The Media Gives Short Schiff to Obamagate
George Neumayr
by

The media’s biased coverage of Obamagate continues to shift. First, reporters feigned outrage that Trump would dare to say that the saintly Barack Obama had spied on him. Never mind that Trump’s assertion sparked off their own reporting — reports clearly based on criminal leaks from Obama aides spying on Trump. But now reporters are pursuing a new line of attack against Trump, which can be translated as: Yes, Obama spied on you — and good for him. Take a look at this headline from a column at Slate magazine hastily run after the revelation that top Obama aide Susan Rice had snooped on Trump and his associates: “I Hope Susan Rice Was Keeping Tabs on Trump’s Russia Ties.”

Look how far the progressive champions of “civil liberties” have fallen. These are the same liberals who call Nixon a monster for having justified political espionage on specious national security grounds. Could anyone imagine Slate running a column lauding Richard Nixon for spying on Daniel Ellsberg?

How did we find out about Susan Rice’s role in Obamagate? Not from the mainstream media at first, but from a pro-Trump blogger named Mike Cernovich, who says he found out about the Rice story from a disgruntled staffer at a publication unwilling to publish it. In other words, he pulled a Matt Drudge. On Sunday night, Cernovich wrote that he had “been informed that Maggie Haberman has had this story about Susan Rice for at least 48 hours, and has chosen to sit on it in an effort to protect the reputation of former President Barack Obama.”

Haberman works at the New York Times. Now that the story is out, what is Haberman tweeting and re-tweeting? One links to a Max Boot tweet, which says, “Are Trump aides breaking the law by rooting around in intel database for political purposes?” Another links to a “meaty explainer” saying that Rice’s spying on Trump was justified.

The partisan gall of the media is impossible to overstate here. After Trump’s tweets, reporters hectored him for having “no proof” of spying and demanded that he furnish them with it. Now that he and Devin Nunes give them proof, they suddenly don’t want it — and accuse them of political espionage.

Susan Rice, by the way, knew this story was coming. Two days ago, she re-tweeted a comment by former Hillary Clinton aide Jennifer Palmieri that said: “Here’s what’s happening. Trump NSC staff cherry picks intel which appears to back up Trump and leaks it to Fox so Trump can retweet it.”

Asked about Nunes’s claim of unmasked information in March, Rice said that she knew “nothing” about it, but added that unmasking is “legal.” So she was already preparing her defense. But the scandal doesn’t stop with her. She was serving, as she did after Benghazi, as an errand girl, doing the bidding of Obama and John Brennan, among others. The key detail in Adam Housley’s Fox News segment was that the intelligence Rice requested went to top Obama aides: “The unmasked names, of people associated with Donald Trump, were then sent to all those at the National Security Council, some at the Defense Department, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan – essentially, the officials at the top, including former Rice deputy Ben Rhodes.”

It is slowly dawning on some in the media, including David Ignatius, the Washington Post reporter who served as a stenographer for leaking Obama embeds, that this story is moving in Trump’s direction. Ignatius had to make this point gingerly, lest he incur the wrath of his liberal confreres, but he made it nonetheless on Face the Nation:

So under existing surveillance orders, the United States is listening to all kinds of diplomats, intelligence officials around the world under various authorities. And when that collection picks up incidentally the names of Americans, Joe Russia happens to be calling Joe America, Joe America’s name is typically minimized. It’s — it’s masked so that that person’s privacy is — is protected. In — in certain circumstances when it’s necessary to understand who the conversation is — was between, the name is unmasked and then if — if there’s a — a legal investigation beyond that, there — there — there are even more reasons.

What’s happened this month is that what initially seemed a preposterous argument by Donald Trump, that he had been wiretapped by President Obama illegally, has morphed into an argument about privacy, about proper masking techniques, a very technical, legal issue, and is now accepted, I think, as part of the mainstream set of issues that are going to be debated by the two intelligence committees. And from — from Trump’s standpoint, that’s, I think you’d have to say, that’s a success. It may be a pyrrhic victory for Nunes, whose — whose credibility, the ability to lead the committee, is radically compromised, but that’s now in the center stage.

Eli Lake, the columnist for Bloomberg who reported on the Rice revelation (Cernovich says that Bloomberg also sat on the story until he broke it), said to the displeasure of the comically biased Katy Tur, “This is troubling what happened here.” That is not what Tur wanted to hear. She quickly tried to change the subject and later made the preposterous argument that the focus on Susan Rice helps Russia.

In other words, no one is supposed to notice that one government did interfere in the U.S. election — ours. For months and months, the Obama administration was spying on Trump and leaking hints of its investigation to the press in the hopes of helping Hillary, who, by the way, colluded in the effort. Yet even the ruthless partisan Adam Schiff can’t “definitively” cite a single proof of collusion on Trump’s part, as he reluctantly acknowledged on Sunday. Given all the spying and leaking on Trump, wouldn’t we know by now if they had any evidence of collusion?

To say that Trump in this matter is more sinned against than sinning is an understatement. He was the blatant victim of political espionage and criminal leaking by the Obama administration, then when he complained about it, he was smeared anew. Two questions have swirled around this story: Did the Obama administration spy on Trump? Did Trump collude with the Russians? The answers are yes and no. The media wanted the answers to be no and yes. So now their game is to pretend like they didn’t ask the questions or that the “real story” is Trump’s imprecise tweeting. Notice that almost every story on the Rice revelation begins with throat-clearing about how it doesn’t “vindicate Trump’s tweet,” as if grading him on a tweet, in which he was clearly using wire-tapping as a synonym for spying and investigating, is the most pressing concern here.

Notice also that liberal reporters, who used to quote Michael Kinsley’s dictum that the scandal is “what’s legal” in Washington, rush to defend the legality of Rice’s unmasking, as if that should end all discussion.

At the Atlantic, David Graham asks, “Did Susan Rice Do Anything Wrong By Asking to ‘Unmask’ Trump Officials?” Graham informs us that “many experts” say that Rice’s behavior “does not imply anything improper or unusual.” Right. What could possibly be unusual or improper about spying on a political opponent? To paraphrase Richard Nixon, if a liberal president conducts espionage, it can’t be wrong.

It isn’t until the end of the piece that the apologetics of Graham begin to waver, and even there his concession is grudging: “A spokesman for Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Schiff had no immediate comment. The political winds may be shifting on this story, or at least blowing in a slightly more favorable direction for the White House.”

Obama once ludicrously said that his administration had no scandals — a phony claim that the media pooh-poohing the Rice revelation is jealously trying to preserve. But no matter how hard they try to avoid it, reporters will have to reckon with Obamagate and the perversely rich irony of ACLU-style liberals like Rice and Brennan becoming exactly what they once opposed.

George Neumayr
George Neumayr
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George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.
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