Times report kills all the fun: What happens to information flow during tribalized, partisan times such as these?
What happens even Over Here, within our own flawless tribe?
For an answer to your question, consider the first two paragraphs of a front-page report in today's New York Times. The reports deals with Donald Trump's golf course in Scotland—and it seems to contradict some earlier reporting, which created tons of excitement but seems to have maybe been bungled.
The report appears on today's front page. Slightly slippery headline included, Eric Lipton's report starts like this:
LIPTON (9/10/19): Trump Had Deal With Scotland Airport That Sent Flight Crews to His ResortSay what? According to the last highlighted passage, the Pentagon was using Glasgow Prestwick Airport for stop-overs and refueling at least by the year 2015!
Back in 2014, soon after acquiring a golf resort in Scotland, Donald J. Trump entered a partnership with a struggling local airport there to increase air traffic and boost tourism in the region.
The next year, as Mr. Trump began running for president, the Pentagon decided to ramp up its use of that same airport to refuel Air Force flights, and gave the local airport authority the job of helping to find accommodations for flight crews who had to remain overnight.
Those two separate arrangements have now intersected in ways that provide the latest evidence of how Mr. Trump’s continued ownership of his business produces regular ethical questions.
Indeed, the Times report says that the Pentagon "ramped up" its use of that airport that year. That suggests that the Pentagon may have been using the airport for stop-overs before the year 2015.
Just for the record, Barack Obama was still president in the year 2015. Presumably, Donald J. Trump didn't order the Pentagon to use that airport for stop-overs and refueling.
If accurate, this report seems quite surprising. We say that because, starting last Friday, every hack and a few hangers-on were telling a thrillingly different story, based on a brand-new Politico news report.
The Politico report sent a lot of of joy through Mudville last Friday night. For one example, here's what Rachel Maddow said as she went on and on, then on and on, working from a brand-new report she hadn't checked or confirmed:
MADDOW (9/6/19): This story just came out within the last hour. If you have not seen it yet, you are going to want to sit down. You are going to want to spend a little bit of time with this.Chuckling and shouting and living it up, Maddow went on and on, and on and on quite a bit more, quoting a new report from Politico—a report which seems to have been contradicted, in major ways, by today's front-page report.
This is the headline from Politico tonight. "Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine trip, Trump’s Scottish resort."
Quote: In early spring of this year, an Air National guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies. What wasn't routine was where the crew stopped along the way. They stopped at President Trump's Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.
Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on this C17 military transport plane made the unusual stay, both on route to the Middle East and on the way back, at the president’s Scottish resort.
They stopped at Turnberry both ways!
This congressional committee is investigating this. This is previously unreported news, something being looked into by Congress, since they have been looking into it since April, they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.
Quote: On previous trips to the Middle East, the C17 had landed at U.S. air bases such as Ramstein Air Base in Germany or the naval air station called Rota in Spain to refuel. Occasionally, the same C17 would also stop at military bases in the Azores, or in Italy. But stopping in Scotland?
A senior Air Force official said choosing to refuel at the airport nearest to the president’s Scotland resort and choosing for the airmen to stay at the president’s Scotland resort, a half an hour away from that airport, that would be unusual for such a mission.
Again, their mission is flying supplies to and from Kuwait. Quote: Typically, the official said, air crews stay on a military base while in transit or at nearby lodgings. The congressional inquiry is part of a broader previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at or around the Trump property in Scotland.
Shouting and chuckling and living quite large, Maddow explained how strange it is to think that an Air Force crew would stop to refuel anywhere but at a military base. She told us how much money was being wasted this way, especially on the price of fuel.
She assured us that it would be strange for pilots to spend an overnight at a place like Trump's Scottish resort. Maddow continued excitedly pushing these theories on last evening's program, stressing the "millions and millions of dollars" which were being thrown away.
She assured us that this was the latest case of Donald J. Trump rigging the game. But according to this morning's Times, these recent Air Force stop-overs in Scotland weren't unusual at all, and the decision to conduct such stop-overs was in place by at least 2015.
By the way, it isn't just the fact that the Pentagon had made the decision to use Glasgow Prestwick Airport for stop-overs and refueling at least by 2015. If the Times' front-page report is accurate, it also doesn't seem surprising that crews stayed at Trump's resort:
LIPTON: Both the Defense Department and executives at the airport confirmed on Monday that the airport also has a separate arrangement with the United States Air Force. Under that arrangement, the Scottish airport not only refuels American military planes but also helps arrange hotel accommodations for arriving crews, as it does for some civilian and commercial aircraft.If the Times report is accurate, the airport has been arranging hotel accommodations for Air Force crews at least since 2015. The Trump facility was on the list of hotels even at that time.
