BREAKING: Michael Cohen got wiretapped!

MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018

Followed by the most ridiculous groaner of all:
Last Thursday, it happened again.

Apparently shortly after noon, NBC News posted the latest explosive bombshell report. Michael Cohen had been wiretapped by the feds! Perhaps by the FBI!

This latest explosive bombshell report produced the latest excitement. NBC's Kristen Welker bugged Sarah Huckabee Sanders about it at Thursday's press briefing, with everyone chortling about the =slick and slippery way Sanders dealt with the questions.

Then, at some time in the 5 PM hour, it happened again! As it turned out, the explosive bombshell report had been wrong.

The explosive bombshell was wrong. We're reliably told that this explains Kevin Drum's misstatement in this post, which Drum later corrected. The explosive bombhsell then faded away, joining all the other explosive reports which have turned out to be wrong as the boys and girls of the big mainstream orgs conduct their stampede, The Chase.

Can we talk? On cable, the only thing they discuss is The Chase, and they're very, very, very eager for the explosive bombshell report which will take down Trump. Because they discuss nothing else, and because they're so pathetically eager, we seem to be getting a fair number of bombshell reports which are false.

We had the no-knock predawn raid which was apparently neither. We had Don McGahn's defiant challenge to Donald J. Trump, which apparently never quite happened. (That was a Times front-pager.)

Last week, we had the report, again from NBC News, that John Kelly called Trump an "idiot" on multiple occasions, which could mean as many as two. Even as NBC News was pimping that bombshell on cable, we saw other MSNBC pundits rolling their eyes at the way NBC News had perhaps been played by an insider cabal which wanted to push Kelly out.

Now we have the wiretaps which weren't. They were quickly followed by one of the most incompetent front=page reports we have ever seen.

Needless to say, the bombshell report was on the front page of the New York Times. In hard copy, the report appeared on Saturday morning, though CNN had been pimping it all through the night. The foolishness started like this:
SHEAR, HABERMAN, RUTENBERG AND APUZZO (5/5/18): President Trump knew about a six-figure payment that Michael D. Cohen, his personal lawyer, made to a pornographic film actress several months before he denied any knowledge of it to reporters aboard Air Force One in April, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

How much Mr. Trump knew about the payment to Stephanie Clifford, the actress, and who else was aware of it have been at the center of a swirling controversy for the past 48 hours touched off by a television interview with Rudolph W. Giuliani, a new addition to the president’s legal team. The interview was the first time a lawyer for the president had acknowledged that Mr. Trump had reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payments to Ms. Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels.
It was treated as an explosive bombshell. According to two sources believed to be people, Trump had known about Cohen's payment several months before his statement on Air Force One!

Sad! Trump's statement on Air Force One occurred on April 5. The full exchange went like this:
REPORTER (4/5/18): Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No, no. What else?

REPORTER: Why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael's my attorney. And you'll have to ask Michael.

REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know, no.

REPORTER: Did you ever set up a fund of money that he could pull from?

TRUMP: [No response]
As you can see, that initial question was in the past tense. The reporter—Catherine Lucey of the AP—had asked Trump precisely this:

"Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?"

The question was in the past tense. Staing the obvious, everyone from Avenatti on down understood the question, and the answer, to mean this:
REPORTER: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels when Michael Cohen made it?

For obvious reasons, that's what everyone understood the Q-and-A to mean. For example, here's what the Washington Post wrote about the exchange in a subsequent editorial:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (4/8/18): In that regard, Mr. Trump only exacerbated the problem by flatly claiming Thursday that he did not know in advance about the hush-money agreement and that he did not know the source of the $130,000.
According to the Post, Trump said he didn't know about the payment in advance. As the editors noted, it was possible Trump was lying. But that's what he was understood to have said.

Who else thought that was what Trump said? Here was Ali Velshi, guest-hosting on MSNBC the night Trump made the statement:
VELSHI (4/5/18): For the first time, President Trump addressed the Stormy Daniels scandal, telling reporters today on Air Force One that he had no prior knowledge of the payment his lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to the adult film actress just weeks before the 2016 election. Listen.
For reasons which were blindingly obvious, that's pretty much what everyone thought Donald J. Trump had said. Barrister Bluster even said as much that night as he performed for Anderson Cooper:
AVENATTI (4/5/18): Well, it's a great night for us, Anderson. It's like Christmas and Hanukkah all rolled into one. You can't have an agreement if one party claims they knew nothing about one of the principal terms of the agreement.

