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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters for America.

With the White House facing perhaps the most serious political crisis of its young life, Kellyanne Conway was dispatched on Tuesday to spin as best she could the sudden forced resignation of President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

But the effort didn’t go well because Conway wasn’t really able to address even the most basic questions surrounding the Flynn controversy. And that inability came five days after The Washington Post first reported that Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials,” including past statements by Vice President Mike Pence, and possibly in violation of U.S. law.

On Monday came additional newspaper revelations that likely fueled Flynn’s ordered departure: The Department of Justice had warned the White House in January that Flynn may have exposed himself to Russian blackmailers because he misled the administration about the content of previous phone calls with Russia. Additionally, Army officials were investigating whether Flynn received payments from the Russian military when he appeared at a Moscow gala in 2015 and sat at the head table with Russian President Vladamir Putin. (The Department of Defense considers the receipt of payments from foreign governments by retired military officials without congressional consent a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.)

And yet there was Conway appearing on the Today show and unable to address simple inquiries about Flynn’s behavior and why Trump stood by him when White House officials knew weeks earlier about discrepancies in Flynn’s Russia story.

“That makes no sense,” Today show co-host Matt Lauer told Conway as he pressed her about the still-unraveling scandal.

Conway’s glaring, televised failure wasn’t just a case of a presidential aide getting momentarily stumped. It’s part of a bubble-like culture inside a White House that desperately wants to operate within its own reality. It’s the same White House team that has been trying to shield Trump from having to face tough press questions about the Flynn controversy.

Trump’s team is so busy building its own parallel universe that it doesn’t know how to adjust when the front doors are swung open and officials have to venture out into the real world. That’s especially true when they have to venture out into the reality of daily news, like Conway did when she appeared on the Today show.

Led by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, as well as Conway and senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who lied and obfuscated his way through his recent Sunday morning talk show appearances, the Trump administration appears dedicated to the cause of unapologetic misinformation in a way we’ve never before seen in American politics.

Officials are making a determined effort to abide by “alternative facts” while aggressively gaslighting the press and the public on myriad topics. It’s a campaign to withdraw from the fact-based world and instead rely on increasingly irresponsible right-wing media sources to protect and boost the president.

And sure enough, across the far-right media world where fake news percolates daily, players did their best to present a palatable version of the Flynn scandal. Before It’s News claimed of the resignation, “Globalists’ Fake News Claims First Scalp,” while TruthFeed called it “sad” because Flynn “is a good man.” Online, neo-Nazis railed against “the Jews” for causing Flynn’s demise.

The spin was laid on so thick that even the conservative site RedState mocked the absurd Flynn puffery offered by Trump’s alt-right media “Fanboi” Mike Cernovich. (He excitedly described Flynn’s resignation as an elaborate “coup.”)

Trump himself did his best on Twitter today, lashing out at television news for pushing “conspiracy theories and blind hatred” about him while insisting that The New York Times and The Washington Post were publishing illegal leaks. (In his screed against MSNBC and CNN he also added that lapdog morning show Fox & Friends “is great!”)

Presidents from both parties have always enjoyed partisan cheerleaders in the press who will defend an administration from attacks and enthusiastically support its agenda. But what the Trump team is trying to assemble is something else entirely. It’s trying to build its own self-sustaining, hermetically sealed information bubble so that Trump, his aides, and his supporters don’t have to acknowledge everyday facts.

The conservative movement in the last year has forcefully shifted gears, accelerating its longtime goal of counterbalancing what it claims to be the liberal media by striving to replace the news media with its own pleasing version of reality.

In other words, the Trump team isn’t simply trying to raise doubts about the mainstream media; it’s trying to gut and replace the Fourth Estate. It wants to create a media environment where it can be immune to mainstream reporting and sustain itself — and exist off of –“alternative facts. ”

Look at how the White House press briefings have dramatically changed this year in order to make room for Trump loyalists — loyalists who play a key role in the administration’s push to undercut legitimate news outlets.

