Move along, nothing to see here but right-wing conspiracy-mongering. That was The New York Times’s message covering the Inspector General report on how the F.B.I. came to investigate ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Reporter Mark Mazzetti’s co-lead “news analysis” Tuesday appeared under the banner headline “Report Debunks Anti-Trump Plot In Russia Inquiry”:
President Trump and his allies spent months promising that a report on the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation would be a kind of Rosetta Stone for Trump-era conspiracy enthusiasts -- the key to unlocking the secrets of a government plot to keep Mr. Trump from being elected in 2016.
Mazzetti said Horowitz: “did not deliver....But by the time it was released, the president, his attorney general, his supporters in Congress and the conservative news media had already declared victory....They followed a script they have used for nearly three years: Engage in a choreographed campaign of presidential tweets, Fox News appearances and fiery congressional testimony to create expectations about finding proof of a “deep state” campaign against Mr. Trump. And then, when the proof does not emerge, skew the results and prepare for the next opportunity to execute the playbook.
Mazzetti gloated that Trump supporters had wagered on Horowitz and come up snake eyes:
But the report did not find a widespread, anti-Trump conspiracy inside the F.B.I., and it even contained damning information about how some agents working on the case hoped that Mr. Trump would win a surprise victory over Mrs. Clinton.
Law-and-order Mazzetti saw a “relentless, White House-led assault on America’s law enforcement machinery,” as if Republicans were attacking cops willy-nilly.
Inside, Scott Shane refreshingly reported on the discredited anti-Trump "dossier." Summarizing Horowitz, Shane was tough, though the online headline was soft: “Report Details Interactions Between F.B.I. and Dossier Author.” It made page 18 in Tuesday's paper.
After mentioning the “sensational claims that Mr. Trump was all but a Russian agent,” Shane pointed out the obvious, that Steele was being paid by a group working for the Clinton campaign (click “expand”):
Mr. Steele, for instance, told the agents at the Rome meeting that his reports were raw intelligence, not vetted information, and that a person passing some of the most important information to him was a “boaster” and “egotist” who might well “engage in some embellishment.”
But that alarming description never made it to the Justice Department, where officials were using some of Mr. Steele’s reports to support a secret court order authorizing surveillance on a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page.
It would get worse. The C.I.A., the F.B.I. learned, dismissed Mr. Steele’s reports as “internet rumor.” And when the F.B.I. investigators eventually interviewed the person described as Mr. Steele’s “primary subsource,” he claimed Mr. Steele’s reports had gone far beyond what he had been told.
If only that skepticism had surfaced when the dossier was tying the administration in scandal. Previously the paper noted “the respectable credentials of the British spy, Christopher Steele,” and gave the authors of the dubious dossier a do-over via op-ed.