Last night's Maddow Show: Last night's Rachel Maddow Show opened with a 21-minute segment concerning all things Ukrainian.
Maddow discussed Monday's front-page report in the New York Times. According to the Times report, Donald J. Trump's personal lawyer delivered a Ukrainian pol's proposed peace plan to Michael Flynn in the days before Flynn was told to spend more time with his family.
Maddow also discussed a Ukrainian oligarchic who will, as of today, be extradited by Austria to the United States. When he gets here, he'll stand trial for bribery.
That front-page report in the New York Times produced a lot of discussion. That said, both parts of Maddow's opening segment showed the way the corporate icon picks and chooses among the things we rubes are permitted to hear.
Let's start with that Ukrainian pol's proposal for peace between Ukraine and Russia. According to the Times report, the Ukrainian gave the plan to Trump's lawyer in late January.
(The Times had interviewed Trump's lawyer, the abrasive Michael D. Cohen. They had also interviewed the Ukrainian pol, the ambitious Andrii Artemenko. The Times hasn't actually seen Artemenko's proposal. The Times based its description of the plan on what Artemenko told them.)
According to the Times report, Cohen received the plan in a sealed envelope. "Cohen said he would deliver the plan to the White House," the Times reported. "When Mr. Cohen met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in early February, he said, he left the proposal in Mr. Flynn’s office."
On its face, this behavior is slightly strange, especially since the Ukrainian pol is pro-Russian/pro-Putin. According to the Times, the proposed peace plan carried one additional hook:
If the plan ever managed to produce peace between Russia and Ukraine, this would give Donald J. Trump a way to drop sanctions against Russia for Russia's behavior there.
So far, so good! It was when Maddow began describing the terms of this proposed plan that she put a gaggle of thumbs on the scale, along with a bag of elbows.
According to the Times report, Artemenko says he has evidence of corruption which "could help oust" the current Ukrainian president, who isn't pro-Russian. Beyond that, this was the Times' description of the plan:
TWOHEY AND SHANE (2/20/17): Mr. Artemenko said he saw in Mr. Trump an opportunity to advocate a plan for peace in Ukraine—and help advance his own political career. Essentially, his plan would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea, the Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, would be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years.In a rather typical move, Maddow disappeared one part of that account, radically changed another. Here's the way she described the plan to us, the liberal rubes:
MADDOW (2/20/17): The plan had three parts.We'll start with a minor aside. Maddow never said that this proposal was being presented as a "peace plan"—as a way to resolve the ongoing state of semi-war between Russia and Ukraine.
Number one, they would oust the new president of the Ukraine, the one who came in and replaced the pro-Putin kleptocratic dictator with the private zoo. So they'll get rid of the new guy who replaced the pro-Putin guy.
Number two, Russia would get to keep Crimea. Russia would get to keep the parts of Ukraine that they took when Russia invaded parts of Ukraine, just took over their territory and started calling it Russia. This new plan, part two of this new plan would legitimatize that. OK, those parts of Ukraine that you took, they are now Russia.
And then part three of the plan would be for the United States to drop our sanctions against Russia that we levied against them for invading Ukraine and taking over part of that country. So, obviously, this is a very fair deal, right? This is a great deal.
Putin gets what he wants in Ukraine. He gets to keep the parts of Ukraine that he took and we stop being mad at him about it. It's a great deal. It`s a win, win, win for Putin, Putin, Putin.
We'll call that a minor aside. Now let's get to the meat of the mess:
Maddow never mentioned the fact that the proposed peace plan "would require the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine." This part of the proposal was disappeared, airbrushed out of existence.
Beyond that, Maddow changed a proposed national referendum into a fait accompli. Comically, as Maddow made the following statement, the chyron below her was quoting what the Times had actually said!
We'd call this a glaring staff error:
WHAT MADDOW WAS SAYING: Russia would get to keep Crimea. Russia would get to keep the parts of Ukraine that they took when Russia invaded parts of Ukraine, just took over their territory and started calling it Russia. This new plan, part two of this new plan would legitimatize that. "OK, those parts of Ukraine that you took, they are now Russia."Those two things are not a great deal alike. The chyron was quoting what the Times really said. At the same time, Maddow was feeding us a fantasy version of same.
