Monday, January 16, 2017

Why Won’t the American Media Investigate Trump-Putin Ties?

A piece in the Huffington Post raises a very important question: Why won’t the American media fully investigate what could be the biggest story in U.S. political history?  The piece goes on to contrast British coverage and investigation efforts and contrasts them with the laziness and irresponsible approach that largely holds sway among the American media outlets.  Yes, our media is fixated on short sound bites and page views, but what could be more sensational than proving that a traitor and Russian puppet is about to be sworn in as president?  I find the lack of attention disturbing, especially given Trump's documented history of lying incessantly.  Why give press coverage to his denials when all attention should be focused on verifying whether the dossiers released via BuzzFeed and CNN are true?  Here are highlights from the Huffington Post piece: 
What percentage chance that the incoming president has been compromised by a hostile foreign power is acceptable?
Most Americans, and the U.S. Constitution, would say “none.”
But right now Democrats and Republicans in D.C., along with almost the entirety of mainstream American media, are answering this question by ignoring it altogether.
Meanwhile, the media apparatus of our nation’s closest ally, England, has taken an entirely different approach: they’re reporting doggedly on the story, comparing the credibility of its two main players—former FBI asset and top MI6 agent Christopher Steele, and serial exaggerator and compulsive liar Donald Trump—and playing out various scenarios, including the possible impeachment of Trump not long after he is inaugurated.
Around the same time as The Guardian was pondering aloud how and whether Trump could be impeached for high crimes, the U.S. Speaker of the House was on CNN saying that the story of Trump’s possible compromising by a foreign power is so insignificant that it shouldn’t even be mentioned in U.S. media.
So why are the Brits looking out for Americans’ (and the world’s) interests so much more than our own elected officials and media outlets? Why, in England, is even a 5 percent or 10 percent chance of a U.S. president who committed treason to gain office unacceptable, while here in America one is told by top government officials to not even ask the question, and officials themselves are refusing to do so as well?
There are scary times, so it behooves us to compare British and American reports on Trump’s Russian controversy and try to determine (a) how we as citizens in a democracy should expect the story to be covered, and (b) what market forces in American media might be preventing our cable and network news, and many of our newspapers, from doing their jobs. The reason to ask these questions is that the intelligence services we rely upon to investigate questions such as this are less likely to feel the pressure to do so from our elected officials if our elected officials aren’t feeling pressure from the media—and therefore, in effect, from the American people.
So first things first: if you were alive and older than six in 2016, you know that Donald Trump repeatedly made inaccurate statements during the Republican primary and the general election, and has continued doing so near-daily in the current presidential transition period. 
Trump, who claims the memos are 100 percent false, has already lied about them repeatedly.
That’s pretty inexplicable, given his proclamations of innocence. Innocent men, absent strenuous interrogation by law enforcement, don’t lie about things they didn’t do. It’s practically a maxim in criminal law—which I used to practice—and it certainly applies here.
Now compare Mr. Trump to Mr. Steele, who was trusted by the FBI to do extensive work for them, who rose in the ranks at MI6 to run their Russia desk, who’s been described (in The Guardian) by former UK government officials as “one of the more eminent Russia specialists for MI6”; “very credible”; “sober, cautious, and meticulous”; “[a man] with a formidable record”; “not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip”; “an experienced and highly regarded professional”; “a very straight guy”; “not prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way”; “highly professional, very effective”; and someone who, “if he puts something in a report, believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering.”
One former UK Foreign Office official added, as if it were necessary to make the point in any clearer terms, that “the idea that his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false—completely untrue.”
If one of our closest allies [Israel] is refusing to send us intelligence because our government may be run by Russian puppets isn’t a constitutional crisis, nothing is.  All of which means the Steele memos must be fully investigated now. Not the day after tomorrow, not in a week, not in a month. Now.
[O]ne thing you don’t do is trust, as to the subject of a document’s veracity, the very people who’d be implicated by that document if it’s accurate. . . . . so then why is Chuck Todd of NBC calling the Steele document “false information”?
Why is Andrea Mitchell calling it a “smear campaign”?
Why is NBC reporting that the 35 pages of human intelligence gathered by Steele from Russian sources long considered reliable by him (and frequently relied upon by the United Kingdom) is “disinformation”—meaning, information planted by the Kremlin or made up from whole cloth by Steele himself?
Instead of covering what multiple experts on cable news have already called the greatest story in U.S. political history if true, CNN is engaged in a tit-for-tat with the Trump team over whether CNN accurately reported the events of a Trump briefing with intelligence services. Who cares about this feud? Well, CNN—and much more than the news story behind the feud, obviously—and perhaps also NBC and MSNBC.
[P]erhaps American media is intimidated by a President-elect so unpredictable that he’ll call a news organization “fake news” for correctly reporting a story he himself lied about?
In any case, this much can be said: when a news network repeatedly frames the news in a way that directly contradicts its own reporting, something is wrong. And that’s exactly what’s happened at MSNBC over the past three days, and it’s beginning to become a real concern for those Americans hoping that the memos written by a long-reliable source like Christopher Steele will be accurately covered by the U.S. media.
Today, Fox News declared that Trump had successfully “stuck a knife in” the dossier story. How? By tweeting about it, of course—and with, per usual (and here’s a correct use of the term) disinformation, as Trump falsely called Steele a “failed spy.” Fox News offered no correction of Trump’s mischaracterization of Steele, indeed it gave its readers no additional information about Steele’s career whatsoever, thereby letting the President-elect’s intemperate and dishonest tweet stand as its own proof.
Russia Today and Vladimir Putin would be proud—as under Trump, the media is learning its place.
[I]f America doesn’t investigate the validity of the information in the Steele memos in the next week, that investigation may never occur. And the consequences of that failure to doggedly pursue the truth on our nation’s standing in the world—even on our allies’ ability and willingness to work with us to keep the world safe—could be devastating.
The failure of the American media allowed this nation go to war in Iraq based on Bush/Cheney lies, allowed Trump to win the 2016 presidential election, and now may be allowing a Russian puppet into the White House.  I find all of this very distressing. 

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