By Howard Kurtz, ,
Published May 22, 2018
So just to bring you up to date:
--The FBI used an informant to spy on Trump campaign aides who had contacts with Russia. The New York Times and Washington Post extensively described the man and what he did, based on FBI leaks, but refused to publish his name out of concern for his safety. Their narratives enabled several mostly smaller outlets to identify the retired American professor living in London, leaving the big organizations protecting a secret that is no longer secret (the Post bowed to reality last night and named the informant).
--The president of the United States then demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI or DOJ infiltrated or surveilled his campaign for political purposes. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee, who the president may or may not be trying to force out, asked the department's inspector general to look into the matter.
--At the same time, DOJ is resisting a subpoena from House intel chairman Devin Nunes for all documents related to the professor—but not his name—which the panel has been trying to get for months.
--Hours before Gina Haspel was sworn in as CIA director yesterday, Trump went on a Twitter tear against Barack Obama's CIA chief, John Brennan, for having disgraced himself and the country, blaming Brennan for ginning up the whole Russia probe as a political hit job. Brennan says Trump is on a disastrous path.
--Trump also lambasted the Justice Department for not continuing to investigate Hillary Clinton over her email server, and questioned why the brother of her campaign chairman, Tony Podesta, has not been charged in conection with his lobbying work.
--And the Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. met with an emissary for two Arab princes who wanted to offer help to the campaign, a story the president dismissed as boring.
And that's without getting into Michael Cohen, Michael Avenatti, the hush money to Stormy Daniels, and other allegations swirling around the president.
During a break in my show on Sunday, the assembled journalists agreed that it is becoming increasingly hard, even for those of us who do this seven days a week, to keep unraveling every thread of this tangle of investigations and allegations.
So what must it be like for average Americans who are busy with work and family and couldntt tell Carter Page from George Papadopoulos?
I believe much of the country, despite the nonstop media coverage, is tuning this out, or that it's been reduced to background noise. That means Trump has, at least for now, neutralized what the press is casting as a grave threat to his political survival. Maybe that's why his approval ratings are inching up.
There are monumental issues at stake here. From the right, it seems outrageous that the Obama administration would use a secret informant who's had past dealings with the CIA to infiltrate an opposing presidential campaign. And Trump's push to investigate the investigators is viewed as justified because of "deep state" opposition, with the side benefit of undercutting the Robert Mueller investigation.
From the left, it seems outrageous that a president would force his own Justice Department to investigate a duly authorized probe that, despite charges of politicization, the FBI managed to keep secret until the final days of the campaign. And Trump's continued insistence on investigating his defeated opponent and other Democrats is viewed as shattering all previous presidential norms.
But when you have this endless cycle of charges and countercharges on such complicated issues, it can all seem like a blur.