Today's State of the Union, like most Sunday shows, discussed the Russian-Trump controversy, as they have an obligation to cover the biggest political scandal in my lifetime, although the overarching need to normalize this administration blunts somewhat the reporting. After hosting some de rigueur Republican guests (the curiously sporadic Sen. Marco Rubio), Jake Tapper presented the scenario:
Last night at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump was joined for dinner by his embattled attorney general, Jeff Sessions...Sources tell me and others at CNN that President Trump is quite upset with his senior staff for allowing this firestorm surrounding Attorney General Sessions to steal his thunder in the wake of his address to Congress.
The president considered Sessions' recusal from any investigation into the Russian hacks hasty, and he had a heated conversation with his staff on Friday, expressing his frustration in no uncertain terms. But the presidential dinner invitation might be a sign of support for Sessions, who does not seem inclined to heed the advice of our next guest, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has called for his resignation.
TAPPER: So, let's start with President Trump's allegation, so far evidence-free, that President Obama sought to have him wiretapped during the campaign.
You're part of the Gang of Eight. That's a group of House and Senate leaders, both the leadership and the leadership of the Intelligence Committees, that would be privy, one suspects, to such information.
Do you have any idea what he's talking about?
PELOSI: Well, the "president," you know, is the deflector in chief, anything to change the subject from where the heat is.
And, as one who has been engaged in intelligence, a member of the Gang of Eight, for a long time, I can tell that it's just ridiculous for the president, President Trump, to say that President Obama would ever order any wiretap of an American citizen, any president.
That's just not -- we don't do that. And, so, this is -- it's called a wrap-up smear. You make up something. Then you have the press write about it. And then you say, everybody is writing about this charge.
It's a tool of an authoritarian, to just have you always be talking about what you want them to be talking about. Rather than Russia, we're talking about, did President Obama do thus and so?
He certainly did not. And then to take it to the Congress and say, now you investigate this, when he's been in -- not in favor of Congress investigating anything, including what does the -- what do the Russians have on Donald Trump politically, financially or personally, that -- that's the truth we want to know.
W.H. Press Secretary Sean Spicer alleged that this wiretapping allegation demands a real investigation. So Tapper asked the House Minority Leader "whether or not President Obama ordered such a wiretap, and do you know if there was any such wiretap by the FBI or the Department of Justice?"
PELOSI: Well, we wouldn't know that....What the Justice Department is doing is another subject. I have no knowledge of anything of that kind.
Desperate to distract and normalize Russia's interference in our election, Republican elected officials and talking heads have been quick to point their fingers at the fact that Pelosi once, in 2010, met with the Russian ambassador. Jake Tapper gave them the cover to minimize the scrutiny placed upon their very suspicious activities by playing a clip from an interview with Pelosi on Friday:
QUESTION: You have been in Congress a little bit, and you're in leadership. Have you ever met with the Russian ambassador?
PELOSI: Not with this Russian ambassador, no.
Tapper alleges that she did meet with Ambassador Kislyak and he was present in the same room with her, but the big difference here is that he was part of (then-Russian President) Dmitri Medvedev's entourage at the time. She did not have anything resembling a one-on-one with the Ambassador/spy recruiter, and it was nothing like a Russian official being present at a convention or the inauguration, as we've seen with AG Sessions and Kislyak. It was also done in full view of the press and reported at that time.
She summarily dismisses this nonsensical comparison with this comment:
I have been in rooms of a couple hundred people where he has been. I don't know if you call that a meeting with him.
Hardly, and the Republicans know it. But they will keep trying to claw their way out of this quandary, and we can't let them get away with this anti-American behavior. A cornered animal will fight back, ferociously, and they are definitely cornered.