On Thursday’s Morning Joe, the show’s liberal pundits continued their smear campaign targeting congressional lawmakers and journalists who have been trying to reveal the full extent of political bias within the FBI that may have adversely affected its investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Working with the knowledge that there is now an official congressional investigation into the FBI and DOJ’s conduct last year, co-host Joe Scarborough and his guest panelists went into overdrive to paint any questioning of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigative team’s professionalism as an illegitimate, desperate, and futile attempt to save Trump’s presidency. Former veteran NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw had some especially harsh words for Fox News’s recent coverage of FBI corruption, claiming that the network “is on a jihad right now” against Mueller and his agents.
For his part, Scarborough was satisfied with a slightly less theological analogy to attack congressional Republicans, who he compared to “monkeys throwing poo against the wall” for openly doubting Mueller’s handling of his investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion:
6:35 AM EST
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Alright, so listen, let me, let me just tell you, Republicans, children, um, you're, you’re out of your league. You’re playing way out of your league. Bob Mueller is several steps ahead of you. And you will destroy your majority for years to come. If you want to do it, your business. I think Americans would probably be comforted with you out of power for a very long time and your president with a 33% approval rating. Uh, but Michael Schmidt, I'm a little confused. I'm just a dumb country lawyer, but I thought this FBI, uh, was the same FBI we heard last week had warned Donald Trump during the campaign about the Russians trying to interfere with this campaign.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Yeah. I think that you can’t underestimate the impact that these disclosures about Pete Strzok, the top counterintelligence agent at the FBI with these text messages he was exchanging, it has really given the Republicans a talking point to attack the FBI in a way that they didn't have before. And it has really become the rallying cry and I think has encouraged them, enthused them, that maybe there is a way that they can undercut Mueller by continuing to attack this.
SCARBOROUGH: But, but, but Michael, help me out here. Help me out here. It seems to me that they're just throwing whatever they can like monkeys throwing poo against the wall. Last week, it was Textgate scandal. And then we found out actually that those texts were improperly released. And actually, they were attacking Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as well. That's okay, so they move on to something else. Like, what exactly is the scandal? They're, they’re just making things up every week.
Scarborough did not elaborate on what he meant by: “[W]e found out actually that those texts [...] were attacking Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton as well,” but he appeared to be conflating Strzok’s anti-Trump, anti-Sanders, and pro-Clinton texts, which have been the big story for the past couple of weeks, with another story about New York FBI agents disparaging both Clinton and Trump. As Vanity Fair has reported [emphasis mine]:
As the biggest of the bureau’s outposts, handling many of its headline cases, New York is particularly possessive of its investigations. There’s no evidence, however, that its agents dragged their feet on reviewing Weiner’s laptop in order to force Comey to act—or of its bias toward either of the 2016 presidential candidates. The New York field office held Clinton and Trump in nearly equal disdain. “In 2016, the New York agents thought Hillary is corrupt and Trump is crazy—he’s in New York and they know him well,” a top veteran of the city’s office said. “So in the primary there was a majority of agents for Bernie Sanders.”
Given the fact that Peter Strzok, the lead investigator of Hillary Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified information as Secretary of State, hated Trump, hated Sanders, and wanted Clinton to win the election, it stands to reason that this political bias could have tainted Strzok’s judgement. According to reporting by CNN, there is already concrete evidence to suggest that Strzok’s feelings were not properly kept separate from his investigation [emphasis mine]:
A former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, now at the center of a political uproar for exchanging private messages that appeared to mock President Donald Trump, changed a key phrase in former FBI Director James Comey's description of how former secretary of state Hillary Clinton handled classified information, according to US officials familiar with the matter.
Electronic records show Peter Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey's earlier draft language describing Clinton's actions as "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," the sources said.
The shift from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," which may appear pedestrian at first glance, reflected a decision by the FBI that could have had potentially significant legal implications, as the federal law governing the mishandling of classified material establishes criminal penalties for "gross negligence."
Hey Joe, if you’re curious about what exactly the scandal is, you don’t have to tune in to watch monkeys flinging poop at anybody. You can just watch CNN.
