Many media pundits and Democrats at the national level are downplaying the House Intelligence Committee memo released last week that details the politicized way in which a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant was sought and approved by a FISA court to spy on someone who once sat on a Donald Trump campaign advisory committee.
In fact, I agree that the memo was hardly a bombshell, but not for the same reasons that others claim. The report fell short of “bombshell” status because it served only to provide further unsurprising evidence that the claim of collusion between Trump and Russia is a politically-driven abuse of federal law enforcement agencies to further a political agenda.
We know we’re in a topsy-turvy world when many journalists were arguing for the memo not to be released, or were casting aspersions on it before they knew what was in it so they could denounce it later. This country suffers immeasurable harm because we have so few, if any, national media outlets whose reporting is merely impartial and fact-based, instead of clearly aligned with the left or the right. Yes, journalists hold opinions. No, those opinions should not be reflected in how they present straight news.
Committee Democrats are hoping to release their own counter-memo which, if it is made public, you can be sure will be hailed by the media as the Holy Grail of truth and justice.
It is remarkable to hear politicians and media pundits denounce President Trump for “attacking” law enforcement institutions like the FBI and the Justice Department. History, both recent and not-so-recent, has demonstrated time and again that those institutions are as vulnerable to corruption and political motivations as any other.
And yet, there was Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich saying that releasing the memo would be a “disservice to our country.” Kasich recently said that holding the FBI and Justice Department accountable should be done in a “bipartisan manner,” which is fine when there is a bipartisan interest in doing so. Kasich is not stupid — he knows how to position himself within a media landscape that will embrace any Republican willing to rip the president.
It is telling, according to a recent Cincinnati Enquirer story, that no Republican currently running for governor of Ohio wants an endorsement from Kasich, who will most likely soon be a former Republican, at least by 2020 when he will almost assuredly run for president as an independent.
It was nice to see the real James Comey finally emerge from the shadows. The former FBI director, once called the World’s Oldest Boy Scout, first discredited himself by admitting that he orchestrated a leak to the New York Times in order to achieve a result he wanted, namely the appointment of a special prosecutor.
But last week he could no longer maintain his faux dignity and decorum, tweeting about “weasels and liars” in a conniption fit which, for its name-calling alone, would have made Trump proud.
After the memo’s release, Comey followed up with this gem: “That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.” In Comey-world, those jobs appear to be “Get Trump.”
The fact that within our most vaunted federal law enforcement agencies were, and are, officials who hated Trump and used the mechanisms of their offices to discredit him and his campaign is beyond dispute. The bigger point is that there is no earthly institution that is above suspicion, a fact that will remain true for as long as they are comprised of human beings. That goes for the FBI, the Justice Department, the IRS and any other institutions or organizations near and far which some want to claim should remain immune from criticism. Every agency is only as good as its people, and people everywhere are good, bad and in-between.
It is perhaps necessary that the president of the United States calls them out, when so many in the media and others choose to ignore obvious evidence of agency corruption.
The spin used by those who opposed the memo release was predictable, with nearly everyone referring to it as a “Republican memo.” In fact, it is a House Intelligence Committee memo. The fact that not a single Democrat on the committee voted to release it does nothing to change that fact.
The national media always uses such phraseology when Republicans control a committee or an institution. When Republicans control Congress, the mainstream media organizations always refer to “the Republican-controlled Congress” in their reporting. When Democrats control Congress, the media merely refers to it as “Congress.” That same strategy results in labeling the memo released last week as a “Republican memo” rather than a House Intelligence Committee memo.
These games are nothing new and have been going on for decades. What is new is a president willing to identify it for what it is, infuriating his political opponents and the media — which is a sad coupling. It is understandable that Donald Trump has opponents in politics. That the media is so abundantly populated by those who proudly proclaim themselves his opponents is why he can label them so accurately, and without fear of contradiction.
Gary Abernathy is publisher and editor of the (Hillsboro, Ohio) Times-Gazette. Reach him at (937) 393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary This column also appeared in The Washington Post.