MSNBC Dismisses White House Syria Warning as ‘Political Move,’ ‘Wag the Dog’

During a panel discussion in the 9 a.m. ET hour on Tuesday, MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle argued that the White House warning of the Syrian regime possibly preparing to launch another chemical weapons attack against its own people was nothing more that a “political move” to distract people from the Republican health care bill.

Turning to political analysts Elise Jordan and Jason Johnson, Ruhle ranted: “On some level can we construe this as political, why the White House would want to put this information out?...And here we are at a very difficult moment with a possible vote on the health care bill that the President kind of seems to want to distance himself from.” She asked: “Is releasing this kind of information a political move?”

Jordan agreed and alleged that the administration “flagrantly lies”:

And he certainly is quite troubled right now domestically. The problem is, who can differentiate what’s political and what’s a national security threat because this White House has such a credibility gap? And this is the problem with a White House that flagrantly lies so frequently that we don’t know when they are telling the truth and when we should be genuinely concerned.

Johnson went even further, asserting that the warning was simply invented for political convenience: “This is wag the dog. I mean, I’m sorry.... This seems really vague....We need more. So it just screams wag the dog, it screams politics to me. It doesn’t seem like a national security issue yet.”

Ruhle derisively added: “And today the President is screaming about fake news.”

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The discussion came immediately after Pentagon Correspondent Hans Nichols reported on the Defense Department providing corroborating details to back up the statement from the White House:

Just in the last few minutes, Stephanie, we have some details here from the Pentagon that can flush that warning out that was delivered by Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary. And what Pentagon officials are telling us is that in the last 24 hours, the evidence that they saw, the intel that they saw, was more compelling, that’s a quote from Captain Jeff Davis on the record, saying that they saw strongly suggestive evidence that Syria, the Assad regime, was potentially – potentially, I hedge –  preparing for another chemical weapons attack. Now, this was at the same airfield that the U.S. struck with those 59 Tomahawk missiles on April the 7th....they’re saying they’ve seen this evidence, it’s more compelling in the last 24 hours, and that this is the first time that they’ve really seen this kind of activity since the April 7th strike.

This biased discussion was brought to viewers by Johnson’s, Angie’s List, and Choice Hotels.

Here is a transcript of the June 27 segment:

9:10 AM ET

(...)

STEPHANIE RUHLE: There’s another major story we’re following, it’s an extraordinary one. This ominous and unexpected warning from the White House aimed at Syria. And I want to go straight to the Pentagon and NBC’s Hans Nichols. Hans, what exactly can you tell us about this? We get this extraordinary warning about Syria, yet when I look at the President’s Twitter handle this morning, he’s all about tweeting fake news, promoting books of TV anchors. I’m so confused, because a warning about Syria is massively disturbing.

HANS NICHOLS: It’s an ominous warning, you’re correct on that. Just in the last few minutes, Stephanie, we have some details here from the Pentagon that can flush that warning out that was delivered by Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary. And what Pentagon officials are telling us is that in the last 24 hours, the evidence that they saw, the intel that they saw, was more compelling, that’s a quote from Captain Jeff Davis on the record, saying that they saw strongly suggestive evidence that Syria, the Assad regime, was potentially – potentially, I hedge –  preparing for another chemical weapons attack. Now, this was at the same airfield that the U.S. struck with those 59 Tomahawk missiles on April the 7th.

And the activity that they saw, which included aircraft, they wouldn’t go as far to say they saw these munitions being loaded on to the aircraft, but Stephanie, this was in the same shelter that the U.S. hit, partially struck, back on April 7th. This is a shelter where they think they store chemical munitions, not just sarin gas, a whole range of gas. And what they’re saying here, the Pentagon this morning, I’ll contrast that with what they said last night. But this morning they’re saying they’ve seen this evidence, it’s more compelling in the last 24 hours, and that this is the first time that they’ve really seen this kind of activity since the April 7th strike.

Now, let me rewind 12 hours, Stephanie. When we first got this statement from the press secretary, no one that we normally talk to here at the Pentagon, elsewhere within defense agencies, had any sense that this was coming and they were taken aback by it. This morning, they’re providing a little more details on what they know and why they put out this warning. Stephanie?

RUHLE: Extraordinary, this fresh new reporting a contrast to what we heard last night. On some level can we construe this as political, why the White House would want to put this information out? Because if you remember, President Trump’s reaction to Syria was a huge win for him that got bipartisan support across the board. And here we are at a very difficult moment with a possible vote on the health care bill that the President kind of seems to want to distance himself from. Is releasing this kind of information a political move?

ELISE JORDAN: Well, it’s a huge deal to, you know, mention a preemptive strike on Syria. And he certainly is quite troubled right now domestically. The problem is, who can differentiate what’s political and what’s a national security threat because this White House has such a credibility gap? And this is the problem with a White House that flagrantly lies so frequently that we don’t know when they are telling the truth and when we should be genuinely concerned.

JASON JOHNSON: This is wag the dog. I mean, I’m sorry, but the Pentagon, even last time, when they sent the 59 Tomahawk missiles, there was much more specificity. This seems really vague. They’re not clear, they say they’re preparing to think about possibly having a committee to release chemical weapons. We need more. So it just screams wag the dog, it screams politics to me. It doesn’t seem like a national security issue yet.

RUHLE: And today the President is screaming about fake news.

(...)

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