On Tuesday morning, MSNBC finally got around to covering Special Counsel John Durham's latest filing that revealed Democratic operatives obtained internet data from the Executive Office of the President and other Donald Trump-related entities in an attempt to spin the Russian collusion narrative. Meanwhile, CNN had only its second mention of Durham.
Unfortunately, both dismissed it with MSNBC's Morning Joe spent 27 minutes and 48 seconds treating it as a Benghazi-like, Fox News-hyped non-troversy while CNN's New Day had two minutes and 23 seconds calling the new revelations "very vague" and wondered if Durham had his facts straight. In contrast, ABC, CBS, and NBC remain uninterested.
Prior to an alleged deep dive into why there's nothing important to see, the MSNBC table viciously mocked and dismissed the claims as being peddled and ingested by "stupid" people while others are "deliberat[e]" liars and dismissed the argument that the allegations were anything close to or worse than Watergate (click "expand"):
JOHN HEILEMANN: [O]ne of the things about this is there's this willful or either incredibly stupid or willful misconstruing of what this is all about.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Hey, can I just say, the, willfully stupid —
SCARBOROUGH: — a lot of people being willfully stupid here.
HEILEMANN: Both! Willfully stu — or — or just — or just willfully misconstrued. You see on Fox News have — Fox — Tucker Carlson and other people saying, “oh, you know, they’re looking at — they must be looking — they're intercepting internet traffic. They must be looking at email or text messages.
TOM WINTERS: Not possible.
HEILEMANN: DNS —
HEILEMANN: — these DNS. This is all about DNS.
SCARBOROUGH: No, who could be that stupid? I ask you, who could be that stupid to actually say that on their television show?
HEILEMANN: You really don't want me to make a list, do you?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Oh.
HEILEMANNN: No, most —
SCARBOROUGH: A lot of people did.
HEILEMANNN: — most — most of the — most of the Fox —
SCARBOROUGH: Or else they know —
BRZEZINSKI: Let’s not call stupid.
HEILEMANNN: — so most —
SCARBOROUGH: — they know that they're lying —
HEILEMANN: — so most —
SCARBOROUGH: — to their audience, that they're liars and they're deliberately lying about that.
HEILEMANN: Yes, lying liars who lie and I would say this is most of what right-wing media is doing and this is why I want to focus on it. The DNS data lookups are not substantive communications. Am I correct about that. These are not things in which these people — we communicated. They're not reading people’s e-mails. They’re not reading people’s — to extent anything was going on has nothing to do with what we think of as communications.
WINTER: People have had the analogy that this is the next Watergate. Watergate involved people breaking in. Watergate involved people trying to go through filing cabinets. When you look at the analogy here, if you’re going to call it Watergate it’s that the security guard at the Watergate, while being paid to do security, to see just who was coming, just observing who was coming in and that same person was then paid to send that information to somebody else. It doesn't mean they were asking what they were there for, it doesn't mean they were going through their briefcases, it doesn't mean they were going through the files they were bringing in. [BRZEZINSKI SIGHS] So, that's the correct analogy if you are going to use the Watergate analogy that has been thrown around so often about it.
Meanwhile, MSNBC analyst and former Obama official Jeremy Bash derided Durham’s findings as “mak[ing] no sense,” adding: “[H]ow could she have had her campaign spying on him while he's president?”
To cover their tracks, Scarborough defended the media’s Russia hysteria about Trump’s illegitimacy and collusion, telling viewers to “read the Senate Intel Committee report” on Russian meddling “if you want...to see how dangerous” the Trump-Russia threat was.
Former RNC chair and MSNBC Republican Michael Steele summed it up by declaring that "it just reminds me of just how many times we get caught in the Donald Trump stupid trap and how many times, you know, you watch this process unfold, Joe, in which Donald Trump and his ilk are out there massaging and trying to maneuver the messaging around."
Steele added it's "grist for the mill for Fox News to out and, and further gum up the works, to create a whole lot of noise about nothing. That at the end of the day like Benghazi, after all of the noise and all of their sabre rattling comes to what, right?"
Co-host Joe Scarborough agreed and, in turning to Sunday Today host Willie Geist, accused conservatives of gaslighting
[T]hey politicized the death of four Americans...with Benghazi...Here you’re going to have an investigation...that lasts longer than an investigation, and I would be shocked, shocked if there is one criminal conviction in this entire thing. But there will be a lot of headlines. And there are a lot of people making assumptions that are going to look really foolish months from now but they don't care because they're just gaslighting[.]
For his part, Geist declared that conservative reaction was "an effort to change the subject from the investigation into January 6th." Ah, yes, it's always about January 6.
Overall, the show roundly dismissed Durham as a U.S. attorney lacking integrity, something that was poo-pooed during the Trump years.
Over at New Day, co-host Brianna Keilar led a much shorter discussion, asking crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz to explain the filing, particular the part about "Russian-made phones being used near the White House."
Polantz described the new revelations as a "new wrinkle, it really is just a wrinkle and it's very vague" and cited Michael Sussman's reaction, including his claim that "even some of the information was wrong, that this data about phones being used around the White House was actually about the Obama years...[T]his is something that really we're still trying to get a sense of what the facts are here. Durham’s focused on this meeting. But Sussmann...is saying it, it really is misleading and...taken out of context."
Durham's filing said that Sussmann omitted that knowledge in his allegations against Trump, but that was of no concern to Keilar and Polantz.
CNN and MSNBC promptly went back to ignoring the Durham story until the 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. Eastern hours, respectively.
