Missing the National Security Crises for the Trump Temper Tantrums

Even after Republicans and Vladimir Putin have conceded that Donald Trump will no longer be President in 35 days, key parts of the press corps seem unable to look beyond Trump’s temper tantrums to the state of the country.

NBC,  for example, has a 17-paragraph story about Pat Cipollone’s efforts to persuade Trump not to fire Chris Wray and maybe Chad Wolf and maybe Gina Haspel and who knows maybe some more national security figures Trump is pissy about because they haven’t catered to his personal demands. The story doesn’t once mention that these same national security officials — especially Wray and Wolf — are neck deep in a crisis attempting to assess and respond to the SolarWinds compromise of multiple US agencies.

While Trump’s frustrations with Attorney General Bill Barr boiled over in recent days, and Barr resigned on Monday, the president’s advisers hope he’s been persuaded against ousting Wray. Multiple current and former senior administration officials said firing Wray does not appear imminent, but they also point out that the president could make such a decision on a whim at any time. Indeed officials said they are prepared for Trump to go on a firing spree before leaving office next month.

“I wouldn’t take anything off the table in coming weeks,” the senior administration official said of personnel changes, as well as presidential pardons. The official said to expect “some more fairly significant terminations in the national security or intelligence community.”

That this story could even be reported with an unrelenting focus on Trump’s revenge fantasies and not, instead, an extended discussion of the way these revenge fantasies have distracted the entire Administration from urgent crises which Trump’s past revenge fantasies have invited and made worse is an alarming failure of basic framing.

Similarly, in the middle of a 19-paragraph AP story on the transition at DOJ from Bill Barr to Jeffrey Rosen, it summarizes the main point of the story: the biggest issue before DOJ as it prepares for pardonpalooza, continues to cope with running prisons and fraud investigations during a pandemic, sues some of the world’s biggest tech companies, and deals with Mexico’s withdrawal from virtually all drug enforcement cooperation is whether or not the Attorney General, some Attorney General, any Attorney General appoints a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden.

As Barr exits, the biggest thing by far hanging over the Trump Justice Department is its investigation into Hunter Biden, which involves multiple U.S. attorney offices and FBI field offices.

The AP is so deep inside Trump’s manic delusions that it states, as fact, that appointing a special counsel would by itself make for a more complicated investigation, as if someone could just chase Rudy Giuliani conspiracies for four years without Biden’s Attorney General making a solid case the person should be fired.

Appointing a special counsel for the Hunter Biden probe would also signal a more prolonged and complicated investigation than the current inquiry, so far largely centered on his taxes.

DOJ has already spent something like 4 US Attorney years investigating Hunter Biden and has yet to charge him with a single crime; while it remains to be seen whether the tax charges are real, at some point an investigation will butt up against the reality that even the politicized Scott Brady one did: most of the allegations against Hunter Biden are the product of very frothy conspiracy theorizing and aggressive disinformation that straight reporters are not obliged to adopt.

It is useful — important even — to report on the Trump’s temper tantrums. But his tantrums, at this point, are most important for the way they’ve paralyzed and corrupted the entire government during a time it faces multiple urgent crises. Don’t let sources dodge how indulging the President’s childish whims means they, too, are failing to do their real job serving the country.

The country is burning. It is burning, in significant part, because the President has always prioritized his own personal vendettas over the good of the country.

If you need to report on how Trump has put his own revenge fantasies over all else during his Lame Duck, do so as a first step towards holding him accountable for the wreckage that has resulted, not to indulge those fantasies as if the rest of us should care about them anymore.

39 replies
  1. Fran of the North says:

    After 5 years of ‘Entertainment Tonight’ level reporting – find some controversy, breathlessly repeat ad nauseam anything the players say, and connect zero dots, old habits die hard.

    Real stories take time, research and hard work. Unfortunately the Solar Winds story is extraordinarily opaque right now, and it is so much easier to write a fluff piece on personnel issues.

    It boggles the mind that as vital government entities are pillaged by foreign actors, congress fiddles as Trump tweets and rants.

    • Ruthie says:

      I would add speculation I’ve read/heard elsewhere: that the Beltway media, whether consciously or unconsciously, is eager to burnish their non-partisan credentials in the wake of 4 years of far more pointed criticism of the president than they normally offer – particularly as skittish as they are of RW claims of bias toward conservatism among the media. The Hunter Biden investigation may be entirely or largely ginned up, but that needn’t matter. After all, so was the hysteria surrounding Hillary’s emails.

      Also, it’s been a long time since Republicans in Congress gave 2 shits about anything other than maintaining power. They were A-OK with compromising national security to further their aims when Trump was president. I won’t be surprised if, with Biden’s inauguration imminent, they’re cynical enough to land the whole Solar Winds mess in his lap to deal with. NOTHING is beyond them at this point, IMO.

      • P J Evans says:

        It’s easier to do scandal than real news that requires actual reporting, when what you’re after is ratings and access.

  2. harpie says:

    That this story could even be reported with an unrelenting focus on Trump’s revenge fantasies and not, instead, an extended discussion of the way these revenge fantasies have distracted the entire Administration from urgent crises which Trump’s past revenge fantasies have invited and made worse is an alarming failure of basic framing.

    Exactly! And I suspect Putin and McConnell are in on it.

    A timeline:

    1] 3:43 AM · Dec 15, 2020

    Joseph R. Biden @JoeBiden has been declared the winner of the US presidential election. Congratulations from Vladimir Putin: [link]

    2] 10:13 AM · Dec 15, 2020

    BREAKING: McConnell says that after the electoral college voted yesterday: “Our country has officially a president-elect and a vice-president elect.”
    “I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” McConnell says.

