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Can DC Reporters Overcome Their Trumper Shock-Training?

 Member Newsletter
February 22, 2024 4:07 p.m.

As I noted yesterday, the Alexander Smirnov news is either confirmation of what we already knew or else spurs a kind of mass outburst of incredulity about how it is we’re still as a country, as a media, as a national political conversation getting led around by the nose by these same transparent scams?

Let’s stipulate that these are rhetorical questions.

But let me note a tendency I’m already seeing in a lot of coverage. House Republicans seems surprisingly candid that their holy grail of Biden impeachment isn’t going to happen. Quite a few press reports are taking a different tack. Some are playing this as “the Smirnov news may undermine the whole Biden investigation.” (Who’s gonna tell ’em?) To others it’s like a hot start up that failed. It just didn’t pan out. Oh well.

Neither of these is remotely adequate.

Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of what was always a bogus story is now one that is actually real. Notwithstanding 2015–16 and 2018–19, we now see that almost all of 2023 was dominated by a legal/political story that was not only bogus but — according to prosecutors’ filings and the discredited source’s own admission to federal authorities — was a plant by the Russian intelligence services. That’s real. That requires an explanation as to how that was ever allowed to happen. It requires some effort to prevent it from happening again.

Donald Trump and his MAGA legions have spent years shock-training reporters not to bring up anything else about Russian disinformation programs aimed at helping Donald Trump. But they’re real. They’re continuing. They’re actually working. And that remains the case no matter how many times Donald Trump says “RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA” on Truth Social. Reporters have been conditioned to ignore the clear implications of what we’re learning.

This is even more the case if Hunter Biden’s lawyers are right that the younger Biden’s plea deal fell apart because of Smirnov dangling more goodies in front of David Weiss and his prosecutors at just the right moment. Looking at everything else we’ve learned about this, I suspect they’re right. But we should also be clear that so far it’s just their claims. They’re asking a judge to require Weiss’s office to cough up more documents they hope will prove their case. We’ll have to wait to see what they come up with.

The story here isn’t that the “Biden Crime Family” nonsense didn’t pan out. That was always transparently bogus. The story here is how the U.S. again got bamboozled by transparent foreign manipulation and how the U.S. political press bought into it pretty much whole hog. That doesn’t mean they accepted all the claims. But they treated it as reasonable, worthy of a presumption of seriousness, a serious story to be covered as such. Even with the veritable forest of red flags. Maybe that’s why there’s so little appetite to say what just happened.

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