Mainstream media can fuss all it wants. Conservative media has no obligation to join its hysterics.
Amid widespread accusations that President Trump has committed serious acts of misconduct, including leaking classified intelligence to the Russians and obstructing an FBI investigation, some members of the press are irate that conservative media is hesitant to join in with the mob and measure the length of rope needed to hang a president.
The editorial board of USA Today claims that conservative media would be “clamoring for investigations, if not impeachment” had “President Hillary Clinton” been accused of doing the things President Trump is accused of doing.
“Had Clinton been elected and done a 10th of the things Trump has done, the calls from the right for her removal would be deafening, louder even than the ‘lock her up’ shouts during the presidential campaign,” USA Today writes. The editorial board accuses Republicans and conservatives of “trying to make excuses” for the president.
There’s certainly truth to the claim that conservative media would be outraged had Clinton done the things President Trump is accused of doing. But the demand for outrage now from USA Today and others is completely inappropriate.
The mainstream media’s criticism of Republicans and conservative media rings hollow because it is tainted by hypocrisy. Consider USA Today’s list of grievances against the president.
Trump's disclosure of classified intelligence would put anyone but a president in legal jeopardy. He has harmed national security by raising questions among allies about whether they should cooperate with the United States and trust America to keep secrets. And he has used the powers of the presidency to attempt to impede a credible investigation into how he came to be president.
The fact is that Hillary Clinton did effectively disclose classified intelligence to foreign entities by illegally putting it on an unsecured private email server that was subsequently hacked. That is not an allegation; it is an established fact. And Clinton was actually put in legal jeopardy for her mishandling of that information. A criminal investigation was opened against Clinton. The current FBI investigation of President Trump’s associates is a foreign intelligence investigation. Andrew C. McCarthy makes this crucial distinction for National Review. Did Democrats and the mainstream media generate a tenth of the outrage against Clinton that they have against Trump?
No. Democrats in Congress shrugged off the allegations and the criminal investigation against Secretary Clinton as part of a partisan witch hunt. In fact, they defended Clinton’s use of a private email server. There was no Republican willing to defend President Trump after the Comey memo report. Democrats went out of their way time and again to defend Clinton from the facts — and there were no mainstream editorial boards condemning the Democratic Party in 2016.
Indeed, after FBI Director James Comey made a convincing case for indicting Clinton – and rewrote the statute Clinton broke to avoid prosecuting her – the issue of Clinton’s criminal incompetence was largely laid to rest in the mainstream media until the case was reopened with much fanfare on October 28, 2016. The Republicans and members of conservative media who kept raising the issue were accused of partisanship, as was Comey himself after the case was reopened.
The allegations that President Trump shared classified information with the Russians have been flatly denied by several credible sources, most notably Trump’s national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, who claims he was in the room with Trump when the alleged intel was discussed.
To expect more outrage from conservative media over allegations that Trump disclosed classified intelligence when the mainstream media ignored facts that show Hillary Clinton actually did reeks of a double standard.
What about harming national security by spilling secrets from our allies?
Again, those allegations against Trump are unproven. However, we know that President Obama’s administration leaked secret information about Israeli military operations against Iran. His administration also leaked classified information about Israeli military operations in Syria. Where was the mainstream media’s outrage then? Where were the accusations that President Obama was raising questions among our allies about whether they could trust America to keep their secrets?
Put aside the blatant hypocrisy of the mainstream media. Conservative media ought nevertheless to be concerned with the allegations against President Trump.
But did Trump use “the powers of the presidency to attempt to impede a credible investigation into how he came to be president,” as USA Today and so many others claim? That is far from verified.
The allegation that President Trump asked FBI Director Comey to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn originated from a New York Times report of a memo that Comey allegedly wrote after a conversation with the president. Yet the Times writers admitted in their report that they have not actually seen the memo.
Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
And despite confirmation from NBC, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Associated Press, at minimum, the full text of the memo has not been released, let alone seen by these outlets.
First, until a copy of this memo is made public, there is no way to verify that President Trump made this request to Director Comey. Reporting Trump’s alleged comments as established, public fact goes much too far. It is an injustice.
Second, a request from Trump to Comey to look for “a clear way to letting this go” because Flynn “is a good guy” and the president hopes he can be cut some slack hardly amounts to obstruction of an ongoing investigation. Is the request improper? It seems so on the surface. Does it amount to an impeachable offense? There are not enough details to draw that conclusion.
If the truth is anywhere close to the allegation of obstruction, why didn’t Director Comey immediately go to Congress? Why didn’t the FBI director immediately resign? Others have raised these questions, appropriately, because the entire country needs more information before jumping to a conclusion about the president’s guilt or innocence. Conservative media has no business participating in a trial in the court of media hysterics, by a jury of leftist journalists.
So, what now? The allegations are serious enough to demand action from Congress. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has already requested “all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communications between Comey and the President.”
Director Comey should also give sworn testimony before Congress, and he should be asked squarely if President Trump ever attempted or gave the impression of attempting to obstruct the investigation into Michael Flynn or any of the FBI’s foreign intelligence investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Only then, when the media has answers to these important questions, is analysis appropriate regarding what action, if any, should be taken. If a congressional subpoena finds that this memo exists, if it confirms that President Trump attempted to obstruct an FBI investigation into one of his associates and later fired the FBI director who refused his request, then expect the reaction from conservative media to be every bit as intense.
The responsibility of conservative media, of all news media, is to seek the truth and present it as best we can. It is not to compete for the gold medal in the Speculation Olympics because of allegations stemming from a word-of-mouth report of a memo that no one has read.
USA Today and the rest of the mainstream media should pretend that Trump is Clinton.
If there were no findings that suggest wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton, if there was still no evidence of collusion between Clinton and the Russians, would USA Today and the rest of the mainstream media declare Clinton absolved of wrongdoing and move on? Of course they would, in the same way they dismissed the real-life evidence of Clinton’s wrongdoing.
If President Trump has indeed acted wrongly, he should not be excused the way Clinton was by the mainstream media. But the president should not be condemned by the press, either, until there is more evidence than a note read over the phone. Let Congress hold hearings. Let these alleged memos be subpoenaed. Let the truth come to light.
It’s time for the mainstream media and Democratic lawmakers to stop speculating and give the American people the courtesy of the truth.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.