Except it was Lawrence who said it: Lawrence would have called it a lie—except it was Lawrence who said it!
We refer to something Lawrence said during last evening's Last Word. During his opening monologue, he described what the FBI's now-famous informant did:
LAWRENCE (5/21/18): Now understand, Rod Rosenstein is in a position to already know whether anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign. He already knows that that did not happen.In that way, Lawrence described what the FBI's now-famous informant did.
Rod Rosenstein certainly already knows what has been publicly reported, that someone in England had a couple of conversations with a couple of people who were affiliated with the Trump campaign and that source, in England, told the FBI about those conversations. That is not "infiltrated" or "surveilled," as Donald Trump put it.
So Rod Rosenstein already knows that no one is going to find that the FBI infiltrated or surveilled the Trump campaign for political purposes, as the Trump tweet put it. Rod Rosenstein knows that there was an investigation of Russian interference in the presidential campaign and possible Russian influence and assistance to the Trump campaign, and that that investigation was not conducted for political purposes but for national security purposes.
He also told us what the informant didn't do. The informant didn't "infiltrate" or "surveil" the Trump campaign!
As we watched the fiery gentleman do this, an irony leaped to mind. Given his fiery hatred of disinformation, Lawrence would have called that presentation a lie if one of The Others had said it!
Why do we say that? Here's why:
Like everyone else on MSNBC, Lawrence was extremely selective last night in what he was willing to tell us.
Basically, everything he said was accurate. It's true! "Someone in England" did in fact "have a couple of conversations with a couple of people who were affiliated with the Trump campaign." And that source did "tell the FBI about those conversations."
Some of those conversations actually took place in Virginia, but we'll call that close enough for cable news work. What Lawrence said was basically true—but down below, you see the part of "what has been publicly reported" that he chose to leave out.
Lawrence was rather selective last night. Indeed, three days after the New York Times reported these slightly peculiar facts, no one on MSNBC seemed willing to mention them last night:
GOLDMAN, MAZZETTI AND ROSENBERG (5/19/18): F.B.I. agents were seeking more details about what Mr. Papadopoulos knew about the hacked Democratic emails, and one month after their Russia investigation began, Mr. Papadopoulos received a curious message. The [informant] inquired about his interest in writing a research paper on a disputed gas field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a subject of Mr. Papadopoulos’ expertise.How weird! Three days after it was "publicly reported," Lawrence left that out.
The informant offered a $3,000 honorarium for the paper and a paid trip to London, where the two could meet and discuss the research project.
Mr. Papadopoulos accepted the offer and arrived in London two weeks later, where he met for several days with the [informant] and one of his assistants, a young woman.
In fact, "someone in England" didn't merely "have a couple of conversations with a couple of people." In fact, that person in England paid Papadopoulos $3000 on a phony pretext, inducing him to fly across the Atlantic Ocean so those conversations could occur.
This is the part of the story which will perhaps seem a bit strange within the context of a presidential campaign. It's the part of the story which could almost make it seem that the Trump campaign really was "infiltrated" or "surveilled" by the FBI.
Almost surely for that reason, this is the part of the story you didn't hear on MSNBC last night. Hour after hour passed, and no one told you that the informant did those things—not even on the Maddow Show, where public readings of Times reports are now a popular favorite.
In the end, of course, it doesn't principally matter what you decide to call the FBI's conduct. It doesn't necessarily matter whether you call it "infiltration" or "surveillance"—but it does matter that basic facts don't get disappeared.
On MSNBC last night, Lawrence and a cast of thousands disappeared a basic chunk of this story. You weren't allowed to know what the informant actually did. More frequently, you were told what he didn't do.
Make no mistake—everybody seemed to be playing this game on The One True Liberal Channel. We saw no one mention the $3000 and the plane ride to London, offered on a phony pretext.
Those basic facts were nowhere to be heard. But people were offering disclaimers like this, courtesy of Brian:
WILLIAMS (5/21/18): So Julia, this is a crisis independent of the known facts. There was no one with a stick-on mustache sitting in the back of the press corps covering the Trump administration as a paid federal government spy.Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh boy, that was good!
Speaking in defense of "the known facts," Brian told us what didn't happen. No one wore a stick-on mustache! So true!
That said, neither Brian, nor any one of his three pundit guests, told his viewers what did happen—that a government informant paid a Trump aide $3000 on a phony pretext to lure him across the Atlantic for talks.
Should the FBI have done that? As we noted yesterday, we don't have any experience or expertise in this area. But within the context of a presidential campaign, it strikes us as a slightly odd thing to have done.
That's why you weren't told that it happened. Given his loathing of disinformation, Lawrence would have loudly called it a lie—except that it was Lawrence himself who was misleading you last night.
This is classic propaganda. It's also the way Fox works.
The horse he rode out on: For Brian, this is the flip side of the horse he rode out on. Back in the day, he made up all sorts of phony stories about heroic things he had done.
(This was after he spent months trashing Candidate Gore for his disturbing wardrobe, what with the polo shirts that didn't look right and the three-button sweaters [sic], with plenty of psychiatric discussions about what was wrong with Gore. This was in the Jack Welch era, so Brian got Brokaw's job.)
Later, it turned out that Brian had done heroic things—things which hadn't happened! He got canned from Nightly News on that basis. Last night, on the flip side of the horse he rode out on, Brian was at it again!