“We provide a full handling service for customers and routinely arrange overnight accommodation for visiting aircrew when requested,” the Prestwick airport said in a statement on Monday. “We use over a dozen local hotels, including Trump Turnberry, which accounts for a small percentage of the total hotel bookings we make.”
It was through the arrangement with the Pentagon that a seven-person United States Air Force crew ended up staying at the Trump Turnberry in March. An Air Force C-17 military transport plane was on its way from Alaska to Kuwait when it stopped at Prestwick overnight to refuel and give the crew a break.
The crew, which consisted of active duty and national guard members from Alaska, was charged $136 per room, which was less expensive than a Marriott property's rate of $161. And both were under the per diem rate of $166.
If today's report is accurate, it sounds like the Trump property has been under-pricing competitors. It sounds like it has long been routine to stay overnight at hotels, rather than on military bases.
This all flies in the face of excited commentary which was based on the earlier Politico report. On one hour's notice, Maddow went on the air last Friday night to tell us, at substantial length, how corrupt the whole thing was and, needless to say, how it could lead to impeachment.
That brings us up to the peculiar events of last night.
Start with the Times itself. Several parts of the Times report seem to contradict ongoing discussion about this particular matter. That includes the first two paragraphs of the Times report.
That said, the Times' Eric Lipton seemed completely unaware of the fact that his report was contradicting recent conventional wisdom. He didn't exactly "bury" his lede—it's more like he chose to ignore it.
That brings us to Brian Williams. Early in last evening's show, he quoted Lipton's first two paragraphs, but he managed to blow right past what those paragraphs said.
He blew right past the basic fact that the current arrangements were apparently put in place by the Pentagon at least as early as 2015. To all appearances, Brian was pretending he hadn't understood the material he had just read.
Williams had also huffed and puffed and blown the house down concerning this matter last Friday night. This was part of the tribal excitement as he spoke with the always-restrained Rick Wilson:
WILSON (9/6/19): Look, it's been a minute since I was in the DOD, but I can tell you, it's part of regulations in the DOD that air crews are not to stay overnight at civilian facilities unless it is mission-essential. They're supposed to go from military to military facilities, and I'm pretty much sure that staying at a Trump golf resort is never mission-essential for a U.S. Air Force or Navy crew heading over to the Middle East to the active theater of combat in the Middle East.These sunshine patriots mournfully rattled the names of various air bases. But if the Times report today is correct, everything these jerk-offs were saying seems to have been basically wrong.
This is some other element of the Trump grift. It is some element of the Trump scam. These are people who have obviously managed to corrupt folks down the chain and sent the signal that at the minimum to send a signal, that if you stay at Trump resorts maybe he'll like you more. And I think it's an extraordinary moment where, you know, we're seeing it in real time, that they're forcing these airmen to land their C-17s off military airfields somewhere close to a Trump resort in order to stay there. It is an unbelievable level of corruption.
WILLIAMS: And Rick, you do remind me, we have a network of air bases with names like Aviano—
WILSON: We do indeed—
WILLIAMS: —the air bases we have maintained, along with the Brits, and the French, and the Germans, for exactly this type of thing
WILSON: Indeed. And I think—I don't know the exact number right now. I think it's five in Britain that would handle the C-17 right off the top of my head. So somehow I'm thinking that landing at a Trump golf resort is not like landing at Hertfordshire for instance, or Bentwaters, or wherever we got still bases operating in the U.K. It's very much a symbol of a corrupt and corrupting administration.
WILLIAMS: I'll see your hurt for (INAUDIBLE) and raise you in Mildenhall, which I think is still up and running.
WILSON: You will indeed.
Maddow and Williams gamboled and played with this topic last Friday night. If the Times report is correct, it seems that their presentations were basically wrong.
Williams skillfully faked it last night as he read from Lipton's report. We're looking forward to seeing what these corporate multimillionaires tell us about this tonight as we try to get more clear about the facts of the case.
For the record, we regard Trump as disordered and dangerous. For the most part, we regard Williams and Maddow as corporate circus clowns. Williams was especially strange about Newark (again) last night.
What are the actual facts of the current matter? At deeply tribalized times like these, it will routinely be hard to find out.
Still coming, likely tomorrow: Brian on Newark (again)