    3] 10:41 AM · Dec 15, 2020
    [TRUMP link in next comment]

    Tremendous evidence pouring in on voter fraud. There has never been anything like this in our Country!

    4] 5:20 PM · Dec 15, 2020
    [Sen Blumenthal link in next comment]

    Stunning. Today’s classified briefing on Russia’s cyberattack left me deeply alarmed, in fact downright scared. Americans deserve to know what’s going on. Declassify what’s known & unknown.

    5] 9:22 PM · Dec 15, 2020
    [TRUMP campaign fundraising pitch link in next comment]

    Pres Trump: We need another $1 MILLION by 11:59 PM TONIGHT to make sure ALL Patriots see our new ad. I want a list of ALL donors. Act NOW: [link]

    6] 12:40 AM · Dec 16, 2020
    [TRUMP tweet link in next comment]

    [quoting Mail on-line] Trump’s allies slam Mitch McConnell [harpie: but NOT PUTIN] for congratulating Biden [link]
    Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry! [ss]

  3. Trevanion says:

    One of your best. Efforts need to be made to ensure it is seen by the self-styled savvy political reporting class.

  4. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    Establishing a quantitative measure for investigative efforts – US Attorney years – is brilliant.

  5. CD54 says:

    I think the MSM has internalized Republican diffidence to Trump’s negligence and incompetence. 300,000 deaths are just a sunk cost now.

    As I said before: So now Trump isn’t just shooting on 5th Ave. — he’s spree killing in all 50 states.

    • Chris.EL says:

      Thank you for saying this!! So important that once and for all everyone sees that Trump is totally off his rocker!

      Going to get much worse for Trump: Palm Beach, Silver Springs estate, Vance, Leticia James, E. Jean Carroll are all coming after Trump.

      Going to be so delightful to see Trump squirm and come more unglued. Hopefully he won’t be in a position to take revenge on additional U.S. citizens.

      • ducktree says:

        Don’t forget the Scottish courts are also investigating his “unexplained wealth” for the all-cash purchase of his golf course and club across the pond. Sweet!

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Do you have a link for that? Last time I heard, a few politicians were demanding an investigation – there are sufficient reasonable suspicions to wonder where the money came from – but while Trump was president, the powers that be in Edinburgh and London were playing pass the hot potato to avoid authorizing it.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            But it will not get you an article that says Scotland or the UK government has actually started an UWO investigation. They all say that so-and-so urges the government to do so. But the government sits silently and idly by, hoping this will go away at least until Trump leaves office.

            The UWO is a useful compliance tool of financial and tax law. It would be more useful still, if so many of the powers – who live in the world’s money laundering capital – did not themselves fear becoming the subject of one. That and the UK is rather desperately hoping that the US will remember its thspecial relationship with Airstrip One, when it comes time to negotiate a new trade agreement with it.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Sturgeon is the one saying that under the law, it’s up to London to initiate an UWO investigation. London, of course, is keeping mum.

                Neither of them want to do it. As I said, it’s pass the hot potato, at least until Trump leaves. Not that Trump’s sources of funds will become more legitimate by then, but the repercussions for the UK might be fewer.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Your depth and perception were always sharp, but I suspect they’re even sharper with distance and the objectivity that comes from coping with a new culture. As it was in Izzy’s day, the MSM can be obsessed with easy-to-cover minutiae. It covers the pointillist dots, but misses the larger images on the canvas Like Izzy, you provide context and texture that make information meaningful. Many thanks.

  7. Norskeflamthrower says:

    Welcome to the Trump interregnum…er, I mean the Biden presidency. The corporate media are already back to “Democrats in disarray” while the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe conducts civil war on itself in Georgia and the Russians compromise the entire US government. We’re channeling 1932 Weimar Germany.

  8. madwand says:

    I did see somewhere, a reference to Solarwinds password which was was solarwinds123, belying the fact that it was a back door attack and maybe went in through the front screen. At any rate here is a WAPO story buried in the Tech section, I had to hit the search button to find it.


    From the article “The operation began at least as early as March when SolarWinds customers who installed updates to their Orion software were unknowingly welcoming hidden malicious code that could give intruders the same view of their corporate network that in-house IT crews have. FireEye described the malware’s dizzying capabilities — from initially lying dormant up to two weeks, to hiding in plain sight by masquerading its reconnaissance forays as Orion activity.”

    Waiting to see how the general public emails, etc may have been compromised by all this.

      • P J Evans says:

        Many people are saying that they’d like to watch Trmp being removed from the WH on pay-per-view, and are willing to pay as much as a couple of hundred dollars for it. (Make a dent in the deficit!) It would be almost as much fun watching him being removed from Mar-al-Ego when the residents get their wish to not have him there.

        • MB says:

          Well then, they should set up “viewing stands” in front of the WH, separate from the ones they are constructing for Biden’s inauguration now. Those would be the “premium” seats, PPV would be one step removed. The pleebs (like me) would have to watch it later on a news clip.

        • AndTheSlithyToves says:

          Cheri Jacobus | @CheriJacobus
          If Trump, his kids, mobsters and criminal enablers are indicted and prosecuted, I can assure you the ratings for
          will be high sky, especially if peppered with actual perp walks.
          Quote Tweet
          Cheri Jacobus | @CheriJacobus
          Dec 15
          CNN and MSNBC Fret Over Post-Trump Future https://nytimes.com/2020/12/14/business/media/cnn-msnbc-cable-news-trump.html?smid=tw-share
          11:49 AM · Dec 15, 2020·Twitter Web App

    • P J Evans says:

      The place I saw it didn’t include the source, but it’s apparently from a parody account and *that* tweet (the source) has been deleted. It looks plausible, though.

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