No speculation refused: How silly can a press corps stampede get?
In our previous post, we let you ask us about the way we started our search this morning.
How did yesterday morning begin? We started by watching Natasha Bertrand's guest appearance on MSNBC's First Look.
Bertrand is one of the genuine youngsters. She graduated from Vassar in June 2014.
Today, she writes for Business Insider, where she's a "senior reporter."
Yesterday morning, as we watched, it seemed to us that the First Look team was expecting her to say something of interest. It also seemed to us that the big bombshell never quite came.
We decided to Google it out. Over the weekend, we discovered, Bertrand had posted this report.
In her report, Bertrand had advanced another fine speculation. She speculated that President Trump himself had attended the now-famous meeting with the Russian lawyer! It wasn't just Donald Trump Junior. It was President Trump himself!
Presumably, this highly improbable speculation landed Bertrand that guest spot on First Look. Presumably, someone may have told her not to repeat such an improbable speculation, and so the guest spot never really took off.
Those are speculations. Bertrand's speculation seems rather far-fetched, but a stampede is on. We thought it might be worth your time to consider the source of her speculation.
On Sunday morning, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow did all five Sunday shows. At one point, on ABC's This Week, Sekulow engaged in a bit of a reach.
Bertrand described it at the start of her report. Improbable headline included:
BERTRAND (7/16/17): Trump's lawyer let something slip about the Russia meeting that raises questions about whether Trump attendedAs it turned out, the Secret Service wasn't protecting Trump Junior in June 2016. They weren't restricting who could get in to see him, other than to check for the presence of weapons.
President Donald Trump's lawyer told ABC News on Sunday morning that Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting last June with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin was innocent because if it weren't, the Secret Service would not have "allowed these people in."
"I wonder why the Secret Service—if this was nefarious—why the Secret Service allowed these people in?" Sekulow told ABC News' Jon Karl. "The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me."
With respect to Bertrand, Sekulow's comment somehow made her think that Donald Trump Senior had attended the now-famous meeting. To examine her reasoning, you can peruse her piece.
Bertrand was stretching bigly. But by Monday morning, all the children knew that Sekulow had said a stupid thing. This provided some of the needed scandal fodder for Monday's "cable news."
On various cable shows, Sekulow was banged around for having said such a stupid thing. On the Maddow Show, the take-down ended with a stinging punchline:
MADDOW (7/17/17): The Secret Service doesn't comment on stuff like this. But after that guy went on TV and said that, they had to put out a statement saying, that's not how it works.According to Maddow, the duh was silent! We all enjoyed a good laugh.
"Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the United States Secret Service in June 2016. Thus, we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time."
The duh is silent.
In truth, it actually was fairly dumb for Sekulow to make that comment. That said, we remembered Anderson Cooper's program from the previous Monday, July 10.
The next day, we told you that it had been a very bad evening on cable. In part, it was because of the ugly discussion of this very point on Cooper's devolving program.
Ryan Lizza went on and on, and on and on, insisting that the Russian lawyer could never have entered Trump Tower without being heavily vouched for. The Secret Service would never have allowed such a thing to occur!
When Trump supporter Jason Miller kept insisting that Lizza was wrong, all the gang beat him up, making little attempt to disguise their contempt for his manifest dumbness and dishonesty.
It seemed to us that the mob was probably wrong that night, and that Miller was probably right. It also seemed to us that the whole discussion was ginormously pointless, but this has largely become the norm on Cooper's devolving program.
The open contempt the mob displayed was, in our view, a bad and discouraging look. Lizza, Cooper and former Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon all displayed open contempt for the person who turned out to be right.
Below, you see the transcript from the panel's second discussion of this moronic point. As it turned out, Miller was actually right, and the mob was actually wrong.
But Lizza, Cooper and everyone else were filled with contempt for the obvious way Miller was dissembling and wrong. We were amazed to see how far Lizza's standards have fallen in these tribal times.