The White House strategy of media avoidance isn’t new. “Trump raised doubt about his willingness to face difficult questions when he didn’t hold a news conference until Jan. 11, weeks after his election as president,” The Associated Press reported this week.

But what the Trump White House is learning this month is that loyalists and media sycophants have their limits. And those limits come in the form of reality, like Flynn being caught lying about his previous contacts with the Russian ambassador, contacts that reportedly date back to last year’s campaign. (Why would a top Trump surrogate be in contact with Russia’s ambassador during a U.S. election cycle where Russia was attempting to tilt the scales in Trump’s favor?)

In the end, the White House’s cat-and-mouse game with the press didn’t work because the facts of the Flynn crisis overcame the administration’s attempts to ignore or wish away the story.

Today, the Trump team is left with a controversy that it still can’t explain away. And neither pushing fake news nor walling Trump off from reality will fix that.

IMAGE: National security adviser General Michael Flynn (R) delivers a statement next to Press Secretary Sean Spicer during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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26 responses to “Flynn Scandal Shatters Trump’s ‘Alternative Fact’ Cocoon”

  1. Sand_Cat says:

    “Leaks” are illegal, but the news is fake? Is it illegal to “leak” falsehoods to then news media?

    • I Am Helpy says:

      It’s illegal to send fake real leaks, or real fake leaks, about the Republicans to the bad media who will do false reporting. It’s legal to leak about Democrats to Putin’s Wikileaks, though.

  2. I Am Helpy says:

    Since Flynn lied to the FBI – a felony – he could well be headed to prison, or at least court. How big a meltdown will Vassal-President Trump have over that? I’m bulk purchasing popcorn now to avoid the coming shortage.

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    • FireBaron says:

      Helpy, considering who is in charge of the FBI and who his boss is at the DoJ, do you really expect to see Flynn prosecuted for his obvious crimes?

      • Eleanore Whitaker says:

        Actually, Sessions can be forced to recuse himself if he refuses to do so. It would take an independent judge to do that. Trump is already calling the 9th District Court “a shambles” and in his press conference yesterday, stated that court has had numerous failures which Trump is alluding is miscarriage of justice.

        • dpaano says:

          Sure, he always finds someone else to blame for his foibles!!! It’s either the press, the intelligence community, or the judges. Whatever fits the bill and keeps him off the hook, so to speak!

      • Jmz Nesky says:

        Meanwhile, within the bowels of GOP central a law is being passed around where no political conservative will be held responsible for any illegal action in a court of law. That this fails to include Democrats gives you the idea of where the criminal activities are actually coming from.

    • Eleanore Whitaker says:

      Trump is smarting from his first major rejection of Flynn. He will get even as he always does. The problem for him is that he is going to have to get even with the U.S. Judiciary.

      You’ll notice not once in his impulse press conference, did he mention that Russian spy plane of the spy boat 30 miles off the Long Island/CT coast.

      Flynn lied to the FBI but Trump refuses to accept that Flynn did anything wrong. Trump’s ability to be glib about Russians hacking into our election and the fact that he is ignoring the Russians edging closer and closer to US shores, is the real danger.

      Why fire Flynn if Trump believes he was innocent? Why not fight like he always does to prove Flynn’s innocence?

      • dpaano says:

        Actually, at his so-called “campaign” rally in Florida, he DID mention the spy ship off the East Coast….he said he wanted to “blow it out of the water” (and his followers applauded, of course) But, the problem that they don’t seem to understand is (1) it’s in international waters and we can’t do anything; and (2) we’re doing the same thing off the Russian and North Korean coastline! I’m sure if we tampered with the spy ship off our coast, we could expect some of the same for our ships and planes off of the Russian and North Korean coastlines!!!

    • Independent1 says:

      Helpy, see this from CNN Breaking News:
      —————————————————————————————
      The FBI is not expected to pursue any charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn regarding a phone call with Russia’s ambassador, law enforcement officials say.

      Flynn was fired by President Donald Trump earlier this week after it was revealed that he withheld information from Vice President Mike Pence about his
      conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United
      States.

