The media factor

The Politico Playbook opens today this supposed New York Times bombshell advancing the impeachment project (bolding in original):

THE STORY EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT — “Trump Pressed Australian Leader to Help Barr Investigate Mueller Inquiry’s Origins,” by NYT’s Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner: “President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call.

“The White House curbed access to a transcript of the call — which the president made at Mr. Barr’s request — to a small group of aides, one of the officials said. The restriction was unusual and similar to the handling of a July call with the Ukrainian president that is at the heart of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

“Like that call, Mr. Trump’s discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia shows the president using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests.

“The discussion with Mr. Morrison shows the extent to which Mr. Trump views the attorney general as a crucial partner: The president is using federal law enforcement powers to aid his political prospects, settle scores with his perceived ‘deep state’ enemies and show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt, partisan origins.” NYT

And that’s not all! The media have put on a full-court press. Playbook continues:

— WAPO’S DEVLIN BARRETT, SHANE HARRIS and MATT ZAPOTOSKY: “Barr has already made overtures to British intelligence officials, and last week the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham, according to one person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue. It was not Barr’s first trip to Italy to meet intelligence officials, the person said.

“The Trump administration has made similar requests of Australia, said people who discussed the interactions on the condition of anonymity because they involve an ongoing investigation and sensitive talks between governments.” WaPo

Wait! There is more:

HMM … “Pompeo Took Part in Ukraine Call, Official Says,” by WSJ’s Courtney McBride and Sadie Gurman: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among the administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president, a senior State Department official said Monday, a disclosure that ties the State Department more closely to the House impeachment inquiry.” WSJ

Not in Playbook this morning is Ryan Saavedra’s Daily Wire’s footnote. Let me render is Playbook-style for purposes of consistency here:

BREAKING: Letter From Australian Official Emerges That Casts Doubt On Report From New York Times: A letter emerged late on Monday from the Australian government that directly disputed the accuracy of a New York Times report that claimed that President Donald Trump “pushed” Australia to help Attorney General William Barr investigate the origins of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation in an attempt to “discredit” the investigation in what The Times claimed was an example of Trump “using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests.”

The letter, reported by Nine News Australia’s Kerrie Yaxley, is dated May 28, 2019, from Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey to Barr…:DW

Saavedra links to the FOX News story by Jake Gibson and Gregg Re, “Barr asked Trump to speak to other countries in Durham probe, official says; source pushes back on NYT reporting.” Responding to the Times story, they report:

A Justice Department official told Fox News on Monday that Attorney General Bill Barr asked President Trump to make introductions to foreign countries that might have had information pertinent to U.S. Attorney John Durham’s ongoing probe into possible misconduct by the intelligence community at the outset of the Russia investigation.

But, a person familiar with the situation told Fox News it would be wrong to say Trump “pressed” the Australian prime minister for information that could have discredited former Special Counsel Mueller’s now-completed probe, as The New York Times reported earlier Monday.

“The countries have been helpful,” the source said. “There was no pressing required.”

The Daily Wire to the contrary notwithstanding, what we have here is the drumbeat of stories creating the appearance of scandal where none exists (except perhaps for the underlying leaks). Even if Trump had pressed for help, it should be difficult to make something of it. It is in our national interest to get to the root of the collusion hoax that continues to roil our politics.

Indeed, we are in its death throes. We have moved so smoothly from the Russia collusion hoax to the Ukraine phone call that we hardly noticed the transition.

It is the misleading appearance of scandal in the Times story above that Kim Strassel pierces in her concise comment below.

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