The epic media fail of the 2016 campaign is being repeated in 2020

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Last month there were some little noticed ominous headlines that appeared to indicate that Donald Trump was following through on his campaign rallying cry to prosecute his 2016 political opponent, Hillary Clinton, to “lock her up.”

The Washington Post and CNN reported the State Department steps up email probe of dozens of former Hillary Clinton aides:

President Donald Trump’s administration is investigating the emails of dozens of current and former senior State Department officials who sent emails to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

Current and former officials tell the Post that as many as 130 officials have been contacted in recent weeks by investigators at the State Department. Those targeted, including senior officials as well as others in lower-level jobs, have been notified that emails they sent years ago have been retroactively classified and now are potential security violations, according to letters reviewed by the Washington Post.

Hmmm, so retroactively reclassify messages to create a potential security violation where none existed when the messages were originally sent. That’s manipulating the evidence to produce a predetermined outcome.

CNN added: The recent change in the investigation was an effort to harass diplomats for doing their job, several people told the Post, as Trump had made Clinton’s use of private email servers during her tenure as secretary of state a staple of his 2016 presidential campaign rhetoric.

But this past weekend, there was an unexpected turn of events: the yearslong State Department investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails produced an Emily Litella ending: “Never mind!

The New York Times reported the State Dept. Inquiry Into Clinton Emails Finds No Deliberate Mishandling of Classified Information:

A yearslong State Department investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server found that while the use of the system for official business increased the risk of compromising classified information, there was no systemic or deliberate mishandling of classified information.

The inquiry, started more than three years ago, found that 38 current or former State Department officials were “culpable” of violating security procedures in a review of about 33,000 individual emails sent to or from the server that Mrs. Clinton turned over to investigators. [“The emails were on subjects that were not considered classified at the time, but that have been or were retroactively marked as classified.”(see above). Sounds like someone needed to create some justification for this terrible waste of taxpayer money chasing Trump’s conspiracy theories down a rabbit hole.]

The nine-page unclassified report, completed last month and shared with Congress this week, appears to bookend a controversy that dogged Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign against Donald J. Trump. Mrs. Clinton blamed the F.B.I.’s handling of the inquiry for crippling her campaign after James B. Comey, then the bureau’s director, reopened his investigation into the server days before the general election after initially declining to bring charges.

“While there were some instances of classified information being inappropriately introduced into an unclassified system in furtherance of expedience,” the report said, “by and large, the individuals interviewed were aware of security policies and did their best to implement them in their operations.”

The report concluded, “There was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.”

The New York Times was just as guilty as the rest of the mainstream media in giving legs to this baseless smear by the Trump campaign that Hillary Clinton was “guilty” of violating the law and that we should “lock her up.”

Trump’s 2016 smear campaign was a fraud, perpetuated by the mainstream media.

The Times editorializes today But Her Emails …:

What about her emails?

Donald Trump raised that question like a red flag for three years, as candidate and president, casting doubts on how Hillary Clinton used a private email server to communicate with her staff and others while she was secretary of state.“

Hillary set up an illegal server for the obvious purpose of shielding her criminal conduct from public disclosure and exposure, knowing full well that her actions put our national security at risk,” Mr. Trump said late in the campaign.

“Lock her up!” the crowds still chant at his rallies.

Now a three-year State Department investigation has found that, while about three dozen people violated protocols about classified material, they “did their best to implement them in their operations” and “there was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.”

This comes after the F.B.I. determined months before the election that, while Mrs. Clinton was “extremely careless” in having used a private email server for government communications, she did nothing illegal.

Do you know what is entirely missing from this Times editorial? Any acknowledgment by the Times of the role that its editors and reporters played in perpetuating these Trump conspiracy theories, and any apology to its readers, let alone to Hillary Clinton, for all the breathless false equivalency reporting by the Times for bothsiderism reporting on the actual corruption and criminal activity of Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign.

(Remember, it was the Times which published the false report that the FBI found no Russian connection to the Trump campaign, Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia, just days before the election, after breathlessly reporting on FBI Director James Comey reopening the Clinton email investigation.)

For probably the finest summary of these events that any news organization has put together (so far), see Rachel Maddow’s critical segment from Monday’s show below.

Maddow warns that the mainstream media is once again falling into its bothsiderism and false equivalency reporting with the debunked Ukraine-Joe Biden conspiracy theory being promulgated by the Trump campaign.

Maddow also warns that the social media companies, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are complicit in allowing the Trump campaign to lie in online content unchecked.

The Washington Post editorialized Facebook shouldn’t run Trump’s lie-laden ads.

CNN reports that Facebook says Russian trolls are back. And they’re here to meddle with 2020:

People linked to the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-backed troll group indicted by the United States for its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election, are laying the groundwork to do the same in 2020, new information released by Facebook on Monday suggests.