So the president has just shot himself in the foot, thrown his attorney basically, Michael Cohen, under the bus in the process, put him in dire straits with the state bar of New York, because according to the president now, Mr. Cohen was negotiating this agreement and doing it all on his own without consultation with the president. We don't necessarily believe that, by the way, and we're going to test the veracity or the truthfulness of the statement.
Duh. Even the famous Reptile King understood Trump to have said that he had been in the dark in real time—that Cohen had been "negotiating this agreement and doing it all on his own without consultation with the president."

For reasons which were blindingly obvious, that's what everyone thought Donald J. Trump had said. But so what? One month later, along came the New York Times, out on page one, with a crazy reinvention of the month-old exchange.

This is what these people do when they go on a stampede! All of a sudden, out of the blue, "two people familiar with the arrangement" got four reporters from the Times to put their names on some perfect piddle. How silly was this latest bombshell report? As everybody always knew, this exchange didn't take place back on April 5:
REPORTER: As we speak here today, on April 5, do you know, have you heard, that Michael Cohen made a $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford, who says she f*cked you, but only because she felt she pretty much had to as a professional courtesy?

TRUMP: No, no. What in the world are you talking about? I've never heard of any such payment!
That's the exchange which didn't occur. In that sense, it closely resembles that no-knock raid, the Cohen wiretap, and the mutiny by McGahn.

The children are staging their latest stampede. In line with established mainstream practice, NBC News excitedly reported the wiretap which didn't occur. The Times followed with one of the most brain-dead front-page reports we've ever seen, with CNN pimping them on.

This is who and what we are. This is all we'll ever be until we decide we must change.

Until we decide we have to change, the playing field will favor The Crazy. This cultural breakdown helps explain how Donald J. Trump, the American president, got where he currently is.


  1. It doesn't matter, Bob. Your liberal 'tribe' is going to continue dissembling and hate-mongering, but in the end, when unemployment is below 4% and real wages are growing, only a real zombie will vote against the ruling party.

    We'll see just how many zombies there are out there, but I imagine the supply has gotta be limited...

  2. "Can we talk? On cable, the only thing they discuss is The Chase, and they're very, very, very eager for the explosive bombshell report which will take down Trump. Because they discuss nothing else, and because they're so pathetically eager, we seem to be getting a fair number of bombshell reports which are false."

    There are so many things wrong with this paragraph. First, cable talks about a lot of things besides Trump and his problems (which Somerby calls "The Chase"). Second, given the amount of reporting, the number of retractions or corrections is relatively small. Third, no one expects any of this reporting to "take down" Trump. That again is Somerby's attribution. Many of those speculating think that he won't even be impeached, despite all of the evidence accumulating. But people do want to know what happened and what is going on -- because he is the president after all. Fourth, it is being proposed on some blogs that conservative Trump supporters are deliberately feeding the press false information (with high confidence) so that they will have to retract and they can then shout "fake news" and point to these retractions. Just like Somerby is doing once again.

    Somerby suggests that it is eagerness for the chase, blood in the water, that is causing the mistakes. It may be that NBC is doing its job properly and attempting to vet information but it is deliberately being manipulated. That sort of explanation is highly likely given the way the media was manipulated during the last election. Look at what happened to Dan Rather. But instead of giving the journalists the benefit of the doubt with respect to their motives, Somerby shouts as loudly as any Trump supporter.

    What should we do instead. Calmly sit on our hands and print nothing that isn't a formal FBI report while Trump and his minions do their dirty work unhindered and our government falls apart. I think a couple of wrong items is the price we pay for fast, ongoing reporting of an unfolding scandal (yes, this is a scandal, if not "breaking news") affecting everyone in our nation. It is proper that we care about this and NBC News is doing its job just fine, in my opinion.

    1. What should we do instead. Calmly sit on our hands and print nothing...

      How about you, yourself, giving this approach a try, 3:39 PM? We'll let you know if it's not working for us- otherwise you should keep at it.

    2. Nice to know I'm getting under your skin. Democracy works best when all those you disagree with are silenced, right CMike?

    3. I think this speaks to a problem. Which I think Bob is addressing. Thomas Frank gets results!


    4. Bob isn't addressing this at all. He is just griping and nitpicking. Somerby never looks at the bigger picture, except we all need to love each other, especially those Others.

    5. "We'll let you know if it's not working for us ...."

      You got a weasel in your pocket?

    6. A Group of One or Two MaybeMay 7, 2018 at 11:31 PM

      With all due respect, at 9:19 pm, this really cuts to the heart of the matter:

    7. Certainly our democracy would work better 8:49 PM, if all you Resisters weren't so noisy in your constant pursuit of one or another of those bright shiny distractions which day after day the corporate media wave in front of you.

