Don’t hold your breath. There won’t be any apologies or mea culpas from the “Nothingburger” crowd in the wake of the indictments of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, and the unsealing of George Papadopoulos’s guilty plea from earlier in the year. Remember the nothingburger talking point? It was a thing over the Summer involving pro-Trump Republicans and far-left skeptics of the Russia investigation and their collective attempts to undermine the credibility of the reporting around the attack, as well as the existence of the attack itself.
Today, Glenn Greenwald is conducting a bit of damage control, referencing lines from past articles in which he briefly acquiesced to the severity of the charges while also deliberately undermining the existence of the entire thing. This is what he does. As he writes, he tends to toss in some mitigating language for use as semantic escape-pods sometime later on in case he’s ever proven wrong. But the overall point of articles written by Trump supporters as well as leftists like Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Matt Taibbi has been: Nothing to see here, folks. That’s the thesis.
In particular, Greenwald has been suggesting there’s no hard evidence of crimes committed by Trump or his surrogates, therefore we’re all rushing to judgment. Trump, after all, has earned the benefit of the doubt, right? Because he’s so honest. Yeah okay. The odd thing about this argument is that many writers, including Greenwald, are responsible for educated observations all the time, arguments aren’t always accompanied by hard evidence.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Ari Melber from last January, for example, Greenwald contended that what Ari and his colleagues reported about Russia was merely based on assumptions presented without any basis in fact. Then Greenwald went on to accuse the Democrats of using the attack to stir up fear about Russian villains, but he failed to offer any evidence of such a claim about the Dems. Where are the strategy memos, Glenn? Evidence, evidence, evidence, right? I mean, Greenwald might be right about this, but he failed to live up to his own standard of proof. That’s because we don’t always need jury-vetted crime scene evidence in hand to make a valid argument.
Likewise, since the invention of journalism, reporters have been using unnamed sources in news articles. The difference, however, between shitty journalism and solid journalism is found in the number of sources. When it comes to articles about Trump-Russia, we’ve typically seen multiple sources for each leak, and many of the reports have been duplicated by competing publications using their own sources.
However, contrary to what Greenwald seems to believe, there’s actual documentary evidence in the public domain thanks to the Trumps and their self-defeating blurts.
What Greenwald hopes we’ll overlook is that Donald Trump confessed to obstructing justice in the Russia probe during a nationally televised interview with Lester Holt. Trump said point-blank that he fired FBI Director James Comey in order to stop the Trump-Russia investigation. Donald Trump Jr, for his part, released an email chain in which he clearly agreed to attend a meeting in order to receive stolen Hillary Clinton emails attained by the Russian government. If Greenwald wants evidence, he should start with these two episodes, otherwise he’s just being purposefully stupid in order to confuse and deceive his readers.
Additionally, George Papadopoulos has confessed to misleading the FBI. The indictment unsealed today about the former Trump adviser includes his own signature verifying that he lied to the FBI and has since presented the correct testimony, the likes of which clearly involves his own contacts with Russian officials, in this case a professor with deep ties to the Russian government, all while Papadopoulos worked as an adviser for the Trump campaign.
But Greenwald tweeted today: “The indictment isn’t about election or collusion.” Sure, the Manafort indictment didn’t specifically involve illegal activities during the campaign, but it certainly calls into question why on earth Trump hired Manafort, given Manafort’s activities, while also raising the ultimate question: What did Trump know and when did he know it? Meanwhile, the Papadopoulos indictment had much to do with colluding with Russians close to Putin. Just because Al Capone was arrested for tax evasions doesn’t mean he wasn’t involved in all those murders and criminal conspiracies.
The deniers have held the same intractable position since the beginning, and they’ll never change their minds because, in the new digital world, saving face is more important than acknowledging when we’re wrong about something. Whether there’s something else Greenwald is hiding from his readers is another story. Why has he chosen to knock holes in this particular narrative — in an investigation into an authoritarian despot like Trump and his dealings with other authoritarian despots in Russia? Seems like strange bedfellows — Greenwald and The Authoritarians — doesn’t it? But as soon as we realize that Greenwald has always been nothing more than a sophisticated troll with a $25 vocabulary, it doesn’t seem as bizarre.
Regardless of what goes down in the coming months, Greenwald and his copycats won’t ever admit they misread the details of the case, or that they’re deeply and irrevocably entrenched in their own bias, incapable of abandoning that position with the emergence of new information. Every day new reporting drops. This week, we have district court documents to add to the official record. What’ll it be next week? And regarding the skeptics, will it even matter?