Here’s Why the Russia Story Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon
Despite no evidence of any Trump-Moscow link, mainstream media are determined to keep pushing the narrative that won't die
Like Bigfoot and UFOs, the Russia narrative is alive and well in the national media, despite a continuing lack of evidence of “collusion” between Moscow and the Trump campaign. But don’t expect to stop hearing prominent liberal journalists chanting to each other over and over, “Russia, Collusion, Trump.”
This became clear Wednesday when President Donald Trump was again peppered with Russia-related queries from the assembled journalists, queries that sounded remarkably like those posed to him a year ago.
Back on Feb. 16, 2017, Trump held his first — and thus far last — formal news conference with the press corps. Reporters crammed into the East Room of the White House, eager to ask questions of the new chief executive.
Question after question dealt with Russia, beginning with the first one, from NPR's Mara Liasson, which was indirectly about Russia and how the issue entangled former national security adviser Michael Flynn. He had been fired the day before for misleading Vice President Mike Pence regarding a phone call Flynn made to Russia's ambassador to the United States.
Trump took the opportunity then to blast the media for their almost nonstop fixation on the issue of so-called Russian collusion.
"And, you know, you can talk all you want about Russia, which was all a — you know, fake news, fabricated deal — to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats and the press plays right into it," said Trump. "It's all fake news. It's all fake news."
The second question a year ago was also about Russia, and whether or not people on Trump's campaign spoke to the Russian government or Russian intelligence, presumably to collect information on Democrat Hillary Clinton or perhaps hacked emails. In total, Russia or Russian officials were mentioned 57 times by the journalists and Trump in his responses.
A month before that February 2017 press conference, BuzzFeed published the now-discredited "Trump dossier." The White House press corps and major outlets were in a frenzy to get to the bottom of the so-called Russian collusion issue, a narrative pushed by Democrats and other assorted foes of Trump.
Now fast-forward to Trump's joint press conference this past Wednesday in the East Room with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Trump usually takes two questions from U.S. journalists when he has a joint news conference with a foreign head of state.
These are not formal news conferences where reporters get lots of questions — but they are opportunities for a couple of members of the White House press corps to ask Trump about the issues of the day.
And what was Trump asked about? Russia. What's perhaps surprising is who was asking: Both John Roberts of Fox News and Sarah Westwood of the Washington Examiner raised the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. No matter how often Trump insists the issue is "fake news," the media can't stop asking about Russia.
"We're led to believe the president who conspired with Russia was also the very same president who didn't want to get elected."
Trump stuck to his familiar talking points in his answers to the questions, saying, "There has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians, or Trump and Russians. No collusion ... For 11 months, they've had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government. And it has hurt our government ... It's a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election."
Occasionally, though, the Russia narrative appears ready to die down, but then Trump raises the issue again himself.
In May, for example, he fired FBI Director James Comey, then appeared to tell NBC News the Russian investigation was part of his decision. Then, later that month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to get to the bottom of the alleged collusion between Russian interests and the Trump campaign.
Mueller has indicted three Trump campaign aides, but the charges concern perjury or unrelated financial crimes. Mueller also extracted a plea deal from Flynn, but again not for acts related to Russia collusion but for misleading federal authorities.
"The media don't care about the facts," said Dan Gainor, vice president for business and culture at the Media Research Center. "They care about the agenda."
Gainor said the Russian narrative continues onward, even as the media also push a narrative, created recently by controversial author and Trump critic Michael Wolff, that Trump did not want to win the actual election in 2016.
"We're led to believe the president who conspired with Russia was also the very same president who didn't want to get elected," said Gainor.