As everyone except Fox "news" viewers knows, the latest twist in Russiagate concerns Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who wanted to establish a back-channel with Russia, and then lied about it on his security clearance form.
So, how did the producers of NBC's Meet the Press decide to handle their coverage of the story? With a "balanced" panel of truth-tellers and liars, of course. Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal was there to provide "balance," meaning muddy the waters and spread lots of manure on the table for the Trump administration.
Because "Both Sides."
Mr. It's-Not-My-Job-To-Fact-Check Todd was about as useful as a potted plant in rebutting any of Strassel's nonsense, but thankfully Joy-Ann Reid was also on the panel, and Reid had done her homework, as usual.
Transcript via Media Matters:
KIMBERLEY STRASSEL (WALL STREET JOURNAL): Back-channels are completely normal, they happen all the time. Reagan did them, Obama did them, everyone did. So I am not quite sure why supposedly having -- at least the president is now elected, setting up a back-channel with the Russians, is somehow out of balance.
JOEY REID (HOST, AM JOY): Here is one key difference. In October, months before this latest meeting, and it was one of 18 separate contacts that we now know of between the Trump campaign and Russia, our primary adversary in the world. In October, the collective judgment of the 17 intelligence agencies had been that Russia had been taking active measures to interfere in our elections -- quite a difference; we don’t think Iran was doing that. We know that that was happening in October. So in December, the now-president-elect decides that he's going to name Jim Mattis to be his secretary of defense. But he doesn’t open a back-channel, he sends his real-estate developer son-in-law, supposedly, or the real-estate developer son-in-law decides to open this back-channel, not just -- and it isn't a back-channel, by the way, because this is not how it works. You don't go to the adversary country and say, "Let's set something up inside your secure facility, in your embassy, so that we evade our intelligence services" -- sorry -- "we set it up inside of your security facility," which even takes them aback, because that's bizarre, the idea that we're going to do this on your facility, and you send them to do that without Jim Mattis, the real estate developer who has no foreign policy experience whatsoever, and then if it's a channel about opening up negotiations in terms of something realistic -- in terms something about foreign policy, why are they also back-channeling with a bank? A Kremlin-connected Russian bank? And why is the Reuters report saying that part of the discussion was the possibility of opening up opportunities for financing for Trump-related --↓ Story continues below ↓
STRASSEL: We don't know the answers to any of those questions because what we are getting here are --
REID: That's not a back-channel. By definition.
Reid followed up with some fact-checking on the set of her own show and explained that the story Strassel was pushing came from Breitbart.
Because Breitbart is now a source for "news" at the Wall Street Journal.
Reid debunked Stassel's talking point that what happened with the Obama administration was "the same" as the dirty dealings we've seen from the Trump family and their company's financial ties to Russia.
REID: After that segment, I wanted to understand what Kim Strassel was talking about and I wasn't familiar with the story that she told about the supposedly Obama campaign opening up this supposed back-channel to Iran, and the only source that I could find was a Breitbart News article, a Breitbart News article that claimed that during his first presidential campaign in 2008, Barack Obama used a secret back-channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs he was a friend of the Islamic Republic and that they will be happy with his policies, a dubious prospect to be sure.
And that the secret channel was a guy named Ambassador William Miller, who served in Iran during the Shah's rule as chief of staff on the Senate Intelligence Committee and as ambassador to Ukraine.
And supposedly, according to Breitbart, Ambassador Miller confirmed this story to a guy called Michael Ledeen, an extremist to be sure and sort of an anti-Islamic kind of figure on the far right.
So, it's a Breitbart story. Even if it were true or relevant, you're saying that sending the former ambassador who worked in Iran, who served in Iran, is the equivalent of sending your real estate investor son-in-law to go and chat with the Russians in their secure facility, which again, is not a back-channel.
One other little piece before I bring in my panel. There is a new book that's out. It's called Alter Egos. It's by New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler, and it talks about what a back-channel actually is, because I want people to understand what that means. And it talks about the then-incoming Obama administration, setting up an actual back-channel through Oman, to try to set up the pre-conditions to have an Iran deal.
This was done through the State Department, through Hillary Clinton, the incoming Secretary of State, in which you open up discussions with even an adversarial country, in a way that you do so outside of the public, so you can set the conditions up in order to have an Iran deal. Whether you agree with the Iran deal or not, that is a back-channel.
Going and meeting in the secure facility of a country to which you have dubious links, including financial. in a secret facility that is theirs and that is out of the reach of American intelligence community, is not a back-channel.
Gotta love Joy-Ann Reid's command of the facts. Too bad but for Reid's doggedness, a Wall Street Journal apologist for Trump would lean on an old Breitbart story, smear the Obama administration, and get away with it on Meet the Press.