      Flynn initially told investigators sanctions were not discussed. But FBI agents challenged him, asking if he was certain that was his answer. He said he didn’t
      remember. Investigators don’t believe he was intentionally misleading
      them, the officials say.
      —————————————————————————————

      (Isn’t it “convenient” that ‘investigators don’t believe Kelly was intentionally trying to mislead them???)

      • I Am Helpy says:

        I absolutely expected this, tbh.
        These people are shameless.

        • InformedVoter says:

          Hey HELLpy, the Pathetic poster of lies and earner of the title “usually inaccurate”: so now will you finally admit that Deb W-S resigned because of the leaked emails?
          The investigation into this leak will go right back to Obozo himself. He signed the EO only 17 days before leaving office and kept it a secret. The GOP had been asking for this for 8 years. Obozo’s actions will be considered an act to overthrow the government.
          SO LET’S push for the investigation and see how Obozo looks in pinstripes.

        • dpaano says:

          And they aren’t getting any better! They continually lie to the American public and the only ones that actually believe those lies are his uninformed, uneducated followers! He drums his lies into them day after day, and after a while, they believe every word that comes out of his big mouth!

      • InformedVoter says:

        The way the phone conversation was released, was because of an EO from Obozo 17 days before leaving office. For 8 years, the GOP had been asking for this but Obozo waited and slipped this in as an attempt to undermine Trump. So, now that an investigation will take place on who leaked the illegal conversations (when an American is speaking, the call was supposed to be muted), those who get squeezed will fess up. Then the chain will go back to Obozo, who could well be charged with actions considered to overthrow the government. So, by all means, let’s push for the investigation and see what happens to Obozo. Deb W-S was forced to resign, but in this case, resigning would not be an option for Obozo.

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  4. dbtheonly says:

    Would disagree that it is only recently that the RWMO has taken to pushing their own idea of reality. They’ve been doing it for years.

    Trump is just doing it so incompetently.

    That’s the true mark of his administration. Not the evil, not the meanness, but the sheer klutziness.

    • FireBaron says:

      Well said. Reminds me of the old Jimmy Breslin book, “The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight”. Even when these mooks try to cover things up, the fumble them so badly that they make a mockery of their own efforts.
      And don’t get me started on KC. That clueless wonder has repeatedly demonstrated a physical and psychological inability to utter a single word of the truth.

      • dpaano says:

        Which pretty much covers MOST of 45’s administration. He lies; they swear to it even when it’s proven to be false! But, rather than call him out on it….they just let him blame everyone else rather than take the blame himself!

  5. Eleanore Whitaker says:

    Trump reminds me of an abrasive, obnoxious CEO I worked for back in 1987. He had a small plaque on his office wall, “Because I DARE!”

    But then, I watched the levels of new hires he surrounded himself with. Most were not remotely as experienced as needed for the jobs that required expertise in chemical R&D. I once asked this CEO why he insisted upon hiring employees he knew were “light” on experience and skills. His response is so very like what Trump is doing at present, “I don’t want people around me who are smarter than I am.”

    Kind of funny when you consider that Trump “picks mostly “corn” or “cotton” for his appointments. Can it be he believes that corn pones and mutton chops are far less business savvy and deal sophisticated which suits Trump’s bloated ideas of being smarter than Einstein?

    • dpaano says:

      I think he picked mostly unqualified individuals to run his administration because he knew or thought he could control them because they had NO idea what they were doing anyway! It’s all a “control” thing with him, but he hasn’t realized that he can’t control the government the way he could control his businesses!

  6. Michael Allen says:

    I’m reminded of the remark made by one of the Bush II people following his inauguration, that now “the adults” are in control. Now we have “genius” adults I suppose.

  7. dpaano says:

    The problem is that if 45 keeps telling his followers that the media is bad, they will eventually believe it. You know, if you tell someone something often enough, they begin to believe it. This is what happened during his campaign…..and it’s happening now while he’s in office. He can’t accept the blame for anything, so he blames everything on the intelligence community or the media, and he keeps going on and on about it until his idiotic followers actually believe every word coming out of his big mouth! That’s the pretty sad part!

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