    8. It's all a vast corporate conspiracy, CMike. Real deep deep state stuff. I am scared. Help me.

    9. You're mistaken to believe there's a conspiracy, mmn. In the wake of the Powell Memo [LINK], which has been in the public domain soon after it was initially issued as a confidential document, and the Trilateral Commission's Crisis of Democracy [LINK] report, infotainment program and casting directors have come to be drawn exclusively from a pool of employees who, from early on in their careers, have demonstrated that they understand what is not in the interest of the ownership class to have publicized and that they will act in ways aligned with that understanding.

      That's why you don't see stories that favor tax the rich messages, opposition to pro-business American policies of imperialism, environmental protections, labor interests and worker solidarity, consumer protections, alternatives for mass transit, single payer healthcare, government programs that benefit the lower classes.

      By default that leaves time for stories about blue collar crime, celebrity gossip (including that concerning politicians), social policy posturing, how the stock market is doing, what's the latest for consumers to buy, evil dictators abroad, the bad choices the lower classes make.

    10. Nice post Cmike. One can certainly infer that the Powell Memo was a means to get the US back to its roots, that is, landed white gentry. And as you said, it’s right out there in the open. But never discussed.

      And now we've withdrawn from the JCPOA. Great cover for the wrecking crew. I guess it’s only been going on for what, half a century now? But it’s been nearly perfected with our current msm. Bernays would be proud.


    11. "... if all you Resisters weren't so noisy in your constant pursuit of one or another of those bright shiny distractions which day after day the corporate media wave in front of you."

      You mean like that shiny distraction that Trump pulled today.

      You phony asshole. Congratulations.

    12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    13. Leroy,

      My criticism of Somerby would be he writes as if he's outing journalistic naivete and incompetence. What he's doing, instead, is documenting what the infotainment industry has been transformed into by the ownership class, a class which no longer can be challenged in this sector because of the nature of modern business, technology, and culture.

      Back when print was the dominant medium for political discussion the cost of entry was low enough that the left's message could be presented to the public in a manner that was as sophisticated production-wise as what the right was offering. However, broadcasting changed that.

      Because of the licensing and production costs for radio and, especially later, for television, the ownership class was able to take control of those two means of communication. Radio and, especially, television became the dominant media for political discussion (and as a leisure activity, for that matter).

      So complete has been the success in the of broadcast (and now cable) media in the infotainment industry that there are now only a handful of print sources of political significance anymore. Gone are the days when the public choose to keep up with either or both a pro-business morning paper and/or a pro-labor evening paper with maybe even an alternative periodical or two included in the mix. These days the survivors in the print industry are controlled by the same interests who own the broadcast media with the result that the corporate print industry confines its political messaging to the same range as what the corporate broadcast industry is delivering.

    14. 11:10 PM,

      Trump's torpedoing of the Iran deal is of great significance, it's one of many issues that should have been concentrated on with greater intensity than it was in days past. Whether a porn star beat Trump out of $130,000 is not of great significance, it's not the sort of thing Resisters should have spent the last few weeks concentrating on at the expense of talking about things that are of great significance. Sorry you don't see that.

      For those of you on the left or for those of you who, at least, lean left don't be discouraged by 11:10 PM's myopia. Republicans make use of ditto-heads, no reason why the Democratic wing of the Democratic party can't eventually make some use of the 11:10 PM types even if these these days they're snuggling up with the GOP Never-Trumpers/ Bill Kristol wing of the Resister movement.

    15. "Trump's torpedoing of the Iran deal is of great significance"

      What's the great significance? There will be economic sanctions against Iran, but there are economic protectionist sanctions against everyone else already. I don't see why Iran should be an exception, and why it's such a "great significance".

    16. Some combination of Pompeo, Bolton, the fire-breathers among his base, the Israelis, and the Saudis have convinced Trump to risk painting himself into the corner he's avoided up until now. Should Iran maintain trade relations with Europe and continue to have a growing economy Trump's provocation will have failed, conspicuously. What next steps would then be available to him? We know what he'll be advised to do.

    17. Hey CMike, how you doin' old man? I meant to complement you the other day for your reference to Bronowski's "Ascent of Man" BBC series. Absolutely sublime series of essays, one of my favorites of all time.

      Nobody had to convince trump of doing anything. If Obama did it he was going to erase it. Nothing deeper than that. Don't worry, your strategy is working out perfectly.

    18. "Some combination of ... have convinced Trump to risk ..."