Here are transcripts for the February 15 shows:
MSNBC Morning Joe
6:54 AM ET
MICHAEL STEELE: Yeah. You know, the thing that struck me, in sort, of listening to the last two segments, it just -- it just reminds me of just how many times we get caught in the Donald Trump stupid trap and how many times, you know, you watch this process unfold, Joe, in which Donald Trump and his ilk are out there massaging and trying to maneuver the messaging around because, as we’ve already indicated and as Marcy just very clearly laid out, the facts don't line up. It is not there. You’re having a post-hoc discovery of, of something that actually on its face makes no sense. It hasn't made any sense since 2016. Why the heck do we think it is going to make sense now?
You have Durham out here who is in the position and just put it on the street, when he was initially put into this role, what was the purpose of it? It was to go out and create a set of facts to meet a narrative Donald Trump wanted executed. And, and so as the system grinds to a halt yet again because of the crazy world of Trump colliding with real life, we’re -- we’re sitting here looking at and reading pleadings in which anyone who has a scintilla of brain power left in their head recognizes this makes no sense.
This is grist for the mill for Fox News to out and -- and further gum up the works, to create a whole lot of noise about nothing. That at the end of the day like Benghazi, after all of the noise and all of their sabre rattling comes to what, right? So, the reality of it is that we can persist in this, in this game or we can call it crazy, let the judicial system, the justice system play itself out in which they put a stamp on it and go "nothing here, let's move on.” And I think --
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.
STEELE: -- what -- what’s, what they're trying to preempt is that end, Joe. They don't want that end because they know what happens after that? Nothing.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, well, you know, in Benghazi, of course, Willie, they politicized the death of four Americans.
WILLIE GEIST: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: And --- and --- and, it, with Benghazi there was the death of four Americans. Here you’re going to have an investigation that -- into an investigation that lasts longer than an investigation, and I would be shocked, shocked if there is one criminal conviction in this entire thing. But there will be a lot of headlines.
GEIST: Oh, yeah.
SCARBOROUGH: And there are a lot of people making assumptions that are going to look really foolish months from now but they don't care because they're just gaslighting and they’ll just continue.
GEIST: And it's an effort to change the subject from the investigation into January 6th. That's another --
GEIST: -- element of this story. So, Tom Winter, over the last 30 minutes or so we've heard a lot. We've met some new characters, some new names probably for our audience. We’ve talked about the arcane details of DNS lookups. Let's just try to crystallize it a little bit for the audience here, who has heard a lot. What is the important takeaway from this filing and what happens from here?
TOM WINTER: The important takeaway from this filing is that there were people monitoring traffic in and out of the White House but not able to see their actual communications, not able to look inside what it was. It’s very standard information. It is available publicly. There are a number of groups that do this and that, that information was passed along by an attorney according to both the attorney and Special Counsel John Durham at one point to the CIA but that hasn't been charged. Nobody’s been charged with hacking. Nobody’s been charged with some sort of cyber intrusion into the White House. As far as where this goes next, you've already seen an effort by the attorney, by attorneys for the attorney who has been charged here, Michael Sussmann, for him to dismiss all of the factual details that were included in this filing that we’re talking about here and I think we are going to have to watch going forward if there's any sort of additional information that comes into this case by way of filings not included in an indictment. Why might that be the case? That is something that we, we typically report on so we will have to follow that. And I think, lastly, we’re just going to have to see when the investigation wraps up. As you said, it is lasted longer than Special Counsel Mueller's case.
CNN New Day with John Berman and Brianna Keilar
6:23 AM ET
BRIANNA KEILAR: In a new court filing Special Counsel John Durham is accusing a Democratic lawyer of subjecting former President Trump to a smear campaign by sharing data with officials to raise their suspicions against him. Durham alleges that Michael Sussmann told the CIA about Russian-made phones being used near the White House. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz is joining us now to explain this. It's a little bit complicated. But these are very important details. Can you walk us through this?
KATELYN POLANTZ: Yes. So, the big picture here, Brianna, is that John Durham has been saying for a while that the Democrats took internet data that they believe tied Trump to Russia, to federal agencies, including the FBI and CIA in 2016 and 2017. What we knew from the original indictment, that Sussmann had gone to the FBI and CIA about an internet connection that they believe tied Trump Organization to a Russian bank, this new wrinkle, it really is just a wrinkle and it's very vague, in this one Durham is saying Sussmann was speaking to the CIA about Russian-made phones that were being used in certain places including around the White House, the Executive Office of the President. So Michael Sussman hit back last night, because this, this is something that really inflamed right-wing media. Is this spying of Donald Trump? But Sussman last night in a court filing, pretty late, called this something that Durham was putting in his filing to politicize the case, to inflame media coverage, and to taint the jury pool. He said even some of the information was wrong, that this data about phones being used around the White House was actually about the Obama years, not about the Trump years in office or the Trump month in office in 2017. So this is something that really we're still trying to get a sense of what the facts are here. Durham’s focused on this meeting. But, Sussmann right now is saying it, it really is misleading and it’s, it’s taken out of context.
KEILAR: That timing is huge if Durham is aware that this is actually not during the Trump administration times. Is he aware of that?
POLANTZ: Well, what really matters here is what Michael Sussmann said to the agencies when he spoke to them. I mean, the only charged conduct in this case at this time is a meeting that Michael Sussman had with the FBI. He's accused to lying, not about what he shared with them about the data, but what he said who his clients were at the time. He didn't tell them he was representing with, he was the Democrats, allegedly.
KEILAR: That is an important detail. Katelyn, thank you. Great reporting. Appreciate it.