White House Confident No Fire to Russian Smoke because Investigation Has Lasted Six Months

Mike Allen’s new rag has an update on the White House efforts to counter the NYT story that Trump’s team had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence leading up to the election. The piece that’s getting all the attention is confirmation that Sean Spicer is the one who arranged the contacts.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer personally picked up the phone and connected outside officials with reporters to try to discredit a New York Times article about Trump campaign aides’ contact with Russia, then remained on the line for the brief conversations,

But I’m just as interested in the logic the White House used to reassure itself there’s no risk to the investigation.

Top White House officials tell us they’re authentically confident that the Russia smoke won’t lead to fire, and are even happy to have their opponents distracted by the issue. “For over six months, we have heard about these alleged contacts with Russia,” the official said. “And yet, … with all the leaks have have come out, there’s no ‘there’ there.”

This is an administration that hasn’t conducted anywhere near the kind of vetting administrations normally do. Numerous staffers couldn’t get security clearance, several nominees had to withdraw because of financial conflicts, and still more should have. The administration lied about the substance of Mike Flynn’s contacts with the Russian Ambassador for weeks, and only fired Flynn when it became public that Flynn had purportedly lied to VP Pence. Moreover, Trump insisted the Hillary email investigation — a far less complex investigation — might result in indictments well past the six month mark of the investigation (it took just under a year for FBI to declare they would not charge her, even ignoring the October 2016 headfake related to the Anthony Weiner related emails).

And yet their assurance that these leaks will amount to nothing seems to come primarily from the fact that nothing has happened in six months of leaks (ignoring Flynn got fired after an interview with the FBI)?

I mean, they may well be right. Missing from most of the coverage of this story is the White House claim that Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe allegedly offered up that the story was “bullshit” (a claim Allen repeats unquestioningly). If that’s the case, NYT really should offer a correction.

Except there’s a big difference between saying there were not a stream of communications between Russian intelligence and Trump’s associates and saying that the ties with Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, especially, don’t present potential means to compromise Trump’s administration.

There’s one thing I’ll agree with the White House on, though: the Russian scandal is sucking up all the press’ attention, even as Trump’s rolls out his various dragnets of authoritarianism. While the press is obsessed with whether Trump was influenced by an authoritarian, most are ignoring how Trump is himself one.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. Garrett says:

    I’ve never felt very good at the game of guess the source.

    So I’m pleased to see another confirmation here, that Mike Pompeo was willing to combat the story, after the FBI refused.

    I thought that WaPo near on saying so, in their article, was a pretty big deal.

    Who Mike Allen’s source is, I couldn’t guess. Doesn’t seem to be Sean Spicer, though. The source claims not to know who was orchestrated to talk to who. Priebus?

  2. greengiant says:

    Regarding the “Russian” hack. The goal appears to be to “Gawker” the NYTimes.  Collateral damage will be bonus.  How many blogs, twitter feeds,  and media articles are part of this propaganda warfare to destroy the media?   I assume all blogs are honeypots of one form or another for the likes of Mercer’s CA.

    Bin Laden read the book on 9-11,   author, Tom Clancy.

    The Russian mob/wall street faction read the book on taking out investigative journalists,  author Stig Larsson.

    Plant false story and then sue for libel, mysterious deaths, comments about family members well being, captured journalists throwing shade at the mob making their cover story the framework that hides the full truth.

    Perhaps some of them had read more of the book and allegedly hired themselves out to the CIA in exchange for sealing court records of their US crimes.

  3. Bob In Portland says:

    Anyone have any links as to what Russians did what to whom by the Russian hack?

    Also, perhaps how this is wrong when the CIA has been interfering with, overthrowing and otherwise undermining democracy around the world for seventy years?

  4. jerryy says:

    Bob In Portland
    February 28, 2017 at 12:05 pm


    “Also, perhaps how this is wrong when the CIA has been interfering with, overthrowing and otherwise undermining democracy around the world for seventy years?”

    Be careful with that one. It is on the slippery slope into ignoring that Both Are Wrong.

    • Bob In Portland says:

      Except that for one we have plenty of proof, a seventy-year record, and for the other we are still being told, “Just trust us.”

      • jerryy says:

        What you are objecting to in your reply is not the same as objecting to the issue itself. Your statements say it is okay, since it is payback.

        Which extended leads to ‘do it before they do it to you’. So why work to stop these forever wars?

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