vaunted independence, they do not constitute a separate branch of government. Not only do they work for the chief executive; they do not even have their own power. Under the Constitution, only one official in the executive branch has power — the president. The first sentence of Article II is crystal clear: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States."
Unfortunately, New York Times, when you put stories like these on the front page, intelligent readers will draw the inference that this is the best you've got to support your narrative. Nine months of hyperventilation, and this is all you've come up with? Really???