What Does “Everyone Know”?

As the Weinstein case makes clear, there are things that “everyone knows” but are kept hidden from the public, usually because of the power of the individuals involved. Everyone apparently knew that Weinstein was a sexual predator. Everyone knew that Fox News was a cesspool of sexual harassment. But no one was told. As Ronan Farrow pointed out, these people are only exposed when their power is weakened, as is apparently the case with Weinstein, or when confronted by an almost equally powerful and courageous woman, as was the case with Gretchen Carlson and Fox.

The gulf between what everyone knows and what the media can report is even wider. As Michelle Dean tweets, “Before I began reporting, I did not know there was a vast but important gulf between what a journalist ‘knows’ and what they can print.” But the press does try to leave breadcrumbs along the way to help astute readers know there is a hidden story that can not be told. Everyone knew that most of the GOP caucus in Congress believes that Trump is unstable and unfit for office. And the press would certainly hint around that fact by taking about GOP “frustration” with the White House and the “distractions” that Trump created. But it was not until Bob Corker came right out and said it, and made sure the NY Times understood and recorded what he was saying, that the media “allowed” to let the floodgates open and let us know what “everyone knew”.

The reasons for this gulf are manifold. A large part of it has to do with protecting sources, especially those that will only speak off-the-record. Maintaining access is certainly another large part. And, for the responsible press, it is hard to detail what apparently “everyone knows” without at least one person being on the record. Maybe it is just my own biases, or perhaps even wishes, but I get a certain sense that the media “knows” that the Russians had some help from inside the US in targeting their hacking of the 2016 election. There are clear hints of coordination coming from multiple media sources. Almost every story about the the Russian use of social media platforms contains some form of conjecture about whether people with deep knowledge of the American political landscape would be needed to mount these sophisticated campaigns. That is the obvious question but it also lays the groundwork for the answer.

The strongest on-the-record statement that I have heard came from Senator Jeff Merkley on Ari Melber’s show last week where he said that it was “very likely” that the Russians had help from Americans in targeting their hacking efforts. When Melber rephrased Merkley’s statement by saying that the question was no long whether there was collusion but whether the collusion was done by either the Trump campaign or other Americans not affiliated with the campaign, Merkley did not disagree, only reaffirming his statement that is was very likely the Russians had American help. I thought this this statement would at least create some news but it was largely ignored, probably because Merkley does not sit on the Intelligence Committee. He is, however, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and, more importantly, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership as chief deputy whip.

Although perhaps not specifically related to the issue of collusion, there were two important new developments in the Russian investigation. The recused House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes resurfaced again to once again interfere in the investigation he is supposedly not participating in. Nunes unilaterally subpoenaed, without consultation with Democrats or apparently notification to the rest of the committee, Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled the infamous Russian dossier. The reason for the subpoena is unclear as Fusion’s head had testified willingly for hours just days ago.

This is not the first time that Nunes has interfered to pursue the Russian dossier. Earlier he unilaterally sent two committee staffers to London to try to interview the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele. Nunes sole job is obviously to carry water for the White House but his motivation is unclear. Are his ham-handed efforts a way to slow down cooperation between Fusion, Steele, and the investigators? Or are there clear errors in the dossier and getting Fusion and Steele on record will help the White House “expose” them as liars?

Lastly, the most vocal and talkative of all of Trump’s Russian connections, the oddball Carter Page, has unsurprisingly clammed up now that he is threatened with having to say something under oath. Page has indicated that he will not cooperate with the Senate Intelligence Committee and is saying he will plead the Fifth if he is forced to testify. Gee, I wonder what could be so incriminating that Page would feel the need to plead the Fifth.

Obviously, I have no direct information whether there was coordination with the Russians or not. And it may be that there will never be enough evidence to prove it one way or the other. There is direct evidence that shows Republicans used material hacked by Russians to gain advantage. But maybe I am following imaginary breadcrumbs down a dead-end path. However, I get the sense that there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to show that it did. And lots of people in the media “know it”.

Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on October 11, 2017.