      Where did you get this? He was badmouthing the "Iran deal", using the same exact words, well before the election, before Pompeo, Bolton, and all the rest.

      And that the Iran's economy is somehow his target, and your ominous "next steps" -- all that is just your fantasies, brother.

    19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    20. As for my strategy, scrapping the Iran deal was a centerpiece of Trump's campaign yet it's taken him sixteen months to get around to doing it. That delay is an example of the difference between having a right wing hustler elected to the presidency (in 2016) versus ending up with a true believing reactionary ideologue landing the job (in 2020) and, thereafter, hitting the ground running once sworn in.

      Neither a Cruz nor a Pence would have back burner-ed an explicit campaign pledge like that one and no pair of non wing-nut approved advisers like Tillerson and McMaster would have ever been on their national security teams. So yeah, as tense as things have been since January, 2017 people more dangerous than Trump would have been lined up to move into the White House if he hadn't been elected.

      As for what Trump's target is, by backing out of this deal he can only be looking to bring about one or more of three outcomes; to encourage Iran to revive its a dormant nuclear weapons program, to start shooting, or to destabilize its government by damaging Iran's economy.

      Regardless of how out of his depth he is, I have to believe Trump would only be looking for that last outcome. What do you think he's expecting Mao?

      In any event, here's hoping you're right that the potential real world results from Trump's new policy regarding Iran are entirely benign.

    21. Again, these are all fantasies.

      It could be as simple as fulfilling a campaign promise.

      You know what those are, right? Like, for example, demigod Barry promising to close Gitmo, to renegotiate NAFTA, to force the congress pass union card-check and single-payer legislations, etc.

    22. He was badmouthing the "Iran deal", using the same exact words, well before the election,..

      Only he never actually got around to explaining what he thought was so bad about the deal and how he would make it better. All he did was lie about it.

    23. Here, Mike, this sounds like a reasonable analysis of the politics behind this thing:

      In short, Trump’s sanctions will be delayed for months, have extensive loopholes, and allow most of Iran’s existing trade partners to continue buying oil. The move may just be a big smokescreen which will allow Trump to say he achieved one more campaign promise, while in reality, both Trump and Mnuchin are doing their best behind the scenes to “enter a new agreement”, one which Trump can bring to the masses and say: “here, I took Obama’s unacceptable, defective deal, and made it better…. and i also brought down the price of oil too.”

  3. The existence of the NDA/payment became known in January of 2018.

    Giuliani claims that Trump reimbursed Cohen through installments paid to the attorney’s legal retainer, beginning well before January 2018.

    Trump on 4/26, claimed Cohen represented him "with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal."

    Trump himself tweeted on 5/3:
    "Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are very common among celebrities and people of wealth."

    The wealthy celebrity in this case is Trump, not Cohen.

    The reporter's question, hurriedly shouted in a noisy airplane as Trump disappears through the doorway, could well be interpreted to mean "Did you know about the hush money agreement prior to its becoming public in January?"

  4. AnonymousMay 7, 2018 at 3:39 PM -- to me it looks like Trump is in a death match with the media. The media claim Trump is awful. Trump claims the media reports "fake news." (IMHO both sides have a point.) Anyhow, every time the media get caught in a mistake, Trump gains and the media lose.

    1. When you catch the media in a lie instead of a mistake you will no longer have a false equivalency going on.

    2. "The media claim Trump is awful."

      You're an idiot. No, that's not the proper word nor the proper tone.

      You're a liar.

    3. mm - did you notice that I acknowledged that the Trump critics have a point?

      Anyhow, disgusting as Trump may be personally, he's doing a pretty good job as President. E.g, today's news reports
      April was best month in history for U.S. budget, according to CBO figures

    4. "did you notice that I acknowledged that the Trump critics have a point?"

      When Trump loses DavidinCal...
      The U.S. budget has been great, since Obama bailed out the economy in 2009. Only gullible morons, who fell for Right-wing whining about the phony deficit, would think it hasn't been.

    5. BTW, have you seen that "uppity" Melania Trump wants to tell your grandkids how they should best use social media? The nerve of that dictator wannabe.
      How was that? Did I do the Right-wing whining correctly?

    6. Once again David, you display your rah rah ignorance with pride. Trump had jackshit to do with the CBO figures for April. Jack. Shit.

    7. Believe me, David. i'm only rooting for your grandkids to die from botulism and fatal asthma attacks, to hold up my "Both sides" credibility.

  5. "Reptile King"? Based on what? Somersby hasn't, so far as I've seen, discredited anything Avenati has said.