‘Hardball’ Panel: GOP’s FBI Questions Are ‘Destroying’ America Using the ‘McCarthy Playbook’

For the second straight day, MSNBC’s Hardball dismissed any and all Republican questions on Wednesday about bias inside the FBI as modern-day McCarthyism that’s a smoke screen “destroying” and “hurting” America.

Host Chris Matthews predictably set the tone, referring to Republicans such as Senator Ron Johnson (Wisc.) as “toadies” being ordered by the White House to “go out there and kick up some dust, make up anything you can, do anything to deflect or distract or discredit from Bob Mueller because they think trouble is coming.”

 

 

Liberal journalist and Wall Street Journal correspondent Eli Stokols agreed, dubbing the text messages and secret society talk a “hysteria” that’s “straight out of the old sort of McCarthy playbook.”

Stokols dismissed the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page texts as only “joking about holding some sort of secret meeting” and containing “no actual evidence, at this point, that there is some secret society FBI agents meeting in the wings.”

Matthews also mocked the idea of any secret group, arguing that “[y]ou don't call something secret society,” “don’t talk about” it, or “reference” it. He admitted that Johnson seems “intelligent enough to be a senator,” but that drew skepticism from far-left Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart.

Capehart then uncorked a rant seeking to delegitimize any questioning of the FBI (or, by extension, Mueller):

Senator Johnson should know better. If indeed there is a secret society, then he, as a member of the Senate, should make that charge in a hearing....have them come and speak before the American people in a Senate hearing and talk about the secret society. What he's doing is undermining the legitimacy of the FBI, the Justice Department, and just people's faith in our institutions....They're trying to create fog and they're doing something that they think is going to help them with short-term game — gain, but in the long-term, they are destroying, they are hurting this country. 

“They’re trying to muddy the waters to ensure whatever Bob Mueller comes up with that they will be able to say, we can't trust this because fill in the blank. But it is my hope that the American people will take a look at whatever Bob Mueller comes up with...and hopefully realize that the people who have been going on television and going on radio and spouting this nonsense have...been spouting nonsense,” Capehart added.

Liberal Republican and Deadline: White House host Nicolle Wallace also weighed in on the “fog” analogy, stating that there’s “something more sinister” at play that could be “political suicide” for “the entire Republican Party brand...to smear and assassinate the character of the entire FBI over text messages between two agents who were having affair who disparaged — the one of them disparaged everyone.”

Here’s the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on January 24: 

MSNBC’s Hardball
January 24, 2018
7:09 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: These toadies are amazing. Eli, let me ask you and then Jonathan, it seems like the Republican call to arms now is go out there and kick up some dust, make up anything you can, do anything to deflect or distract or discredit from Bob Mueller because they think trouble is coming. 

ELI STOKOLS: Right. That is why they are creating that hysteria that you just saw in the clip about secret societies and the deep state. This is straight out of the old sort of McCarthy playbook.

(....)

STOKOLS: I mean, but it is remarkable. I mean, you’re talking about Johnson says secret society and they say, oh, I’m just quoting the text. Well, viewed in context, what we've seen of those texts between Strzok and Page, they look to be joking about holding some sort of secret meeting.

MATTHEWS: Yeah.

STOKOLS: There is no actual evidence, at this point, that there is some secret society FBI agents meeting in the wings. You look at the composite picture of these texts messages. They show two people who had a lot of opinions about a lot of things. They were just as disparaging to Hillary Clinton as they were to Donald Trump. 

MATTHEWS: Really? Okay.

STOKOLS: They were talking about joining the Mueller investigation. Strzok was quoted as saying something to the effect of I don't even think there's a there there. So, these are not people out there with some vendetta and an axe to grind against Trump and yet, that is the portrayal from the people who are trying to protect. 

MATTHEWS: Okay, can I just ask a question in basic English. You don't call something secret society. You don't talk about a secret society. You don’t reference a secret. If it's secret, you don't talk about it — that the idea this senator, who’s obviously intelligent enough to be a senator. 

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Really?

MATTHEWS: You question me? Okay. Fair enough. 

CAPEHART: No and I’d —

MATTHEWS: Why would he say it really is a secret society?

CAPEHART: — say it like that, Chris, because Senator Johnson should know better. If indeed there is a secret society, then he, as a member of the Senate, should make that charge in a hearing. Bring that mole or whatever he called that person in, put a black screen in front of them, disguise their voice, but have them come and speak before the American people in a Senate hearing and talk about the secret society. What he's doing is undermining the legitimacy of the FBI, the Justice Department, and just people's faith in our institutions. They’re — you're right. They're trying to create fog and they're doing something that they think is going to help them with short-term game — gain, but in the long-term, they are destroying, they are hurting this country. 

MATTHEWS: Do you agree with Eli that the best surmise here is that they're afraid something really bad is coming and —

CAPEHART: Oh, absolutely. I think they believe something bad is coming. They’re trying to muddy the waters to ensure whatever Bob Mueller comes up with that they will be able to say, we can't trust this because fill in the blank. But it is my hope that the American people will take a look at whatever Bob Mueller comes up with, go into it with an open mind, read it, and come to their own conclusions and hopefully realize that the people who have been going on television and going on radio and spouting this nonsense have indeed been spouting — been spouting nonsense. 

(....)

MATTHEWS: Do you think, if you talk to Republicans, are they admitting they're putting fog up there?

NICOLLE WALLACE: I think it's something more sinister and I think it has — it really has the potential to break apart the very coalition that elected Donald Trump. If you remember, that convention speech that Donald Trump gave in Cleveland, it was so shocking because it had at its center law and order. That was the theme of his candidacy. The FBI just as an institution is sort of center-right. They're mostly libertarians. The agents, in question, they hated every politician. There were anti-Bernie messages, anti-Chelsea Clinton messages, anti-Eric Holder messages, anti-Loretta Lynch messages. The fact the Republicans have put the entire Republican Party brand on the line to smear and assassinate the character of the entire FBI over text messages between two agents who were having affair who disparaged — the one of them disparaged everyone is political suicide.

NB Daily FBI Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe MSNBC Hardball Video Robert Mueller McCarthyism Chris Matthews Jonathan Capehart Nicolle Wallace Ron Johnson Peter Strzok
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