Shep Smith on Team Trump’s handling of Russiagate: Why so many lies?
I tossed a shorter version of this clip into a post last night but it deserves its own thread, particularly given how discordant it is with Fox’s morning and primetime programming. FNC nemesis Gabriel Sherman insists that this never would have aired if Roger Ailes was still in charge. Is that right? Seems to me that Shep pops off pretty regularly in ways that undercut the right’s conventional wisdom. But maybe attacking Trump and imperiling the network’s relationship with the White House would be a bridge too far for Ailes.
Fox isn’t the only otherwise reliable Trump ally to show some unhappiness about Russiagate in the past 24 hours. This is what greeted me when I checked the Drudge Report this morning:
The man in the Russian hat is Rob Goldstone, who brokered the meeting between Don Jr and the Russian lawyer. Et tu, Matt Drudge?
On the other hand, about 12 hours after Shep unleashed the tirade seen below, Fox was back to broadcasting stuff like this:
I don’t think it’s that hard to square Team Trump’s claim that Russiagate writ large is a nothingburger with their lies about Don Jr’s meeting. It’s possible (if unlikely at this point) that the meeting represents the extent of the campaign’s attempts to collude with Russia. But it’s also undeniably true that Don Jr’s interest in collusion, immortalized in emails to Goldstone, is hugely damaging politically, forcing the White House to shift from “there was no attempt to collude” to “there was no successful attempt to collude.” The campaign’s supposedly clean hands will never be fully clean again. It’s like meeting with a hit man to discuss killing someone, then having that person turn up dead a few weeks later. Even if you ended up not hiring the assassin, even if the deceased’s death turned out to be a total coincidence, you really wouldn’t want people to know that you held that meeting, right? You’d never get out from under the cloud of suspicion.
But that’s not to say that the attendees should pay no penalty, even if they’re telling the truth that nothing came of their chat with Veselnitskaya. A good question from career CIA officer Edward Price: How does Jared Kushner still have a security clearance?
I am confident in saying that my clearance would have been immediately revoked had I, as a career CIA officer, been accused of a fraction of these activities. In my case, the clearance process culminating in my first day at Langley lasted approximately a year, fairly standard for the period. It consisted of interviews, psychological exams and a lie detector test, while my family, friends and neighbors were subjected to questions about everything from my financial health to my drinking habits by humorless federal agents. When I ultimately was cleared to join the ranks of the CIA, the imperatives of unimpeachable integrity and sound judgment were stressed at every turn. It’s a mantra that becomes an ethos for our national security officials…
If Kushner indeed still retains his clearance, there’s an unmistakable double standard at play. Career officials, many of whom spend decades in service of their country, are subject to a different set of rules than those under the protection of the powerful. That’s never how the system has worked, nor is it how it should work. The classified information Kushner has access to is no less sensitive, and, in fact, his position in the West Wing—where I spent the past few years—exposes him to a much broader array of the most classified information and programs in the U.S. government than he would in most other executive branch roles.
The hard-nosed answer to Price’s question is that the president can grant a security clearance to anyone he likes. So let’s rephrase it: How is it in the interest of America’s national security for Jared Kushner to still have a security clearance? Even if you presume he’s innocent of collusion, the number of dubious meetings with Russians that he’s had to reveal belatedly (Kislyak, Veselnitskaya, the head of that state-run Russian bank) makes him a potential blackmail risk. What other still unknown meetings might he have had that Russia knows about but which Americans, as yet, do not?
Exit question: Shep notes here that Fox has confirmed there was an eighth person in Don Jr’s meeting along with Junior himself, Kushner, Manafort, Goldstone, Veselnitskaya, Rinat Akhmetshin, and a translator. Has anyone identified yet who that person was? Unless I missed it, as of Saturday afternoon we’re still in the dark about it.