ObamaGate: What Each Side is Saying

Robert Brooks Contributor
ObamaGate: What Each Side is Saying
Read Time: approx. 2:13

Cover: Feb. 17, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama, accompanied by members of Congress and middle school children, waves as he talks on the phone from the Roosevelt Room of the White House to astronauts on the International Space Station.

ObamaGate, Explained: The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released over 50 transcripts of closed-door interviews conducted in the course of its probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Stay with us here, because even the release of the transcripts was covered differently by both sides.

On the rightLee Smith of the New York Post blames Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff for the delayed release. Lee writes that, “acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell forced Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff’s hand. If the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee didn’t release the transcripts of 53 interviews from the committee’s Russia collusion investigations, then he’d do it himself. The transcripts, many of them from nearly three years ago, were declassified and ready for public viewing since June.”

On the left, reporting from Molly Finnegan of PBS News claims it was the other way around. Finnegan reports that it was actually Schiff who sent a letter to Grenell blaming him and the ODNI for the “excessive delay” and that it was stalled by “improper political inference by the White House.”

Before we go any further, let’s just pause and think about how ridiculous this is: two different outlets are reporting two different stories about how… transcripts were released? No wonder the American public is confused, angry, and fed up with Washington and the reporters who cover The Hill. Regardless, these transcripts include interviews with names that have been plastered all over cable TV stations during the past four years. There are key members of the Trump team and President Donald Trump’s family, including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, Brad Parscale and Carter Page. The panel also interviewed top officials from the Obama administration including James Clapper, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Andrew McCabe and Loretta Lynch. Interviews from the second group, gave rise to what President Trump has since called ObamaGate. Confused yet? It’s a lot, but here is what both sides are saying.

On the Right: Conservative outlets and voices say that the transcripts “show exactly what you’d expect them to show: None of the former Obama administration officials who took to the airwaves immediately after Trump’s election to claim collusion had any evidence of it,” Lee Smith continues in his piece for the New York Post. For example, Obama’s director of national intelligence, and CNN analyst, James Clapper said, “I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election.” Lee and others argue that “once-prestigious press organizations, including CNN as well as MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post, weren’t fooled by the collusion hoax. They were an essential part of it.” In summary, ObamaGate, from the right’s perspective, highlights how even though all we’ve heard about over the past four years is that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, there was no “direct empirical evidence” in the words of James Clapper, and worse yet, the media helped fan the flames.

On the Left: Democrats and left-leaning outlets focus their reporting more on interviews from President Trump’s inner circle. CNN writes about Hope Hicks, who left her White House job the day after her House interview, saying that, “while she hadn’t lied about matters related to the Russia investigation she did tell ‘white lies’ for the President.” CNN also emphasizes that, “the committee voted almost two years ago, in September 2018, to release the interview transcripts that were made public Thursday,” but that they have been held up by Grenell and the White House before being released. Another major talking point from the left is that “Trump is peddling ‘Obamagate,’ [but] struggles to explain what it is,” as Steve Benen of MSNBC writes. Benen says that Trump’s unhealthy obsession with his predecessor is certainly part of the problem. It’s also likely that this is part of a 2020 electoral strategy: Trump is running against Obama’s former vice president, so he has an added incentive to try to smear the former Democratic administration.

Flag This: No normal American has time to sift through everything above. We only do it because we’re so fed up with mainstream media outlets, that we feel like someone has to attempt to untangle the mess. Here’s the thing, the business model thrives off confusion. When people are confused, what do they do? Keep clicking. More clicks, equals more page views. Clicks and views, equals revenue. It’s a shameful display by the right and left leaning outlets, both of which have dragged our country through the mud over the past four years in order to disorient, distract, and demoralize. If you’re as fed up with the coverage as we are here’s a challenge for you. Reach out to someone who disagrees with you about any topic–maybe even this one. Make no mention of politics or the specific story, just let them know you’re thinking of them during these turbulent times. While the media attempts to pull us apart, the only way to push back is by banding together, even with those who hold opposing views. If not the divide will grow, along with the media company’s bottom lines.