They were guided in this effort by President Trump, who, certainly aware of what was coming, devoted many tweets to how the real criminal was Hillary and the real crime “Dem collusion,” citing such unimpeachable authorities as Fox News and the New York Post.
They got some help from reports earlier in the week that Democrats had paid Fusion GPS for dirt on Trump — resulting in the famous Christopher Steele “dossier,” parts of which may share a purview with Mueller’s investigation (though Mueller probably doesn’t have the pee stuff, sadly).
Clinton’s dirt-sniffing, to hear conservatives tell it, was a first in the heretofore gentlemanly world of presidential politics, and, though Mueller’s investigation and the dossier are separate entities, the former is somehow tainted by the existence of the latter and should be shut down.
The dossier was a “Clinton/DNC-funded operation supported by the FBI and influenced heavily by Russian operatives in the Kremlin,” wrote Mollie Hemingway at the Federalist, and since Mueller’s investigation was “spurred by [the] dossier and illegal leaks from intelligence operatives about Trump,” it was a waste of time. Hemingway also confidently asserted that, despite what those liberals at CNN said, “the Russian dossier was not initially funded by Republicans.”
“A perfect storm of classic Clintonism, media irresponsibility, and Democratic moral blindness,” sputtered David French at National Review.
Some also threw in Trump’s revived claim that Clinton was the real Russia conspirator, plotting to give the Russkies American uranium illegally (“Hillary Clinton’s ties to Russian uranium deal largely ignored by anti-Trump media” — Fox News). Yeah, remember that story, from last year? It’s still bullshit, but now congressional Republicans are investigating Clinton, again, because there’s always someone dumb enough to pick it up.
Uranium or no uranium, Hillary Clinton was guilty of some crime, suggested Chuck Ross at the Daily Caller — because Clinton and the DNC paid Fusion, and Fusion paid Steele, and Steele paid persons unknown for some of the dossier information he collected, which meant “cash from the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee may very well have ended up in the hands of Russian operatives.” It’s like Hillary personally handed Putin a giant sack with “$” on the side, and if Michael Ramirez hasn’t done a political cartoon of that I’d like to know why not.
In fact, David Harsanyi asked at the New York Post, “Why doesn’t Hillary’s ‘dossier’ trick count as treason?” Former Trump foreign policy aide and international man of mystery Sebastian Gorka claimed Clinton’s actions were “equivalent to what the Rosenbergs did and those people got the chair.” Why are we wasting time persecuting obviously blameless Republicans when there’s a witch to burn!
“Robert Mueller has no choice but to dismiss the Trump investigation,” wrote the Washington Examiner’s Jennifer Kerns, because Steele’s “partisan hit piece fueled Mueller’s Russian investigation,” rendering it null and void. But “it’s highly unlikely that Mueller will disband the probe on his own,” Kerns sighed, because “after all, Mueller now presides over an office of 16 prosecutors and an unlimited budget in a town that values staff, unlimited budgets, and prestigious office space,” and you know how these guys like well-staffed prestigious office spaces. So instead “it will have to be done by the president himself, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or urged by Congress,” and no fair saying “Saturday Night Massacre” or “fascism” when they do.
These exhibitions of outrage, humorous in and of themselves, were upgraded to hilarious when it was revealed that Fusion GPS’s investigation was originally commissioned by the Washington Free Beacon, one of America’s many wing-nut welfare make-work projects for underemployed conservative propagandists.
The brethren scrambled. “Well, this is unexpected,” homina-homina’d Twitchy at first; the best it could do then was report that Free Beacon editor Matthew Continetti had announced “the oppos research wasn’t just aimed at Trump” and “none of what the Free Beacon paid for ended up in the now infamous Steele–Russia dossier,” which is pretty much the part of the crime movie where the sweaty businessman cries to the hoods he hired, “I just wanted you to rough ’em up, I never said anything about murder!”
Later Twitchy got back on track, telling readers the real scandal was that the liberal media’s headlines didn’t include Continetti’s excuses: “Sigh. Don’t they ever tire of being wrong?” This tack was picked up by others, apotheosizing when Carl Arbogast at RedState complained that “even the Washington Examiner’s headline is sloppy” — I mean, if you can’t count on your fellow right-wing operatives to get your talking points straight, who can you count on?
Some of the brethren just shut up and laid low; others kept up their previous patter, like Scott Johnson at Power Line: “Now we know that the Trump Dossier was not just a product funded by Democrats, but was commissioned by the general counsel of the Clinton presidential campaign. After the Trump campaign collusion hysteria fomented by Democrats and their media friends” blah blah blah for over a thousand words in an article called “INVESTIGATE THIS (3).” (Unlike The Godfather trilogy, parts 1 and 2 aren’t any better.)
Meanwhile, the White House kept up the spin. When former Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon said he was “damn glad” that his colleague Marc Elias, who drew the funds to hire Fusion GPS, “pursued this on behalf of our campaign and only regret more of this material was not verified in time for the voters to learn it before the election,” Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “Clinton spokesman just said he’s ‘damn glad’ Clinton campaign colluded w/ Russia to spread disinformation about @POTUS & influence election,” then linked to Hemingway’s “the Russian dossier was not initially funded by Republicans” story at the Federalist.
The more tightly wrapped brethren are already starting to lose it: Wardrobe comic Roger Stone straight-up flipped out and got thrown off Twitter. (He’s apparently back under an alias, telling increasingly wacky conspiracy stories.) Fox News continues to focus on the investigation, conviction, and imprisonment of Hillary Clinton — or, as former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski referred to her in the second-best Freudian slip of the week, “the Clinton administration.”
And the Wall Street Journal joined its less prestigious brethren in calling for the ouster of Mueller — and then advised Trump to issue a “blanket presidential pardon to anyone involved in supposed collusion with Russia or Russians,” in which pardon “the president himself would be covered.” I’m trying to formulate a hypothetical equivalent press reaction to Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox back in 1973, but I’m drawing a blank — because there was nothing in the American media scene then that would be the equivalent to what we have now, except nuts with mimeograph machines. How far we’ve come.