Profiles originating in Russia had since the beginning of this year been building a network of accounts on Instagram designed to look like groups in swing states, the company said. Instagram is owned by Facebook (FB).

Although the accounts posed as Americans from all sides of the political spectrum, many were united in their opposition to the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to Graphika, a social media investigations company that Facebook asked to analyze the accounts. The Russian trolls who used social media to interfere in the 2016 election employed a similar tactic, going after Hillary Clinton from the right and also trying to spread a perception on the left that Clinton was not liberal enough and that liberals and African Americans especially shouldn’t bother voting for her.

The accounts Facebook revealed Monday, 50 of which were on Instagram and one of which was on Facebook, were designed to look like they were advocating on a broad range of issues across American life.

Facebook said the accounts combined had more than 250,000 followers, more than half of which were based in the U.S. Facebook did not disclose how many of those followers were real and how many might have been fake or bot accounts designed to make the main accounts look more legitimate. Facebook says it has removed the accounts.

“It looked like there was a systematic focus on attacking Biden from both sides,” Graphika director of investigations Ben Nimmo, who analyzed the accounts, told CNN Business.

As Axios says, It’s 2016 all over again in political media.

But the most disturbing part of Maddow’s report is how the Trump “Injustice” Department has been weaponized by Attorney General Willam “Coverup” Barr to pursue Trump’s wild-ass conspiracy theories, and his political opponents. This is the hallmark of authoritarian despotic regimes (along with propaganda media).

Axios reports that Barr’s Investigation into Trump-Russia probe continues to grow:

A federal investigation closely supervised by Attorney General William Barr — which aims to inspect origins of the Trump-Russia probe — has interviewed “about two dozen and current F.B.I. officials,” the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The investigation, which is essentially looking into claims that the FBI’s probe into President Trump’s 2016 campaign was influenced by anti-Trump sentiments, is further along than previously reported.

The state of play: This is at least the third investigation into the FBI’s probe of possible links between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Barr appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham to spearhead the current investigation.

      • Durham has not yet interviewed all FBI officials “who played key roles in opening the Russian investigation in the summer of 2016,” people familiar with the review told the Times.
      • Durham is also “exploring what role, if any, a number of countries including Ukraine played in the investigation of the Trump campaign,” per the Times.
      • Robert Mueller, who served as special counsel for the Russia probe, did not conclude that Trump campaign members colluded with the Russian government, but his report said the president’s actions still may have influenced Russian conduct.

The big picture: Trump has continued to fight the Russia probe — which concluded in March.

Politico reports that “Barr has been meeting with the U.S.’ closest foreign intelligence allies in recent months, making repeated overseas trips as part of an investigation he is overseeing into the origins of the Russia probe and whether any inappropriate “spying” occurred on Trump’s campaign.” Trump’s quest for vengeance against John Brennan:

As part of that investigation, Barr and John Durham, the federal prosecutor he appointed to conduct it, have been probing a conspiracy theory for which there is little if any evidence, according to several people with knowledge of the matter: that a key player in the Russia probe, a professor named Joseph Mifsud, was actually a Western intelligence asset sent to discredit the Trump campaign — and that the CIA, under Brennan, was somehow involved.

Trump, meanwhile, has become “obsessed” with Brennan, who frequently gets under the president’s skin by publicly questioning his mental acuity and fitness for office, according to a former White House official. On Brennan, “it was always, ‘he’s an idiot, he’s a crook, we ought to investigate him,’” this person said, characterizing Trump’s outbursts.

* *

The emerging focus of the Barr-Durham investigation — the CIA and intelligence community’s work with the FBI on the Russia probe — emphasizes the increasingly blurred lines between politics and law enforcement in the Trump era. In May, Trump gave Barr unprecedented authority to review the intelligence community’s “surveillance activities” during the 2016 election, issuing a sweeping declassification order that granted Barr “unprecedented” powers over the nation’s secrets, former officials said.

It was a break with protocol that Trump’s allies see as a necessary check on the so-called “deep state” but that critics have lambasted as an attempt to create the impression of scandal—especially given Barr’s comments earlier this year hinting at a predisposed belief that inappropriate “spying” occurred in 2016 and that the Steele dossier may have been Russian disinformation.

Barr’s evidently close involvement with the Durham probe is in keeping with his reputation as a micromanager—and a fierce advocate of presidential prerogatives. As attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration, he described later for an oral history interview, he comes across as a seasoned, bare-knuckled bureaucratic brawler who closely coordinated his actions with the White House counsel’s office.

Durham’s report is likely to land well after the results of an inquiry by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, who is examining the FBI’s applications to a secret court in 2016 and 2017 to obtain surveillance warrants on a Trump campaign aide. Trump-friendly commentators have been raising expectations about the IG report, predicting that it will show the FBI purposefully misled the court to surveil Trump’s campaign, and have expressed frustration in recent days over its delayed release.

But former FBI officials on the receiving end of that probe say the president’s allies are setting themselves up for disappointment.

