Lee Smith is the author of The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in US History. The book is an invaluable companion to Andrew McCarthy’s Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency; it adds to and amplifies the case McCarthy makes. I wrote about McCarthy’s book in “All the president’s men, Obama style.” Smith’s book elaborates on the theme to which I alluded in the heading of that post. I urge all readers with an interest in this incredible scandal to read both books.
Lee Smith is a great journalist. This bears on one of the book’s principal themes: the complicity of the press in peddling the hoax alleging the collusion of the Trump campaign with organs of the Russian government. In peddling the hoax, the most prominent organs of the mainstream media were the accomplices of the perpetrators. The book cites the relevant stories and relentlessly names names demonstrating the “collusion” of the press with the Clinton campaign and the government — the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Justice — in peddling the Russian hoax as news.
Within the profession there has been no reckoning for the misconduct that the book makes out. On the contrary, at the profession’s upper reaches, we have seen only the renewed commitment to carry on the campaign to remove Trump from office. This book may be the closest we ever get to the day of reckoning that is due the press.
We published an excerpt illustrative of this strand of the book this past Friday. In this excerpt Smith addressed the January 10, 2017 CNN story “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.” Running under the byline of Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein, the story peddled the Russia hoax based on the patently absurd Steele Dossier, which had not yet been made public. As the book notes, the story referred to the dossier’s most serious charge, “allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.”
Immediately following the CNN story BuzzFeed published the Steele Dossier. Tapper thought that the publication of the Steele Dossier detracted from the credibility of his story based on it. It certainly did for anyone who read it with a shred of critical intellect. The logic of Tapper’s consternation, however, dictated against the publication of the CNN story and the relentless propagation of the hoax by CNN and others for the first two years of the Trump administration.
Nevertheless, Tapper needn’t have worried. The Steele Dossier still serves as a sort of gospel on the left. They still believe.
A second theme of the book is the role of the Obama administration in perpetrating the Russia hoax. Following the 2016 election, the Russia hoax involved the orchestrated disempowerment of the incoming administration and the removal of Trump from office. While the press held itself out as pursuing Trump in a scandal with echoes of Watergate, the scandal represented the handiwork of the Obama administration and the press served as its handmaiden. Referring to the method of operation pioneered by Obama to support the Iran deal, Smith puts it this way: “[I]t was Obama who was most like Nixon, because Trump’s predecessor used the resources of the federal government, sensitive surveillance program and staff, to spy on his opponents.”
Smith writes: “The coup started almost immediately after the polls closed.” The ground had been well laid by then.
A third theme of the book is the revelation of the coup. This gives the book its subtitle: “The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in US History.” The book reminds us that much of what we know about the Russia hoax is attributable to the work of Devin Nunes, and it reports how Nunes has paid the price. I have embedded a copy of the Nunes memo released on February 2018 at the bottom of this post. For much of what we have learned to date we owe Rep. Nunes a debt of gratitude.
The book implicitly raises the question who wrote the Steele Dossier. Smith seems to doubt that it was Christopher Steele. He notes that in an October 2016 meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec — reported here by John Solomon — Steele forgot his lines. Whodunnit may be less important in this case than that it was done by those working on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. For our knowledge of that critical fact we have Devin Nunes to thank.
In calling out his professional colleagues for the wrongs they have done and for giving credit where credit is due to Devin Nunes and his staff, this book administers justice to the extent that it is possible for a reporter and analyst to do so. We can only hope that it is a preface to the administration of justice the old-fashioned way.