While The Hill reported that Michael Flynn’s plea Friday had brought Trump Russia “to the White House lawn,” and MSNBC was predicting that things for Trump were “very very very bad,” the right wing press proceeded to blow it all off. Seriously.
As Fox News buries Flynn under Hillary Clinton's emails on homepage, even Russian propaganda outlets lead with Flynn. As do Breitbart and Infowars (though with a whataboutism built in). pic.twitter.com/lCmdAm3NhM
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) December 1, 2017
Denizens of the populist-nationalist world where Flynn was first hailed as a hero also believed the end was near—the end of the Russia distraction, that is. Several prominent sources I spoke to expressed little, if any, concern that Flynn’s indictment would upset their agenda, brushing off Mueller’s probe as a witch hunt that had unearthed zero evidence of underlying crimes. The argument, as populist operative Jack Posobiec put it to me, was that of course Flynn was in contact with Russian ambassadors—that is, after all, what ambassadors are for. “The left is acting like Trump is going to have to leave office because Michael Flynn got a parking ticket,” he said, calling Flynn’s indictment a “process crime” and a technicality. “Talking to diplomats is legal. The much bigger question is how the F.B.I. obtained a transcript of his phone conversation without a warrant.”
Outside the insurgency, too, conservative outlets like the National Review wondered whether the Flynn indictment was a lot of hot air. “If it were part of the basis for a ‘collusion’ case arising out of Russia’s election meddling, then Flynn would not be pleading guilty to a process crime—he’d be pleading guilty to an espionage conspiracy,” wrote Andrew McCarthy. “For all the furor, we have a small-potatoes plea in Flynn’s case—just as we did in [George] Papadopoulos’s case, despite extensive ‘collusion’ evidence.” In another article, David French contributed his dose of cold water: “We could be looking at less of a criminal conspiracy and more of a festival of lies surrounding a non-conspiracy,” he wrote.
It’s not quite Sean Spicer denouncing Manafort as someone who “played a very limited role for a very limited period of time,” but it’s pretty much ostrich behavior, all the same.
Has anybody made the observation to any of these people that, generally speaking, in investigations of this type, first the catch is little fish, then moving upwards to the bigger ones? This is just the beginning.