SATURDAY, JULY 16, 2022
On cable, Litman didn't: Has the Secret Service done something wrong?
As we noted yesterday, we have no idea.
An Inspector General has made one set of factual claims. On Thursday evening, the Secret Service responded with a contradictory set of assertions.
Just for starters, whose factual statements are accurate? At this point, we have no way of knowing, and neither does anyone else.
Yesterday, Bennie Thompson offered a brief but responsible summary of the dueling factual claims. Online at the Washington Post, Alemany and Sacchetti quote Rep. Thompson's statement at the start of this news report:
ALEMANY AND SACCHETTI (7/15/22): The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena to the U.S. Secret Service on Friday requesting records after a government watchdog accused the agency of erasing texts from Jan. 5 and 6 after his office requested them.
Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), in a letter transmitting notice of the subpoena, wrote that the panel sought relevant text messages and reports issued in any way related to the attack on the Capitol.
“The Select Committee has been informed that the USSS erased text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021 as part of a ‘device-replacement program.’ In a statement issued July 14, 2022, the USSS stated that it ‘began to reset its mobile phones to factory settings as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration. In that process, data resident on some phones was lost.’ However, according to that USSS statement, ‘none of the texts [the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General] was seeking had been lost in the migration,” Thompson wrote.
Interesting! According to the Secret Service, the agency hasn't lost any of the text messages the Inspector General has sought.
Is that statement accurate? We have no idea. But it was a key part of the statement the Secret Service released on Thursday night.
On Thursday night, Lawrence read the full statement on the air. He then began ignoring the parts of the statement which challenged the Inspector General's more pleasing claims.
Performing one of his famous rants, he just kept pushing The Pleasing Story Our Blue Tribe Would Most Like To Hear. Sadly, that's pretty much what Harry Litman continued to do on last evening's Last Word program.
Last night, Jonathan Capehart was sitting in for Lawrence, who tends to take Fridays off. Here's the start of the relevant exchange with Litman:
CAPEHART (7/15/22): Congressman Jamie Raskin said today that the committee intends to get to the bottom of those deleted Secret Service text messages from January 5 and January 6. Do you buy the agency's explanation that this was simply part of a planned technology upgrade?
LITMAN: Look, who knows? And especially, this upgrade occurred after they were already notified not to do it. It doesn't—it certainly has an odor about it.
Briefly, Litman seemed to say that he didn't know. Then, he began to suggest that he did.
"The upgrade occurred after [the Secret Service] was already notified not to do it," the cable news tribune said. "It certainly has an odor about it," he pleasingly added.
Gruesome! In fact, did the upgrade occur after the Secret Service was already notified about it?
So said Litman—but at present, that is merely one of the things the Inspector General has alleged. In its statement on Thursday night, the Secret Service flatly contradicted that claim, listing what it said was the actual date on which the Inspector General first made his request.
On Thursday, Lawrence read that statement on the air, then began ignoring the claims it contained. In his very first remarks, Litman continued this process:
He repeated the Inspector General's disputed claim as if it was an established fact, then said he detected an odor. We detected the hint of an odor at this juncture too.
Stating the obvious, Capehart should have clarified this part of Litman's statement, but cable news hosts don't do that. In fairness, we have no idea whether either one of these cable news stars was familiar with the facts of the case as they currently stand.
For all we know, Litman may have thought he was presenting an established fact, rather than a disputed claim. Capehart may have been similarly underinformed.
(Since when do we expect "cable news" hosts to know what they're talking about?)
Litman continued on from there, telling a type of story our tribe would be inclined to like. Astoundingly, he even said that Mike Pence may have thought the Secret Service was in on Donald J. Trump's plot when they tried to drive him out of the Capitol Building as it was under attack.
We've never seen anyone make any such suggestion. That includes the two high-ranking Pence associates who testified at great length before the January 6 committee.
No one has said that Vice President Pence thought his own Secret Service agents might have been part of the plot. Last night, without a peep from the hapless Capehart, Litman introduced that stunning unsourced speculation.
At one point, Litman made an interesting statement. "The [Inspector General] here has a history of being kind of squirrely himself," he fleetingly said at one point.
As we noted yesterday, that state of affairs had been described in a Washington Post report. Litman's apparent awareness of the IG's squirrely ways didn't stop him from presenting a bowdlerized account of the facts, including the remarkable suggestion that Pence may have thought his Secret Service agents were part of the TrumpWorld plot.
In a better world, a producer would have emerged from the wings and dragged Litman off the air. After that, the producer would have come back for Capehart.
We don't live in that kind of world! Our nation—such as it is, such as it has been—is nearing its end in the process.
Rep. Thompson issued a responsible statement. In particular, he called attention to the fact that the Inspector General and the Secret Service have issued dueling factual claims about the matter at hand.
Thompson didn't claim to know whose factual claims were accurate. That represents the kind of stance a responsible person would take.
On Thursday night, by way of contrast, Lawrence went full screaming conspiracy mode. Then on the fifth evening he rested.
On Friday night, Litman added to the distorted presentation, and Capehart politely deferred.
This is the way our own blue tribe's "cable news" programming works. They may be even worse at Fox, but our own gaggle of jugglers and clowns has been catching up.
Full disclosure: Because MSNBC slow-walks its production of transcripts and tapes, we can't link you to a full account of the various things Litman said.
We could transcribe the whole thing ourselves. But we've been doing such things for decades, and the time has come to stop.