On Tuesday, the media bumped its Outragemeter to 11 over a story from The Washington Post stating that the Trump administration attempted to stop former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. The Post reported:
The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation into links between Russian officials and the Trump campaign….According to a series of letters reviewed by The Post, Yates was notified earlier this month by the Justice Department that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.
Furthermore, Yates was supposed to testify before the Intelligence Committee this week, defying the Trump administration – and today, news broke that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes had cancelled the hearing at which she would testify. [UPDATE: Nunes' office says Yates will still testify.]
The media’s theory: a cover-up is in progress.
That theory gained new life thanks to Nunes’ newly-uncovered secretive visit to the White House, where he met with an unspecified official who presented him with intelligence information regarding the Trump team and Russia, the day before Nunes said publicly that the intelligence community had surveilled Team Trump. Nunes said that he went to the White House in order to use a secure computer for perusing intelligence information – but as Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast points out, “This is real shady. The House Intel Committee has its own SCIF. There’d be no need to use the one at the WH.”
Nunes’ defense is that the information was only available to the executive branch, and that as chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes can see such material. Nunes hasn’t revealed what intelligence official communicated the information to him. And as The Weekly Standard reports, “Unknown, too, is what sort of protocols for revealing these classified documents did Nunes's source have to abide by in order to allow Nunes access to the system for executive-branch only reports. Nunes spokesman Jack Langer declined to comment, and a senior White House aide claims to be unaware of any such protocols.” The next day, Nunes went to brief Trump on the material he saw, all before informing his colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee.
But why didn’t that intelligence official, who works for President Trump, just go talk to President Trump directly?
Nunes’ activities can be read as innocent, wild incompetence or nefarious scheming. And the attempts to stop Yates from testifying could be seen as an obvious attempt to stop her from simply railing against Trump on the basis of speculation. Remember, Yates was fired after refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban, and she’s an Obama holdover.
None of this answers the simplest question of all: why is there no fire with all this smoke? We’ve been hearing for weeks that the Deep State has information on Trump-Russia connections that would call into question whether the Trump team coordinated with the Putin team during the election. So far, we haven’t seen a shred of evidence to that effect. We keep hearing that the Trump transition team was making all sort of concessions to Russia in some sort of quid pro quo – and yet we haven’t seen any evidence of a quid or a quo.
So, let’s imagine a counterfactual to the Left’s agenda. Let’s imagine that Obama intelligence community members are widely dispersing information that’s suggestive but not actually condemnatory (this part we already know). And let’s assume that Nunes found out about it from someone in the intelligence community who doesn’t want to speak directly to Trump for fear of Trump’s blunderbuss approach to politics. Nunes goes to the White House to speak to that person. Nunes then refuses to allow Yates’ open testimony because she has a record of demagoguery with regard to Trump.
That’s certainly as plausible as the cover-up routine. But the media refuses to acknowledge such a possibility, despite the fact that it squares with the evidence at least as well as the scandal and conspiracy theory.
There’s a lack of trust on all sides here, and that seems deserved. In the end, a select committee may need to take a look at all of this for purposes of public trust. But the media have an obligation to keep themselves from jumping to the most anti-Trump conclusion without the goods to back it up.