I’m sure the circles in the Venn diagram of “Western Journal commentary readers” and “Rachel Maddow watchers” overlap somewhere. Granted, we may have to break out the electron microscope to find the overlap, but the laws of probability ensure it has to exist.
For the rest of you who haven’t been keeping up with MSNBC’s favorite woodland sprite, here’s a “previously on Rachel Maddow” pre-episode recap.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, Maddow bit hard on Russiagate in general and on the dossier assembled by former MI5 agent Christopher Steele in particular.
Maddow wasn’t the only one, of course — but she was so taken with the conspiracy theories that thumbtacks-and-pieces-of-string-era John Nash would have told her to take it easy.
In case you missed it, here’s a viral supercut of one night of Russia references on Maddow’s show during its most febrile period:
After the Mueller report was released and found no evidence of Russian collusion, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee wrote an Op-Ed entitled, “Now That Russian Collusion Is Over, Which Conspiracy Will Maddow Choose Next?”
The answer was — none. Russia was still the bogeyman, the Steele dossier was still very real and Mueller just hadn’t found the evidence of what was clearly right in front of us.
Flip the political affiliation, insert a bit more screaming and some ads for colloidal silver and you have a bad episode of Alex Jones.
Thursday should have been the worst day for Maddow in quite some time, then. That’s because some of the last tenuous threads from which she could hang her conspiracy theory were, at long last, snipped.
So who did she have on her MSNBC show to buttress what was left of her farrago of theories? None other than discredited FBI agent Peter Strzok, a blast from the past that should have stayed there.
To recap Thursday’s events: Igor Danchenko, a Russia analyst already identified as the “primary sub-source” for Steele’s dossier, was indicted for lying to the FBI about the sources he talked to. The indictment was part of special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
One of those sources was Democratic operative Charles Dolan, who, according to the New York Post, may have been responsible for the so-called “pee tape” mentioned in the dossier. (If you don’t know what that is by now, don’t look it up. We all wish we didn’t know, so consider ignorance bliss.)
The indictment said Danchenko “stated falsely that he had never communicated with a particular U.S.-based individual — who was a long-time participant in Democratic Party politics and was then an executive at a U.S. public relations firm (‘PR Executive-I’) — about any allegations contained in the Company Reports.
“In truth and in fact, and as Danchenko well knew, Danchenko sourced one or more specific allegations in the Company Reports anonymously to PR Executive-I.” PR Executive-I appears to be Dolan.
We’re all innocent until proven guilty in this wonderful country of ours, of course, but this doesn’t look good at any level. It’s actually worse if you dive deeper, but that’s not what we’re here for.
Instead, let’s all watch Strzok — a former FBI agent who played a curious role in the FBI interview that ended with Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn facing charges for lying to the FBI — explain that Danchenko’s indictment contains “subtle dog whistles” for “pro-Trump conspiracy theories.”
Strzok said the people who have been indicted “were all involved in matters which were very almost peripheral to the core of what we were looking at with regard to the Russia investigations.”
Yes, the bogus FISA warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page may have started the whole ball rolling, but Strzok excused this by saying “Carter Page made up about eight pages of an almost 500-page Mueller report.”
Yes, but what of the dossier, the opposition research document put together at the behest of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign that has never been corroborated? Wait until you hear this one.
“The indictment makes a point to note that the FBI was unable to corroborate Steele’s reporting,” Strzok said, “but at the same time it neglects to mention that we weren’t able to disprove it either.”
I know Strzok was kicked out of the FBI after he exchanged numerous anti-Trump messages with his married lover on a work phone, but he’s still an intelligent individual — intelligent enough to know you can rarely prove a negative of this sort. By this standard, as long as the most fantastical life can’t be categorically disproved, I mean, it’s still in play.
Maddow and Strzok should both know very well that if no proof exists for the most serious claims made in the Steele dossier — and if half a decade has been spent by the best minds in the American intelligence community trying to verify it — it’s bunk.
Strzok seems more concerned with the “subtle dog whistles” for “pro-Trump conspiracy theories.” In other words, yes, the latest indictment may be valid and, yes, the Steele dossier may have been a whole-cloth fabrication — but don’t give those conservatives any quarter.
Maddow, however, gives off the energy of a true believer. If she’s not, riddle me this: Why, on a night that made it even clearer that the dossier was nothing more than a sloppy attempt by the Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump, did she think a publicly disgraced and politically divisive FBI agent would be the man to prove the naysayers wrong?
Peter Strzok has a reputation to rebuild. So does Rachel Maddow. Neither of them got very far on Thursday.