WHAT THE CHYRON BENEATH HER SAID: "Ukrainian voters would decide in a referendum whether Crimea, the Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, would be leased to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years."
(You can see this comical blunder for yourselves. Click here for the full segment, then skip ahead to roughly 12:25.)
The analysts screamed when they saw that comical error. Earlier, though, they'd furrowed their brows over the extradition-from-Austria story.
Maddow framed the extradition story as a pre-attack on Attorney General Sessions. According to Maddow, the oligarch could possibly embarrass Paul Manafort in some way. For that reason, she suggested, Sessions would never agree to continue seeking his extradition.
Here's the problem:
Maddow never explained why the Austrians had been refusing to extradite the oligarch. To the analysts, this seemed like a rather basic omission. To show you what we mean, this was one of her rambling nugget presentations:
MADDOW: A federal grand jury in the United States had indicted the oligarch guy in conjunction with the giant, alleged bribery scheme involving a titanium deal in India. I don't know. They indicted him.Why had Austria refused to extradite Manafort's possible foil? Absent-mindedly, Maddow never said.
The FBI asked Austrian authorities to arrest him. Austrian authorities did. This guy is a big deal in Ukraine, right? Close to the Ukrainian dictator, three weeks after the dictator gets ousted, rich guy gets arrested in Austria. And then U.S. prosecutors went over to Austria basically to go and pick him up, to arrange for Austrian authorities to extradite him back to the United States so he can face charges on this giant bribery charge.
And the unexpected turn here, the wrench in the works, is that the Austrians who had him in custody, who had arrested him at our FBI's request, the Austrians said no. They would not let the extradition go ahead, at least not yet.
And so, OK, now this guy is like Paul Manafort's loose thread, still dangling out there, right? Paul Manafort lost his client dictator in Ukraine, the guy on the left, but the zillionaire oligarch, guy in the right, he's like in limbo.
It's interesting. They did arrest in Austria, but they don't have him in jail. They let him out on bond. He paid $174 million cash for his bond. Open checkbook, swivel wrist.
So, he's out on bond. He's not exactly free. I mean, Austria is not sending him back to the U.S. to face trial yet. But if he leaves Austria and goes to some other country, presumably the U.S. authorities would try to arrange to have him arrested in that other country and then put pressure on that other country to extradite him to the U.S. as well.
So he sort of can't really leave Austria. He's stuck.
Maddow went on to suggest that Sessions will never pursue extradition because he's in the bag to Manafort and Trump. (The next court session was coming up today.) But she never said why the Austrians had been refusing extradition to begin with!
To the analysts, this seemed like a large omission. But as we calmly told the youngsters: Sometimes on the Maddow Show, if it weren't for all the disappeared facts, there would be no facts at all!
This morning, we fact-checked this point through the New York Times. According to this report from last April, extradition had been refused because an Austrian judge, rightly or wrongly, "sid[ed] with defense lawyers who said the American request was politically motivated."
In short, extradition had been refused because the judge, rightly or wrongly, found that the Obama administration was pursuing a political prosecution! The analysts no longer had to wonder why this part of the story had been disappeared.
When it comes to changing and disappearing facts, Maddow is about as reliable as one of Stalin's shutterbugs. By the way:
Sessions did pursue extradition today. Austria has now agreed to send the oligarch here. Sometimes, corporate cable partisan precogs just can't catch a break.
Also for your entertainment pleasure: If you watch that 21-minute tape, you'll also get to see plenty of weird grinning, along with all the fake chuckling and laughing, as the consultants ordered.
You'll also get to see Darling Rachel pretend that she doesn't recognize a photograph of a bidet. ("Is that even a toilet? I don't even know. I don't know." She loves to sell herself as the helpless naif.)
Right after that, you'll get to see her make a joke about The Art of the Deal. You'll get to hear one of her sycophants loudly laugh off-camera.
Late in the show, everybody got to see her mock flyover country. ("The town of Yakima is in a part of Washington state that might politely and honorably be described as nowhere. It's in between—it's in the middle there. It does— it sits in the shadow of Mt. Rainier.")
Truly, that was hilarious. Is Gail Collins writing her stuff?
Have wealth and fame been bad for Trump? You should try watching Maddow!