WEDNESDAY, JULY 27, 2022
Wine-Banks seems to make a mistake: Uh-oh! Last night, in the last segment of the Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell delivered some (potentially) discouraging words concerning the Secret Service.
Last week, when the speculatin' was good, Lawrence posed a formal question to the embattled agency. His question concerned James Murray, the agency's embattled director.
Lawrence asked if the embattled director had deleted his own text messages from January 6, 2021. Last night, at the start of his program's last segment, he reported the answer he got:
O'DONNELL (7/26/22): The Secret Service has replied to my question: "Did Secret Service director James Murray delete his January 6 texts?"
In an email reply to us, the Secret Service spokesperson said, quote, "The only text messages on Director Murray's phone on January 5 and 6 were notifications from his alarm company at his residence."
So far, the answer wasn't that bad! But then, Lawrence read the rest of the reply from the Secret Service spokesperson:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): "By policy, Secret Service employees are not to conduct official government business by text for information security purposes as well as government record retention."
Joining us now is Jim Helminski, who served as deputy assistant director of the United States Secret Service until 2015...
As it turned out, Helminski was largely incoherent. He also seemed to be highly under-informed about the current state of the discussion concerning Secret Service texts.
In keeping with standard cable practice, Lawrence let Helminski's apparent errors go. Aside from that, uh-oh:
According to what Lawrence was told, Secret Service personnel are instructed not to text! Also according to what he was told, the only texts on the director's phone came from the security service he maintains at his home.
We have no way of knowing if those statements are accurate. Sometimes, people make statements which aren't.
Also, if Secret Service agents are instructed not to text, some agents might text anyway. That said, consider this:
The message Lawrence received from spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi might be seen, at least in theory, as a bit of a narrative buzzkill.
Are Secret Service agents instructed not to text? (We've noted the fact that Joyce Vance said something to that effect last week, in real time.)
Are agents instructed not to text? We can't say for certain. But if that statement is accurate, that might explain why so few text messages appeared on any agents' phones during the monthlong period leading up to January 6, 2021.
Beyond that, it might suggest that we need to apply the brakes before we assume that we understand this matter—and before our pundits start spinning exciting theories about kidnapping plots and intended assassinations, directed by unnamed persons within the Secret Service.
Last week, Blue Tribe Pundits took a tiny bit of information and ran with it very hard. Below, you see Watergate figure Jill Wine-Banks, speaking with Lawrence on last Thursday night's show.
In this passage, we highlight an apparent factual error. If we wait another month, MSNBC might let us rubes see a transcript:
WINE-BANKS (7/21/22): The fact that the Secret Service, who has the technical expertise, could possibly have accidentally lost these records is totally incredible. It's so incredible—
You know, I look back on the days of the 18-minute gap in Watergate, and this was a two-day gap. That is 144 times longer. But it's also obviously deliberate.
There's no way, I think as Claire said—you just can't believe that this just happened by chance. It had to be done deliberately and if it can't be recovered, it had to be done by real professionals who could get into the cloud and delete all other copies of it, the "To" and the "From."
The fact that it was just on those two days is really suspicious...We know from the timing that January 5th and January 6th were days when there would have been a lot of messages about protecting, or not protecting, the president and the vice president.
Sad. Wine-Banks seemed to believe that Secret Service texts were "missing" for only two days—for January 5th and 6th.
She regarded that fact as "really suspicious." It seemed to inform her claim that the absence of texts on those two days was "obviously deliberate"—that the (presumed) deletion of texts from those two days "had to be done by real professionals."
In fact, it had been reported that very few text messages could be provided for an entire month-long period, starting in early December 2020. According to those reports, it wasn't just on those two days that texts were (suspiciously) AWOL.
Reportedly, the Inspector General had found no texts for a full month-long period. But as the excitable stars of the Blue Tribe Cable embellished and spun on cable TV, many performers had made it sound like the Secret Service texts were "missing" for those two days only.
As of last Thursday night, that seemed to be Wine-Banks' basic understanding. In classic "cable news" fashion, no one corrected or challenged her apparent error, and she proceeded directly to this lurid conspiracy formulation:
WINE-BANKS (continuing directly): And I think not enough attention is being paid to what was going on with the vice president, and the fact that it was possible that the Secret Service was going to whisk him away, at the direction of James Murray—two words that I won't forget, I promise you, Lawrence—that they were going to whisk him away, never to let him return to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities to oversee the counting of ballots.
That is something that we need to know. Who made that order to get him out of there? Was it James Murray? Was it the president to James Murray? Was it the president directly to [Trump aide Anthony] Ornato? We just don't know.
Based in part on her apparent misunderstanding of basic facts, Wine-Banks moved ahead to a lurid conspiracy theory.
"It was possible," Wine-Banks said, "that the Secret Service was going to whisk [Pence] away, at the direction of James Murray...never to let him return."
Before she was done, she was even picturing President Donald J. Trump delivering an order directly to former agent Ornato "to get Pence out of there."
Given the fact that everything's possible, these lurid speculations were surely "possible" too! That said, Wine-Banks seemed to be basing her various assessments on the apparently mistaken belief that texts were "missing" on only two days—on January 5th and 6th.
Had that been an accurate fact, it would have seemed highly suspicious! But that seems to have been a mistaken belief—and, in classic "cable news" fashion, no one stepped in to correct or challenge this apparently bogus assumption.
At any rate:
Based on this apparent misunderstanding, Wine-Banks said the inability to recover texts from those two days was "obviously deliberate." Plainly, Secret Service texts had been disappeared "by real professionals." They'd even gone into the cloud!
Late last night, O'Donnell floated a very different possibility, rushing it onto the record in the last few minutes of The Last Word.
(Needless to say, the bulk of the show had been devoted to the latest source of pleasing tribal excitement. Corporate cable has been selling this product for roughly the past five years.)
Tomorrow, we'll show you what Claire McCaskill said last Thursday night when Wine-Banks was done. By the next morning, presidential historian Michael Beschloss had even "sewn the fourth button on." He'd turned the lurid speculation about a Secret Service kidnapping plot into an even more lurid speculation about "intended assassinations," with Trump and the Service involved.
We leave you today with this observation:
When our Blue Tribe Cable Stars function this way, it's the end of American discourse.
This is often, though not always, the way the stars function on Red Tribe Cable. Increasingly, this is the behavior to which we're exposed on Blue Tribe Cable too.
As we wait to see if Donald J. Trump will be charged with a crime, at least one one major question remains:
Can American culture, such as it is, survive this type of segregated, totally partisan, nutcase media regime? Can a giant modern nation possibly hope to function in the grip of dueling speculation / misinformation regimes—in the face of dueling regimes of epistemic closure?
Tomorrow: What McCaskill said last Thursday night