Thursday’s Morning Joe did not get any better when New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters came on to spread outright disinformation about criticisms of Mueller and the FBI:
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, Jeremy Peters, talk about the discomfort on the Hill that some senior Republicans have at some of the more junior members attacking the men and women at the FBI and going after an American war hero, um, Bob Mueller. Um, talk about the discomfort that some Republicans are feeling.
PETERS: Well, what they'll say to you privately, Joe, is the same thing they said after Trump's attacks on Judge Curiel, that this is an unwarranted and, really, constitutionally dangerous attack by somebody on an independent branch of government, an independent entity in the government. It’s, and it’s -- and it violates the separations that are supposed to exist. You know, to Susan’s point about Mueller and how he doesn't care, that may be true, but you know who else doesn't care? Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is living in a world right now that is fed by the conservative media hysteria over Bob Mueller and his alleged ties to Democrats, the attorneys who work for him who donated to Democrats. This has been a narrative that has built up on a single cable news network and in the conservative radio sphere over the last several months, that is: This man cannot be trusted. He is politically tainted and therefore unable to objectively investigate the President, that this is a witch hunt. And that -- and Donald Trump marinates in that all day long. He hears it on Hannity. He hears it on Laura Ingraham. He -- in, in, in Breitbart. I mean, it is, it -- inescapable for him. And it's hard for me to imagine that eventually that doesn't affect his thinking and his judgment.
Peters committed at least three major errors of fact that I can pick out.
First, neither the FBI nor the Justice Department are independent branches or entities within the federal government. Both the FBI and the Justice Department are constitutionally subordinate to the President because they fall under his executive authority to oversee federal law enforcement. Because of the President’s decision to fire James Comey earlier this year, some legal commentators have suggested changing this aspect of the structure of the executive branch.
Second, “conservative media” have not been the only ones to scrutinize Mueller and the FBI’s conduct. Fox News and Breitbart have certainly focused on stories about FBI corruption more than other news establishments, but the L.A. Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, Business Insider, and many more politically diverse outlets have contributed important reporting as well.
Third, Mueller’s ties to Democrats are not “alleged.” The Special Counsel’s own office has provided information to reporters confirming that most of Mueller’s legal team have made political contributions to Democratic candidates, including “three [who] gave a total of $18,100 to either [Hillary Clinton’s] 2016 campaign or her 2008 run for the presidential nomination.”
If there is really nothing to be worried about regarding allegations of political bias at the FBI or among Mueller’s legal team, why did Peters have to repeatedly lie about easily verifiable facts?
Near the end of the second hour of Joe’s broadcast, Brokaw finally came on to discuss the issues of the day with Mika Brzezinski, which included his designation of Fox News as a jihadi network:
BROKAW: Uh, John, it's very hard for me to predict what either party would do under almost any circumstance these days because there's very little history. I would say that the FBI in the judgment of most people in this country still is one of our most valued institutions and Mueller's reputation across the board has [sic] enormous amount of integrity.
BRZEZINSKI: The President just tweeted, Tom – I just want your reaction here – “Was @foxandfriends just named the most influential show in news? You deserve it - three great people! The many Fake News Hate Shows” could “study your formula for success!” Tom?
BROKAW: Well, he watches Fox News because it reinforces what he believes. And, Fox News, after Shepard Smith in the late afternoon, is on a jihad right now on the whole question about whether there's a fairness about this or not, the transfer of uranium, for example, to, um, Ira-, to Iran. Shep Smith has gone in some detail to say: It did not happen. She didn't have the authority to do that. That ends at 4:30 or 5:00 or whenever he gets off the air, and then from then on,-
BRZEZINSKI: What happens?
BROKAW: -the whole assault is on the institutions. I mean, Newt Gingrich, looking into the,-
BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] Through Fox?
BROKAW: -looking -- Newt Gingrich was looking into the camera and saying the FBI is a corrupt organization. Right? Three months earlier, he had said Bob Mueller is one of the great distinguished public servants that we have. So, we're at, you know, we’re at war here and it's gonna be sorted out in the final analysis.
Amazingly enough, today was not the first instance of Brokaw flippantly comparing conservative media to jihadis. Back in 2003, speaking before the National Press Club, Brokaw complained that watchdog groups like NewsBusters were “suffocating discourse” and “encouraging a kind of e-mail or telephonic jihad [...] under the guise of promoting fair press coverage.”