“Is the IG report going to say we made mistakes? Yes,” said one of the former officials. “But it won’t say we did so for some nefarious purpose. So the report will be a dry hole for Trump and his supporters. Which is why [Barr and Durham] have now gone to this other theory, positing that the CIA was engaged in some rogue operation to overthrow Trump and therefore feeding the FBI bullshit,” he said. “It’s complete nonsense.”

“Haven’t you heard?” said another former FBI official, sarcastically. “Brennan was a puppet-master and we were just his puppets.”

* *

“Any investigation into John Brennan by this corrupt administration must — on its face — be viewed with a minimum with maximum skepticism,” said former CIA spokesman George Little. “The intelligence community deserves the respect of the president and his Cabinet, not politically motivated investigations.”

A source close to the White House said the president has been “warned repeatedly by smart legal minds around him to stay out of” the investigation. But he also claimed that “a big chunk of the Barr-Durham investigation” is believed to involve “top Obama administration officials, including Brennan.”

Another person close to the president said that Brennan is a “topic of conversation” in the White House. He said he didn’t know for sure whether Trump told Barr to focus on Brennan, but “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast explains Bill Barr’s Plan to Rig 2020 for Trump: Frame ‘Deep State’ for Russia’s 2016 Interference (excerpts):

The attorney general of the United States, among others, is trying to rig the coming election by making sure that next year’s headlines are filled with “revelations”—imagine this—about how what was really corrupt about the last election was the way it was fixed against Donald Trump.

* * *

The stated point of this investigation is to determine whether anyone at Justice or in the FBI acted inappropriately in the way the 2016 Russia probe was initiated and carried out. But you have to ignore a mountain or three of circumstantial evidence to fail to realize what’s really going on here: Barr wants Durham to find and describe a vast “deep state” conspiracy—a criminal conspiracy—that intended to deny Donald Trump the White House, the details of which will dribble out, if it can be managed, over the course of next spring and summer and even into the fall.

In other words, the purpose of this investigation appears to be 100 percent political and electoral. It’s to show that the system cheated, or tried to cheat, Trump in 2016, and thereby give him a huge hand to play in 2020. Shorter purpose: to reelect Trump.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but it does, that this has almost no basis in fact.

This is Alice Through the Looking Glass alternate reality.

I seem to remember that if anyone was damaged by the FBI in 2016, it was Hillary Clinton. James Comey’s press conference “clearing” her was like Vito Genovese’s kiss of Joe Valachi. Then, of course, Comey announced he was reopening a probe into Clinton 11 days before the election. Meanwhile, his FBI was also investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, a probe that had been launched that July. Somehow or another, Comey forgot to announce that before the voting.

And on top of that, there are the questions raised back in 2016 in The Daily Beast by the late Wayne Barrett about anti-Clinton activities in the New York field office of the FBI during the closing weeks of that campaign. Suffice it to say that if there were a liberal Fox and liberal versions of Hannity, Jarrett, and Bongino, one-third of America would be persuaded that that New York field office was crawling with traitors.

This is the Rudy Giuliani connection yet to be investigated and fully reported.

And on top of that, remember the core, central fact of the 2016 election with respect to all this: Our 17 intelligence agencies agreed that Russia was interfering in the election to help Trump.

Is any of this, which may have helped the candidate who received 2.8 million fewer votes win, being investigated? Nope. But a conspiracy that a) didn’t exist and b) didn’t succeed even if it did exist (which it didn’t) is.

As always, what Trump says is the direct opposite of the truth, and he is describing not his opponents but himself. [Psychological projection.] The deep state story is Trumpland’s Plan B. That is, in case he can’t win reelection on the merits, he can charge that it wasn’t because the voters rejected him but because the system is out to get him.

It was bad enough when he did all this in 2016 as a private citizen-candidate. But now, he’s the president. He controls the machinery of what we once quaintly called justice in this country.

* * *

All of it, to the inattentive observer, will look legitimate, because real-live federal prosecutors will be saying very grave things about these people, and the effect will be to cancel out Trump’s actual crimes.

* * *

And conducting this criminal orchestra? The attorney general of the United States. We know now what he is. He’s out-Cohn-ing Roy Cohn. We learned earlier this month that he personally traveled to Italy in an attempt to advance this conspiracy. And we also learned this month his true motivation, in that Notre Dame speech he gave. He doesn’t think Democrats and liberals are good Americans who have different political views from his. He thinks they are Satan’s representatives. If you believe that, you obviously believe they must be prevented from gaining power by any means at hand, and what’s a trifle like the law when it’s really “God’s law” (his phrase) that must be preserved?

The mainstream media will dutifully report these manufactured scandals in bothsiderism and false equivalency, just as they did in the 2016 campaign with Hillary Clinton’s emails. It is their business model, and the Trump campaign and his Russian allies are taking full advantage once again.




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