10 Mar The Wiretapping Story: Will the NYT Survive the Trump Years?
UPDATE March 11, 2017: Andy McCarthy has posted in National Review online an extensive apology to the NYT; apparently, the NYT didn’t change its headline–it just maintains different headlines for the same story, depending on whether the story is in print or online. Kudos to McCarthy for his integrity, but count us as highly dubious of the NYT practice of using different headlines for the same story. Is it the paper of record only in print? We tend to think the NYT knows exactly what impressions they create through the use of headlines; we also think their zeal to get Trump caused them to offer the print headline involving “Wiretapped Data…” before they realized how it could backfire. The practice of using dual headlines for the same story suggest more manipulation, not less.
In any case, consider the text of the post below duly amended to reflect McCarthy’s apology/clarification–but the title of the post, and the conclusion, stands.
In its determination to drive Trump from the Presidency, the NYT may drive itself into a ditch of deceit and manipulation and disingenuousness from which it may never recover.
The latest episode involves the very deliberate effort of the NYT to foment a meme to the effect that US law enforcement authorities were or are investigating Trump for some form of improper ‘collusion’ with Russia to ‘hack’ the 2016 election in favor of Trump.
On the eve of Trump’s inauguration, the NYT headlined a front-page story with “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides”. A reader of that headline might assume there were wiretaps being used by the US government in an inquiry involving Trump.
President Trump turned out to be one such reader, and turned the tables on the NYT with his now famous tweet-fest raising the question of whether the Obama administration was using the surveillance powers of the federal government to spy on a political opponent.
Trump’s tweet put the NYT in a pickle. If Obama—an unassailable Democrat icon in the eyes of the NYT—authorized national intelligence agencies to spy on a political opponent, he’d be more culpable than Richard Nixon in the Watergate affair.
After Trump’s tweets, the NYT, along with the rest of the MSM, wanted desperately to establish the talking point that Trump had ‘no evidence’ or ‘no proof’ that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump. But that was kind of stupid on its face when ‘the newspaper of record’ headlined the existence of ‘wiretapped data’ involving Trump, and dating prior to his inauguration.
To absolve Obama, there had to be an explanation that the ‘wiretapped data’ referred to in the NYT headline was NOT the result of any Obama administration inquiry focused on Donald Trump.
Which brought into focus the next aspect of the pickle facing the NYT: if there was no Obama administration inquiry focused on Donald Trump, then there must not have been any real evidence of Trump collusion with the Russians (and if there was no such evidence, the meme that Trump and the Russians stole the election for Hillary evaporates).
The NYT apparently decided that absolving Obama is more important than delegitimizing Trump’s election, because it has gone back to its January 19 headline to rewrite it as follows: “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry into Trump Aides”.
The unhelpful word ‘wiretapped’ has disappeared from the headline, drawing a sharper, absolve-Obama focus on the fact that the inquiry wasn’t targeted at Trump but at “Russian Communications” involving (former) aides to Trump. That headline also fits the surveillance more precisely into legitimate FISA purposes. (As an aside, how does changing archived headlines square with being the paper ‘of record’?)
So does the NYT’s change to its headlines really absolve Obama?
It absolves Trump—at least insofar as the change of headline reflects the fact that Trump’s tweets forced out of the federal government a uniform chorus that Trump was not the subject of any investigation, and therefore was not suspected of colluding with the Russians. Ergo–he won the election; he didn’t steal it.
If the full text of FISA affidavits and warrants are released to the public, it may become clearer what Obama’s team was up to.
But even without the FISA documentation, the situation doesn’t seem that mysterious to us.
Obama and the NYT are trying to thread a needle: the story has to be that there was no spying on Trump himself (a clear no-no), but there was spying on all kinds of devices and people surrounding Trump as an incidental result of rightfully getting at “Russian communications”, and then, unfortunately, there was an unauthorized leaking of what was obtained.
Hence, Obama and his administration were pure in their motives, can fit their actions within a narrow framework of legal compliance, and in any event can claim they were just trying to do their jobs. And by the way, they’re sorry about the leaks.
We think the Obama and the NYT missed the needle.
Looks to us like the Democrat Obama administration got a little annoyed at Wikileaks and Julian Assange in the runup to the 2016 election. They suspected Russia was feeding Wikileaks, and they didn’t like Trump. They weren’t worried about a Watergate parallel because they weren’t worried about the election outcome, but the proverbial two birds were available in one FISA surveillance, and off they went to the FISA court.
The result for all practical purposes is that they were in fact using the surveillance powers of the federal government on Trump and his team before the election. They didn’t really find anything useful before the election. HOWEVER, after Trump unexpectedly won the election, there was new value to the ongoing surveillance. Obama administration officials found themselves in a candy store of recorded conversations involving almost the entirety of the incoming Trump administration.
The Obama administration began doing everything possible to assure a leak of the results of that surveillance to MSM outlets that could be counted on to be unconstrained in their attempts to speculate and spin a story of pre-election collusion that would justify Trump’s removal or resignation. (The Obama administration’s acknowledged relaxation of the sharing rules relating to information obtained in the inquiry of Trump ‘aides’ was and is transparently intended to facilitate leaks that would harm Trump…it would be interesting to hear Obama’s under-oath explanation for the relaxation of those rules in the last month of his administration.)
If using the same spying could set in motion the removal of Mike Flynn and maybe Jeff Sessions and maybe others in the Trump cabinet—well, that would all be helpful toward the same NYT/Democrat/Obama objective of removing Trump from office.
Watergate was child’s play compared to this. Richard Nixon would look at these facts, and laugh at anyone, including Obama, purporting to claim innocence on the part of Obama and his administration.
As to the intelligence agency leakers and maybe even some of the NYT/MSM reporters who ran with the leaks to create phony storylines of Trump’s wrongful behavior—all of whose purpose has clearly been to bring down a duly elected President of the United States—the words for this are sedition and treason.
The NYT’s political objectives are destroying whatever was left of its reporting objectivity, and the deceit and manipulation and disingenuousness with which it conducts its business are becoming ever more egregious just as they are becoming ever more obvious. They are now tasked with preserving the Obama administration’s integrity and innocence in the face of these facts.
We’re not sure the NYT will survive the Trump years.