I’m guessing that Howie Kurtz doesn’t spend as much on grooming as Michael Wolff does. And he likely will never have Hillary Clinton read from his book at the Grammy Awards. But if I had to decide which book – Kurtz’s Media Madness or Wolff’s Fire and Fury – has better journalistic standards, it wouldn’t even be close.

And it might be that now-former-although-not-quite-yet-retired-due-to-pension-considerations Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe agrees with me. He has announced his retirement on the Monday after portions of Media Madness suggested he was possibly part of an entrapment scheme involving then White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus back about a year ago in February 2017. Ok, actually McCabe’s on “terminal leave” effective immediately until he official retires in mid-March when he becomes eligible for a full pension. So what does Kurtz’s book say about McCabe that seems to have precipitated in part at least his sudden “terminal leave.”

According to Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist, here’s how Kurtz’s book detailed how the scheme/process worked.

  • McCabe drops by the White House around February, 2017 to tell Priebus that a NYTimes and by extension a related CNN story on supposed contacts between Trump aides and Russian Intelligence agents were false or “bulls–t.”
  • Priebus apparently pointed to the TV screens which were obviously carrying the story 24-7 and asked if the FBI would publicly make some sort of statement to the same effect as what McCabe had just told Priebus personally.
  • McCabe said he’d check to see what was possible and left. He then called later to say that he couldn’t comply with Priebus’ request.
  • Director Comey then phoned a while later to say he couldn’t publicly say anything directly but that he would brief the Senate Intelligence Committee on the matter who would apparently then release the information that the FBI considered the NYT/CNN story false.
  • About a week later a story broke on CNN that the FBI had turned down a request by Priebus to “knock down” the story on Trump aides meeting with Russian intel agents. The contents of the leaked story suggested that the FBI leaker had intimate knowledge of the conversation McCabe had with Priebus the week before. The story strongly suggested that Priebus had initiated the conversation and was possibly guilty of obstruction of justice.
  • In June, Comey testified before Congress that the original NYT story was “not true.”
  • The NYT insisted their sources in the FBI confirmed the story.

As Mollie Hemingway puts it:

There seems to be a disparity between what FBI officials tell reporters under the cloak of anonymity and what they admit under oath or to those more knowledgeable of the matters at hand.

And she adds this:

As Comey admitted under oath he did tell President Trump three times that Trump was not under investigation. These private statements to Trump occurred while Comey publicly insinuated the opposite. This story above fits the same pattern.

Partisan operatives in or close to the FBI communicated snippets of information with reporters who didn’t demand proof or substantiation, then FBI officials denied to White House officials who knew the facts that they were seeding that information, then officials suggested that White House operatives were obstructing justice by asking for the truth to out.

And yes, she’s right that this is a pattern of behavior that should worry the media, or that they should at least focus on as an important story. But how can they if they are a crucial link in the above pattern, and this undermines their already tattered credibility?

It isn’t that the media shouldn’t rely on anonymous sources. That’s impossible in Washington D.C. unfortunately. You could argue that former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt played Woodward and Bernstein for his own reasons which may have had to do with personal ambition more than any sense of anger at Nixon’s campaign team crimes. But Woodward and Bernstein did a little legwork of their own, let’s say.

In the current case, however, where these journalists take the information without confirming or researching on their own, we are seeing a dangerous precedent. It’s the outsourcing of journalism to advocacy and lobby and other interest groups. Has this been happening for some time? Of course. Have previous GOP governments/politicians benefited from this? Of course they have.

But the McCabe story seems to cross a line where now the FBI is baiting and trapping White House officials who they are supposed to be working with and even working for, rather than setting up obstruction of justice charges against them by means of duplicitous schemes with the connivance of a compliant media intent on being part of the #Resistance without realizing you still have to be a journalist, even if you hate the guy in the Oval Office.

So, is McCabe a little worn out by all this and merely needs a well-deserved rest as he’s been signaling to the media for a few weeks now? Or is he distancing himself from the FBI just as Nunes memo looks set to be released, and just as Kurtz’s book paints a disturbing picture of some of his actions over the past year or so?

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