Last Thursday there was some significant news in the Russia collusion investigation. CNN, ABC and the NY Times all reported that a longstanding mystery involving Donald Trump Jr. had been solved. For months, Democrats like Rep. Adam Schiff and left-wing media hosts like Rachel Maddow had suggested that calls Trump Jr. made to blocked numbers both before and after the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting may have been made to his father, then-candidate Donald Trump.
If that suspicion had turned out to be true, it would mean that Trump knew about the meeting with a group of Russians around the time it happened and it would undercut Trump Jr.’s claims that he never told his father about the meeting. And you can bet such a revelation would have been hyped as big, big news. But investigators with the Senate Intelligence Committee dashed Democrats’ hopes and revealed the three calls to blocked numbers went to two family friends. Cue the sad trombones. There was no Trump at the end of the blocked calls rainbow.
When the news broke last week, Rachel Maddow had Rep. Adam Schiff on air that night. You’d think this would be a perfect moment to bring up the report and assess it with someone who had previously suggested it was a potentially important part of the collusion story. And Maddow did bring it up…sort of. As Caleb Howe pointed out at Mediaite yesterday, she mentioned that there was a report but never actually told her audience what it said:
“This is not MSNBC reporting and MSNBC hasn’t confirmed this, but they’re saying Senate investigators have obtained information about something that you have asked about in the past concerning Donald Trump Jr.,” began Maddow promisingly.
“In the lead up to the 2016 Trump Tower meeting during the campaign, he had made a couple of calls to blocked numbers. And you had suggested that that was one of the things that was important for your committee to figure out, whether those blocked numbers might have indicated — or might have been an indication that Mr. Trump Jr. was actually calling his father, potentially talking to Donald Trump the candidate about that Trump Tower meeting with all those Russians,” she continued even more promisingly. This would be the natural place to state what the big news was, what the reporting said. But instead…
“What do you make of this new reporting,” she said, without saying what that reporting was, “and what do you think about the importance of that incident now, overall?”
That is one of the most tortured questions I’ve ever heard. It should be taken outside and shot to put it out of its misery. Maddow is putting maximum distance between the reports and her coverage even though, as she admits, this is coming from CNN and ABC News.
But somehow after mentioning that the news is about those calls to blocked numbers, she never tells the audience that the reports say Trump wasn’t on the other end of those calls, even though that was the substance of the reports. She just sort of leaves it vague, i.e. “What do you make of this new reporting” that I’m not going to describe?
Amazingly, Rep. Schiff answers but never explains what the reports said either. Instead of admitting this speculation was a dead end, he just says he can’t confirm the reporting. I guess he figured that if Maddow wasn’t going to explain it, why should he cloud the air with the facts?
Here’s the full segment. I’ve queued this up to the end where she asks about the blocked calls reports. This is not a good look for anyone involved: