Day 370: Mueller’s Moves Seem to Make Republicans Nervous, Defensive
The GOP is rapidly dissolving into full-blown conspiracy theorists.
Republicans and conservative media have been especially loud over the past few days over stories that don’t seem to have much substance behind them.
First, there are the missing texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and his mistress, a government lawyer. Strzok was part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team until Mueller fired him after learning of texts sent by Strzok in 2016 that disparaged Trump.
As Vox reported regarding Donald Trump administration’s war against the FBI:
The issue had receded from the headlines in 2018 until last Friday, when the Justice Department announced that it did not have records of Strzok-Page texts between December 14, 2016, and May 17, 2017. This is a crucial time in the Russia investigation, encompassing Michael Flynn’s resignation due to lies about Russia ties and FBI Director James Comey’s firing — so this naturally raised some eyebrows.
The official explanation from the Justice Department is that there was a problem with Strzok and Page’s bureau-issued Samsung Galaxies — that “firmware upgrades” and other technical issues deleted records of texts sent from many phones across the bureau. But Trump and his allies didn’t buy it and have waged a furious campaign in the media to declare the missing texts as proof of an FBI conspiracy.
There is no evidence to support such a wild claim. Whether there actually was a software glitch is easily verifiable; according to a Monday statement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Inspector General’s office is already investigating the issue.
So it’s possible that Strzok and Page were part of a widespread FBI conspiracy to undermine Trump, one that reaches so far into the bureau that they had a mole in the IT department who was willing to delete their most damning messages. It’s also possible — and much more likely — that the US government ran into technology glitches, which is not exactly unheard of.
Missing texts and a stray reference by Strzok to an “insurance policy” if Trump was to win have whipped up conservatives into a fervor, spinning any and all narratives possible.
There are a lot of buzzwords in the senior senator from Wisconsin’s interview: Informant and secret meeting! Off-site! Smoke and suspicion!
Who is receiving these briefings from the informant is wholly unclear, but Johnson is on TV with a full-throated claim of an FBI-wide conspiracy against Trump. Of the 35,000 people that work for the FBI, Johnson is alleging a scheme with the brick being an anonymous informant and the mortar being missing text messages.
Not only is this awfully flimsy, but the timing of everything is odd. Johnson takes a random interview, on a cable TV show, as the time to blurt out that he has an informant. Fox News’ Bret Baier is taken aback by the sudden disclosure and has to have him repeat himself before Johnson stutters that they’re going to have looking into it.
In the past, Trump has claimed numerous times that the Russians didn’t try to help him get elected, but rather aided Hillary Clinton. Incredibly, coupled with the GOP’s latest line of attacks, this now means that Republicans are actually making the argument that both the FBI and the Russians — not exactly a long-term friendship — were and are in the business of harming Trump.
This just shows the absurdity of the GOP’s arguments: throw Jell-o against the wall and hope something sticks.
The text message and informant business follows the right’s attempt to let the public have access to a partisan memorandum written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee about Barack Obama’s use of FISA courts and/or further evidence of rot within the FBI.
From very powerful members of Congress to full on lunatics, all sorts of fringe characters are getting into the mix, with Alex Jones — who claims Sandy Hook never happened, that 9/11 was an inside job and that the government is turning citizens into homosexuals — alleging that he has a copy of the top secret memo.
It’s interesting to note, however, that the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag is yet another sidetrack that has popped over the last week, with some claiming that it is being driven, in part, by Russian bots.
Why all of this noise from the GOP? Why now?
Perhaps it has to do with Mueller’s increasingly loud footsteps.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed last week. Tuesday, it was reported that Mueller had long-previously interviewed former FBI Director James Comey. He’s subpoenaed Steve Bannon and interviewed one of his top associates on at least two occasions. The details for Trump’s sit-down with Mueller are already being worked out. Four people close to Trump have been charged with crimes, two of whom have pleaded guilty, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Indications abound that at least some of Trump’s associates are cooperating substantially with Mueller.
Things are progressing at a rapid rate. While no one is expecting any report or news or massive arrest from Mueller in the next weeks or even months, once the interviews have concluded, Mueller is just filling in the rest of the portrait. Conceivable, things could drop suddenly. Mueller has shown a deftness to be able to move quietly and efficiently, something that should not surprise anyone considering his prodigious background.
Sensing potentially huge problems in the not-too-distant horizon, it makes sense —no matter how shameful — that Republicans are lining up every possible defense in anticipation.
370 days in, 1092 to go