Ryan Lizza isn't a lawyer, but he played one on TV this night. We can't vouch for the perfect accuracy of the transcript, but the gist of the chat is clear:
LIZZA (7/10/17): I want to ask Jason something. Jason, because you know this. You worked at Trump Tower, right, Jason?You would have had to watch the program to see the hostility and disbelief from the people who were factually wrong.
MILLER: Yes, of course.
LIZZA: Can you get into Trump Tower without showing an identification?
LIZZA: You can just walk up to the offices of the Trump Organization with no ID and not revealing who you are?
MILLER: Not any more. But again—
LIZZA: But as of June of 2016, when that place was locked down by the Secret Service, you could walk in there without showing ID?
MILLER: There's plenty of times I entered without an ID.
COOPER: Wait a minute, Jason. I mean, the Secret Service, in June, when he's the candidate, would allow a random stranger to come to the office?
MILLER: Well, if you're escorted by someone. But again, this was an acquaintance that made the introduction, who said this is someone who might have some interesting information, and he sat down with them, it was a 20-minute meeting.
COOPER: All right.
MILLER: And it was a throwaway. I mean, it's— I don't understand how, Brian, how you're trying to get away with making stuff up—
FALLON: Just answer Ryan's question. You can't even answer the question.
LIZZA: I just— The thing that struck me about this whole story is it doesn't make sense. When it's a building like Trump Tower, it was one of the most secure buildings in America as of June in 2016. So, the idea that this woman could walk in there without identifying herself to the person she was meeting with doesn't pass the smell test.
You worked there. You're telling us that people routinely got into that building without identifying themselves?
MILLER: I'm saying I don't remember when I would show the ID, but again—
LIZZA: Do you ever remember anyone you met with bringing that person up and that person didn't have to show identification if they were going to a meeting with you?
MILLER: Ryan, I don't understand the point that you're trying to get here.
LIZZA: The point is that he said he didn't know the person's identification and I'm trying to understand how that's possible. How could—
MILLER: So, OK, let me go down your rabbit hole, Brian.
LIZZA: It's not a rabbit hole, Jason. It's just a fundamental fact that is—
MILLER: No, it's an absolute rabbit hole, Ryan. So, here's the deal. So say somebody showed an ID when they're coming into Trump Tower. I'm playing your game for a moment, so let's go ahead and play it.
LIZZA: It's not a game. It's just a question.
MILLER: Say, you go and check the ID, they don't go and check it at the door and the elevator. That's not like a five-step ID check. That's just the reality of it.
Maybe there was at Brooklyn, maybe at Brian's campaign, there was a different setup. At Trump Tower, there's not as again, at that point in June or so after the president had captured the nomination, there wasn't as structured a setup.
COOPER: But the Secret Service didn't ask for names or Social Security numbers of people who are going to be coming to the office?
MILLER: I can't speak to the exact background of every single, the way that the Secret Service did this on every single time. But, again, I think it's a little bit ironic that you guys are trying to make this big issue about, you know, where exactly you're going to show I.D. At no point in that was Don Jr. checking somebody's I.D.
The fact to the matter is, he had an acquaintance that said, "Hey, I want to chat with you." They come in. They sit down. They're talking absolutely nonsense. Twenty minutes later, they're gone.
COOPER: All right. We have to take a break. We'll ponder all of that.
Up next, what we know about the Russian attorney who met with the president's son-in-law and campaign chair and son last summer.
As a general matter, "(CROSSTALK)" means that everyone was snarking at Miller all at once. We thought it was a very bad, very discouraging look.
Last Sunday morning, Sekulow raised a version of this pointless point. In the process, he made a dumb remark.
To Bertrand, the comment suggested that Donald Trump Senior had attended the now-famous meeting. No speculation will be refused when a major stampede is on, certainly not from a senior reporter three years out of college.
This is the way our press corps works. As a group, our upper-end press corps just isn't enormously sharp.