Damn It, Dean Baquet — You Helped Give Us Trump
Credit: Photo by David Smooke on Unsplash
October 8, 2018

An absolute travesty of a story ran in the New York Times one week before the presidential election in 2016. A week later, the Orange Menace became president-elect. Far be it from me to draw a direct line between the two occurrences, but, well, the former sure didn't discourage the latter.

According to an exhaustive report in the New Yorker, though, had the author of the piece had his way, it would have run sooner and in a much different form. Eric Lichtblau had been contacted by a group of highly respected and knowledgable computer scientists who had been tracking the hack of the DNC. They'd discovered, to their surprise, that the RNC had not been similarly hacked. Furthermore, they'd found vexing and frequent contact between the Russian bank, Alfa Bank, and donald trump's organization.

Lichtblau began the article for the Times, but before it ran, he was contacted by the FBI, who brought him in to tell him they were looking into election interference by the Russians. They asked him to delay the story, so as not to compromise the investigation. Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of the Times decided not to run Lichtblau's story. Apparently the contacts between Russia's largest bank and Trump, and the existence of an FBI investigation into Russian interference into the election wasn't enough to run in the esteemed New York Times. "[W]ith the election looming, Baquet thought that he could not publish the story without being more confident in its conclusions."

Well, Harry Reid, thought it was important, and demanded information from the FBI on the investigation. At that point Baquet relented and ran Lichblau's story, but it bore essentially zero resemblance to the one he'd originally written.

The headline— “INVESTIGATING DONALD TRUMP, F.B.I. SEES NO CLEAR LINK TO RUSSIA”—seemed to exonerate the Trump campaign. And, though the article mentioned the server, it omitted any reference to the computer scientists who had told Lichtblau that the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank might have been communicating. “We were saying that the investigation was basically over—and it was just beginning,” Lichtblau told me.

The rest is history. Oh, wait. Baquet didn't just completely blow this opportunity to reveal the trump-Russia connection to the world before the election in an honest and credible way. His handling of this story hastened the departure of the reporter who'd done so much of the work - Lichtblau. Even better, when Times ombudsman Liz Spayd criticized the paper's timid handling of the trump-Russia connection, he fired her.

For a TRULY inspired takedown of Baquet and the venerable New York Times for this fail, with some fabulous end-shade at Lichtblau just for the hell of it, no one beats Wonkette. Well, pretty much no one beats Wonkette at anything.

"The story was written too knowingly," [Baquet] said. "The headline was flawed. We didn't know then what we know now."

No, that's not quite right, Dean Baquet. You in fact knew exactly then what you know now -- besides small matters like THE FBI IS STILL INVESTIGATING IT, and the Democrats SURE WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE TO INVESTIGATE IT, and in fact the guys who had pooh-poohed the server connection as "spam" didn't actually have access to the [technical doohickey] that the [computer nerds] had. But as far as "the FBI has opened a counterintel investigation into Trump and Russia," they told your reporter that themselves.

Frankly, it's starting to sound to us like Moscow has on Baquet the same thing they've got on Lindsey Graham, whatever the fck that might be.

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