A bizarre journalistic event: In this post, for the third straight day, we'll be discussing the disappearance of the clams.
More precisely, three thousand clams have gone missing in our high-profile public discussion! Also, a plane ride to London! That too has been disappeared!
We refer to the $3000 reportedly paid to George Papadopoulos by Stefan Halper, the FBI's now-famous, though sometimes still-unnamed, "informant." In the endless discussions of this event, those three thousand clams—and that plane ride to London—have been disappeared.
Was there any such payment at all? On each of the past two days, we've shown you the way the New York Times reported this payment to Papadopoulos—a payment which was made under false, phony pretenses. (For yesterday's post, click here.)
That said, the Washington Post also reported the payment last Saturday, in even more detail than the Times. Below, you see the Post's account of the matter, part of a 1550-word report by four of the Post's top reporters. In this passage, the reporters refer to the FBI informant as "the professor:"
COSTA, LEONNIG, HAMBURGER AND BARRETT (5/19/18): People familiar with [the informant's] outreach to Papadopoulos said it was done as part of the FBI’s investigation. The young foreign-policy adviser had been on the radar of the FBI since the summer, and inside the campaign had been pushing Trump and his aides to meet with Russian officials.Some people will refer to that approach as "tradecraft." Rightly or wrongly, others will be inclined, and not completely crazily, to describe it as "spying." Meanwhile, the New York Post has reported the payment too. To read that report, click here.
“Please pardon my sudden intrusion just before the Labor Day weekend,” the professor wrote to Papadopoulos in a message described to The Post.
He said he was leading a project examining relations between Turkey and the European Union. He offered to pay Papadopoulos $3,000 to write a paper about the oil fields off the coast of Turkey, Israel and Cyprus, “a topic on which you are a recognized expert.”
It is a long-standing practice of intelligence operatives to try to develop a source by first offering the target money for innocuous research or writing.
The professor invited Papadopoulos to come to London later that month to discuss the paper, offering to pay the costs of his travel. “I understand that this is rather sudden but thought given your expertise, it might be of interest to you,” he wrote.
Papadopoulos accepted. While in London, he met for drinks with a woman who identified herself as the professor’s assistant, before meeting on Sept. 15 with the professor at the Traveler’s Club, a 200-year-old private club that is a favorite of foreign diplomats stationed in London, according to the emails described to The Post.
After Papadopoulos returned to the United States and sent his research document, the professor responded: “Enjoyed your paper. Just what we wanted. $3,000 wired to your account. Pls confirm receipt.”
In short, three major newspapers, but mainly the Washington Post and the New York Times, have reported this incident. But we've still seen no one on CNN or MSNBC describe these reported events.
We'll assume that these channels have adopted a policy under which this report can't be mentioned, perhaps because the report hasn't been confirmed by their own reporters. We say this because pro-Trump commentator Jason Miller referred to "entrapment" several times on Monday night's Anderson Cooper show.
Presumably, that was a reference to this clandestine procedure. But even Miller, a CNN contributor, didn't cite the clandestine payment, or explain why he was using the term.
Was this approach to Papadopoulos really a form of "entrapment?" Not really, although the informant was imaginably hoping that Papadopoulos would cop to inappropriate or even illegal behavior.
At any rate, these high-profile reports by the Post and the Times have gone down the memory hole on CNN and MSNBC. And not only there! In this morning's Washington Post, David Ignatius wrote a column about the informant, but even he skipped past this episode—an episode which has been reported in substantial detail in his own newspaper!
Why does this matter? Here's why:
We'd like to see a specialist like Ignatius answer a simple-minded question. Why did the FBI have this informant approach Papadopoulos under false pretenses, in a surreptitious manner?
They'd been told that Papadopoulos had said that the Russkies had Clinton's emails. Why didn't they simply send an agent to ask him, in the full light of day, what he'd actually heard?
We'd like to see analysts answer that simple-minded question. But in the current climate, no one is willing to say that the clandestine approach occurred!
The FBI's surreptitious approach helps explain why it's easy to sell this as an example of "spying." Indeed, even James Clapper seemed to possibly fumble the language yesterday on The View:
BEHAR (5/22/18): So I ask you, was the F.B.I. spying on Trump’s campaign?Oof—and oops as well!
CLAPPER: No, they were not. They were spying on—a term I don’t particularly like—but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence, which is what they do.
Don't get us wrong! Given the totally tribalized nature of our current political world, our two tribes have already created hardened narratives about what Clapper meant by what he said. But, tribal imperatives to the side, Clapper came awkwardly close to saying that the FBI actually was spying in its approach to Papadopoulos—but they were only trying to spy on what the Russkies knew, not on what the Trump campaign was doing.
Whatever! People can call this approach whatever they like. But in a traditionally rational world, the facts come before the semantics.
The recitation of basic facts comes before the semantics! But in this episode, everyone is arguing semantics, and no one is stating the reported facts! It's amazing to see the way those high-profile reports by the Post and the Times have been disappeared wherever anti-Trump viewpoints are sold. Even Ignatius, a Post columnist, won't mention what the Post itself said!
This is one of the weirdest journalistic episodes we've ever seen at this site. It represents a descent into a Pravda-istic, post-Enlightenment type of discourse.
We have a deeply disordered president—and an increasingly tribalized mainstream press. In this case, our two most important mainstream newspapers have published similar, high-profile news reports. It's amazing, and deeply bizarre, to see our floundering career liberal world refusing to discuss what these famous newspapers have said.
We liberals! We're staging a fight about the semantics—and refusing to state the known facts! As our deeply corporatized tribe descends into its own form of madness, we liberals won't even be asked to hear the known facts about what has occurred!