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.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!
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.
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?As you can see, that initial question was in the past tense. The reporter—Catherine Lucey of the AP—had asked Trump precisely this:
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]
"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.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."
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.
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?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.
TRUMP: No, no. What in the world are you talking about? I've never heard of any such payment!
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.