The Trump White House seems quietly to be enjoying the Russia hacking “scandal.”
Certainly it has its day-to-day frustrations, especially for Sean Spicer, who has to face the press corps and its obsession with meaningless minutiae.
But the joke is on the journalists. They are spending so much time on the non-story that they are missing what President Donald Trump is actually doing. He complains on Twitter about the coverage, but the truth is that the distraction is very useful.
The “scandal” is no longer about Russia. Now it is about how House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) found information backing up Trump’s claims that his team was under surveillance by the Obama administration.
Was Nunes approached by whistleblowers who came to his congressional office? Or were the whistleblowers sent by the White House to Nunes? It makes no difference at all, but the media think they are onto something very important.
CNN called it a “cover-up,” without specifying what, exactly, Nunes was supposed to be “covering up.” And the answer is: nothing.
Even if — for argument’s sake — the White House had approached Nunes rather than the other way around, the worst that could be said about it is that Nunes behaved like a partisan Republican. If so, he is no more partisan than ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is abusing his position to launch conspiracy theories against the GOP.
The core of Schiff’s case, as presented at the House Intelligence Committee last Monday, is a lie — namely, the false claim that the Republican Party altered its platform at the behest of Trump aides in order to appease the Russians. As Byron York of the Washington Examiner has demonstrated, the Republican platform was “was actually strengthened, not weakened” against Russia.
Schiff is still pretending that some other evidence will emerge on Trump-Russia ties. But the idea Russia colluded with the Trump campaign is ludicrous, for three reasons.
The first is there is no evidence whatsoever to support that claim. Obama’s own James Clapper and Mike Morell even said so — though it took Trump’s tweets about “wiretapping” to flush them out of hiding.
Second, the Russians could not have known that Trump would win, and would not have targeted Clinton alone when it seemed that she could exact punishment once she took office.
The third reason is that Hillary Rodham Clinton was arguably the most pro-Russian official since Alger Hiss. From the Russian “reset,” to giving up missile defense, to the one-sided New START treaty, to the uranium giveaway, to the loss of the Middle East, and to the loss of the Crimea (which happened on her successor’s watch, while she remained silent), Clinton ran the State Department almost like a post-Soviet satellite.
Indeed, if Donald Trump really wanted to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin, it would be hard to find anything left with which to appease him. The Russians saw Trump’s criticism of NATO as useful, and applauded him. But they likely preferred Clinton.
Already, Trump has been much tougher on Russia than Obama ever was. From blasting Russia at the UN Security Council over the eastern Ukraine, to threatening to tear up the New START treaty, Trump has opposed Putin — and it shows. Trump foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka, formerly of Breitbart News, is also a vociferous critic of Russia.
So the Russia “scandal” is much ado about nothing. But it keeps the media distracted from what Trump is really doing — such as taking a chainsaw to Obama’s regulations — and it keeps the Democrats from developing an actual message.
The beauty of it all? Aside from Trump’s tweets, the media and the Democrats are creating this distraction themselves.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.