Quick Takes: The Evolution of a Right Wing Distraction

A roundup of news that caught my eye over the last week.

I promise not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but I want to say that since last Thursday I saw something coming that has now evolved into a full-fledged right wing obsession that Trump thinks has turned the whole “Russia hoax” around.

If you are a regular reader and have been following along, you know the story. But I thought it might be helpful to end the week by cataloguing how I was writing about the progression as it developed.

* Trump Attack on FBI Signals His Concern about Steele Dossier

Since it was written in the form of a question, the president might claim plausible deniability that he just accused the FBI of paying for the Steele dossier. But his inference is reprehensible. He even suggests that the FBI might have colluded with the Russians (and Democrats) to produce the dossier.

There are signs that all of this is a planned strategy to create a distraction for the president. First of all, while we don’t know the names of particular individuals or groups that were involved, it has been widely reported that Fusion GPS (the firm that employed Christopher Steele) was initially hired by “Never Trump” Republicans during the 2016 primary. Once Trump won the nomination, Democratic donors funded the continuing efforts. There’s no story there.

* Trump’s Supporters Are Being Set Up to Dismiss His Ties to Russia

If you avoid right wing media, you might not be aware of the story that has them all galvanized right now, a remake of the old one about how the Russians bribed the Clintons to sell off 20 percent of America’s uranium. It’s the lie Peter Schweitzer tried to sell in his book, Clinton Cash, which has been repeatedly fact-checked since he and Bannon conned the New York Times into buying it in 2015.

The reason this whole nonsense has been resurrected is because a reporter named John Solomon has been writing about it at The Hill almost daily for the last week…

That’s the news bubbling all over right wing web sites and Fox News and spread via social media. It is nothing more than a pre-emptive use of Trump’s ubiquitous pattern of lie, distract and blame designed to provide him and his base with a response when/if charges of collusion with Russia are brought against his campaign.

* Did the Media Learn Their Lesson About Faux Clinton Scandals?

Contrary to what we’ve been hearing, John Solomon is not the first person to report on that investigation. Back in 2015, Joel Schectman was writing about it—in the Wall Street Journal no less. His story from April of that year has some fascinating information that Solomon seems to have missed.

* Someone Is Really Worried About the Trump/Russia Investigation.

…last night the Washington Post published an article titled “Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier,” in which they report that Marc Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, hired Fusion GPS to conduct the research that led to the Steele dossier…

Since David Corn first broke this story a year ago we’ve known that it was a Republican who first hired this company during the presidential primary and that a Democrat continued to fund it during the general election. What’s interesting about this latest story from the Washington Post is that their sources—identified as “people familiar with the matter”—named the Democrat involved, but not the Republican. Why would they do that do you suppose? It got them the exact headline they wanted.

* A Coordinated Attack on the FBI Has Begun

Their conversation [Tucker Carlson and Rep. Devin Nunes] focused completely on the role of the FBI with the Steele dossier, and is loaded with distortions and lies. Carlson even went so far as to ask, “So is there anything more terrifying than the prospect of an armed rogue agency?” Think about that. An interviewer refers to the FBI as “an armed rogue agency” and a member of Congress simply nods in agreement. Apparently the long knives have come out.

* What the Steele Dossier Got Right

Given that the Steele dossier is back in the news and everyone from the president to right-wing commentators are claiming that it is “fake,” I thought it might be helpful to provide a quick look at the portions of the document that have been corroborated. We have no way of knowing if Robert Mueller’s team has additional information, so this will simply be based on what is already public knowledge.

* What’s Going On With This Story About Trump Lifting a Gag Order?

You might be hearing stories about how the president pressured the Department of Justice to lift a so-called “gag order” on an informant involved in the Russian uranium scandal. As ethics czar in the Obama administration Norm Eisen suggests, there are rules that prohibit that kind of thing.

But who is this informant and what light can he shed on the current controversies?

The fact that all of this has unfolded over nine days is an indication that what we are witnessing is the roll-out of a planned and coordinated strategy meant to distract from the investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. As Martin wrote, it might also be an indication that Robert Mueller is about to drop a bombshell. Stay tuned next week and we’ll keep you informed.

* Finally, let’s go out this week with a totally unrelated story from Jordan Spieth about what it’s like to play golf with Barack Obama.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.