NBC Slips, Wonders If Possible Russian ‘Engineering’ Stopped Dear Hillary from Winning?

All three major broadcast networks offered Monday morning coverage of the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia and the 2016 election, but it was NBC that swooned over Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff (Calif.) and offered a hilarious slip that the Russians may have prevented their dear Hillary Clinton from winning.

NBC’s special report began with Today co-hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie as Lauer brought in Justice correspondent Pete Williams, praising Schiff’s opening statement “laying out a very meticulous, detail-oriented case.”

Williams agreed, adding that Schiff “laid out a number of what he says are questions about contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russia and the question he wants to know is, was there any collusion.”

Next, Williams offered this glaring slip of how overwhelmingly Democratic the media is, fretting that the Russians could have interfered in the election to the point that they barred Clinton and the Democrats from winning:

Was there any engineering of the work by the Russians to undermine the election of Hillary Clinton? What he just said a moment ago, is could this all be a coincidence, the answer he said is yes, it could be, but he said there's equally information that these contacts are not unrelated. Now, we're told that both the FBI director and the director of the NSA Admiral Mike Rogers will have opening statements. 

Later in the morning, NBC brought on supposedly neutral analyst Jeremy Bash, who worked as an Obama administration official with Leon Panetta at the CIA and Department of Defense. Bash dismissed the questions by Republican members of the committee as purely partisan, attempting to deflect attention away from Russia toward news leaks by the intelligence community.

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“But again, the Republican strategy here from the chairman's opening statement down the Republican side of the aisle is to distract from the fundamental issue, which is was there collusion from the Trump inner circle and the Russian Federation and this is a major issue,” Bash hyped. 

Bash continued:

This is a foreign hostile power engaging in a covert campaign to throw the election to Donald Trump. Adam Schiff, the ranking member, laid out in a very detailed and meticulous way what the circumstantial case is, Comey confirmed and I think a stunning way the existence of the investigation, and now the Republican job on this committee is to talk about other issues. Leaks and other matters. 

Guthrie would admit seconds later that both sides play politics, but it’s clear that the gist of this discussion was to paint Republicans as partisan and Democrats as sober public servants (even though Schiff promulgated the unsubstantiated dossier pushed by BuzzFeed). This teed up Bash to reply:

And again, that's another political point that the President and his allies on Capitol Hill want to press, it's not something that the NSA director can really address and he said I'm really not the guy to talk about this. But again, the core issue here at this hearing is not about wiretapping, it's really not about leak. It's about those links between the Trump inner circle and the Russian Federation. Not just during the campaign but during the transition and the administration.

Exit question: For those that saw the hearing and how much Schiff promoted the dossier and the man behind it, do you think he may as well have talked about the document's more salacious details?

Here’s the relevant portions of the transcript from the NBC News Special Report on March 20:

NBC News Special Report
March 20, 2017
10:24 p.m. Eastern

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Two key questions to be answered potentially. Leading up to election, was there any collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials? Secondly, is there any evidence to support the President's claim that then-President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower? Two hot button issues all before us this morning. 

MATT LAUER: And the hearings begin with opening statements from Devin Nunes and now Adam Schiff, who you’re watching right here and we’ve got Pete Williams, our Justice correspondent, watching the proceedings so far. And Pete, as I bring you in Adam Schiff is laying out a very meticulous, detail-oriented case. 

PETE WILLIAMS: He is. He’s laid out a number of what he says are questions about contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russia and the question he wants to know is, was there any collusion? Was there any engineering of the work by the Russians to undermine the election of Hillary Clinton? What he just said a moment ago, is could this all be a coincidence, the answer he said is yes, it could be, but he said there's equally information that these contacts are not unrelated. Now, we're told that both the FBI director and the director of the NSA Admiral Mike Rogers will have opening statements. But, the tension here, Matt and Savannah, will be how much they can say in open session. Normally, these intelligence committee hearings go into closed session. But the members on both sides will want as much of this out in public as possible. 

(....)

10:46 p.m. Eastern

JEREMY BASH: Well, this dialogue between the committee and the NSA director is really about Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser. If you’ll recall, Savannah, he was discussing with Ambassador Kisylak Russian policy issues not during the campaign but after the election during the transition. For Republicans really to wall off the Trump administration from any of these critiques about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, they have to inoculate Flynn because he ended up in the White House and so, what they’re saying basically is who gave Mike Flynn's name to other people in the government and how did that get leaked to the press? They want to basically nail somebody inside government for leaking Flynn's name. 

LAUER: However, even if they get someone inside government for leaking that name, how does that, if at all, change the information that was gleaned from that surveillance? 

BASH: Oh, it doesn't substantively change it at all, but again, the Republican strategy here from the chairman's opening statement down the Republican side of the aisle is to distract from the fundamental issue, which is was there collusion from the Trump inner circle and the Russian Federation and this is a major issue, Matt. This is a foreign hostile power engaging in a covert campaign to throw the election to Donald Trump. Adam Schiff, the ranking member, laid out in a very detailed and meticulous way what the circumstantial case is, Comey confirmed and I think a stunning way the existence of the investigation, and now the Republican job on this committee is to talk about other issues. Leaks and other matters. 

LAUER: And by the way, we heard from chairman Devin Nunes, the first thing he wanted to hear from both of these witnesses was if there was Russian meddling, did it in any way impact votes that were cast in several key states that decided the outcome of the election.

BASH: And again, that's another political point that the President and his allies on Capitol Hill want to press, it's not something that the NSA director can really address and he said I'm really not the guy to talk about this. But again, the core issue here at this hearing is not about wiretapping, it's really not about leak. It's about those links between the Trump inner circle and the Russian Federation. Not just during the campaign but during the transition and the administration. 

GUTHRIE: Well, we're witnessing the age old bipartisan Washington practice of trying to get the focus on to the thing that you want it to be on. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center