By Howard Kurtz
Published November 27, 2019
The sense of living in parallel universes is spreading.
Everyone knows that the media seem permanently divided into two camps with mirror-image views of Donald Trump, the Democrats, Ukraine and impeachment. They may even differ on Conan the dog.
But now the panoply of investigations also appears to dwell in dueling realities. Partisans can pick their preferred probe and dismiss the others. The same is true for polls.
The investigation that gets the most ink and airtime, needless to say, is the House impeachment inquiry. And that’s been subjected to endless debate about whether the Dems are treating the Republicans unfairly and the reliability of the witnesses—not to mention Trump’s demand that Adam Schiff be forced to testify at a Senate trial.
And that’s the point—if you don’t like the House proceedings, you focus on a Senate impeachment trial (if there is one) run by the GOP.
But many Trump supporters are more focused on an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, with a report due early next month. That examines the FBI’s handling of the beginning of the Russia probe, which has long been a fixation for some on the right, fueled by the president’s constant insistence that his campaign was targeted for illegal spying.
Based on leaks to the Washington Post and New York Times, IG Michael Horowitz appears ready to deliver a mixed verdict. The probe is reported to have found “sloppy and unprofessional” conduct by some of those involved at the tail end of the Obama administration. The FBI is said to have forced out a low-level lawyer who disliked Trump—and who improperly altered a document related to the FISA surveillance request for Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
But the other universe is represented by the IG’s overall finding that the FBI was justified in opening a counterintelligence investigation and that it was not tainted by political bias on the part of Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe or Peter Strzok (three major Trump targets).
And for those who aren’t happy with that investigation, there’s another universe over here with a parallel inquiry. John Durham, a U.S. attorney, was assigned by William Barr to review the origins of the Russia probe, and that has now been elevated to a criminal investigation.
The courts are another arena where you can select your favorite litigation.
In one case, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled that ex-White House counsel Don McGahn must testify in the House impeachment. In a ruling that will excite Trump critics, the judge said that “presidents are not kings. They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.” (The decision is being appealed.)
That prompted the president to tweet Tuesday that he wishes McGahn, and John Bolton (“a patriot”), could testify. “I would love to have Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry, Mick Mulvaney and many others testify about the phony Impeachment Hoax. It is a Democrat Scam.” The problem, Trump says, is he wants to protect the rights of future presidents.
But if you prefer, Trump just won a tactical victory in another case. The Supreme Court blocked a House committee from getting access to Trump’s financial records. That, in turn, involves another parallel universe—a blatant end run in which the Manhattan DA’s office is seeking Trump’s tax returns after Congress couldn’t get them at the federal level.
Finally, there’s the game of pick-your-own-polls.
The president declared the other day: “Support for impeachment is dropping like a rock, down into the 20s in some Polls.”
Except no one could find such a poll. In fact, in a CNN poll Tuesday that’s in line with recent surveys, 50 percent support impeachment and removal, and 43 percent do not. About the best that can be said is that the House hearings don’t seem to have boosted support for impeachment.
But hey, if you’re not wild about this poll, just wait until one more to your liking comes along.