The best part of this dead-horse-beating exercise is Martha Raddatz’ reaction to Kirsten Gillibrand’s take. Raddatz asked the potential presidential contender whether Democrats jumped too quickly on the debunked Buzzfeed report that Donald Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Gillibrand instead declares that it demonstrates obstruction of justice and that Robert Mueller has to finish his investigation — the same Robert Mueller whose team rebuked Buzzfeed over false information in the report.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says the Buzzfeed report "shows more evidence that perhaps, this president did obstruct justice."@MarthaRaddatz: "Even though the special counsel disputes it?"
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 21, 2019
RADDATZ: And — and — and senator, lastly I want to get your reaction to the BuzzFeed report suggesting President Trump instructed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower Moscow deal. The special counsel’s office disputed that report. What was your reaction and did Democrats seize on that report too quickly?
GILLIBRAND: The report is highly concerning, Martha. It just shows more evidence that perhaps this president did obstruct justice. It shows that …
RADDATZ: Even though the special counsel disputes it?
GILLIBRAND: …this needs to be fully investigated. Martha, it raises a question in my mind that is very serious. And so what we need is Mueller to be able to finish his investigation. And one of the things that I’m most concerned about is that Senator McConnell will not let a bipartisan bill come to the Senate floor to allow us to protect that investigation, to make sure he cannot be fired prematurely and — and — and the law says he can only be fired for — for a cause. And so what our bill does is it goes to a judge so a judge can make an in-camera decision about whether this was done properly and preserve all the evidence. So we have to protect the Mueller investigation. We need the facts, and so this just shows how urgent that investigation is.
This raises serious questions, all right, but about Gillibrand and her comprehension level. I’ve seen “fake but accurate” embraces before, but this one takes the cake. Raddatz can’t quite believe what she’s hearing, especially given the unusual step taken by Mueller to rebuke Buzzfeed for its report. Just how unusual was it? The Washington Post explained over the weekend:
A person could count the times Mueller has publicly commented on the investigation with one hand. After dozens of stories, some that seemed to stray from the facts, he remained silent. Why, then, did Mueller opt to issue a statement on Friday?
Legal experts posited Mueller would have preferred to say nothing, but he feared specifics of the BuzzFeed story would be imputed to the investigation. …
Mueller evidently decided he could not allow an erroneous but devastating report to go uncorrected, said Raul, who also helped found the group Checks and Balances. The group is dedicated to speaking up for the rule of law, but Raul addressed the recent Mueller issue in a personal capacity only.
“The rumor he debunked would have quickly snowballed into a sensational accusation leading to an irresistible impulse for impeachment hearings,” he added. “Given the stakes if Mueller hadn’t set the record straight, he took the responsible course to shut the issue down.”
In other words, the story was so far off that Mueller felt it would be irresponsible to allow it to percolate further, much more so than other previous rumors about witness testimony and documentation. That may be due in part to Democratic pouncing on Buzzfeed’s report by members of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, but also due in part to the degree in which Mueller apparently felt Buzzfeed got it wrong, too.
Gillibrand must have spent the previous couple of days sequestered from all human contact. No other media outlet has been able to corroborate any of the key details in the report, and a few reporters (Ronan Farrow, for one) has since come out and said their sources specifically warned against reporting that Trump ordered Cohen to lie. By yesterday morning, media outlets had shifted from “this is the end of Trump’s presidency!” narratives to explaining why this wasn’t the end of their credibility for going wall-to-wall Buzzfeed.
And yet here we have Gillibrand not only running with Buzzfeed’s debunked narrative, but claiming it showed why Congress had to pass a bill to protect Mueller. Instead, it looks like Mueller can protect himself, especially since no one at the White House even bothered to criticize Mueller after the Buzzfeed report, let alone try to fire him. Gillibrand made herself look like a clueless and out-o-touch ideologue, which in normal circumstances would be a bad way to start off a presidential campaign. These days, though …