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Trump’s Great “Unmasking” Hoax Is Finally Dead

Another “Deep State” non-scandal goes down the memory hole.
October 14, 2020
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Guess we can close the file on that one.

Attorney General William Barr has quietly ended the probe into the supposed “unmasking” scandal which was only opened as fan service for Republican elected officials and conservative media in the first place. (Trump had suggested to Maria Bartiromo that the perpetrators be given 50-year sentences on Fox.)

I suspect that Barr had hoped that maybe, with a little luck, his investigation might snare somebody in some tangential wrongdoing. Or be able to do some strategic leaking. Or at least keep the issue open until after the election.

Alas, the president’s lawyer daddy struck out. Again. Thus bringing to a close a matter that—in a saner world—would have been the stupidest fake scandal in decade. But in our timeline, turned out to not even be the stupidest fake scandal of the day.

It was eclipsed in the crazy-rankings by President Trump twice suggesting that President Obama may have killed Osama Bin Laden’s body double and worked with secret Muslim John Brennan to pay the Iranians to murder Seal Team Six. Which, for those of you obsessing about “media bias,” is the most insane conspiracy ever publicly suggested by a sitting president and yet will not even make page A-16 in today’s newspapers.

As for The Great Unmasking fake scandal: It brings to an end a fantasy in which Obama administration officials—including Joe Biden!—had wrongfully requested the “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials who showed up in intelligence memos because of their communications with Russia.

In this conspiracy theory the unmasking was part of a broader Deep State effort by the U.S. government to spy on the 2016 Trump campaign staffers, frame them for the “Russia Hoax,” and smear them in the media. If you would like to become further steeped in the various related subnontroversies, the very fine people at the Federalist have an entire page dedicated to “unmasking” that you can peruse.

Though—spoiler—you probably shouldn’t bother looking for updates or corrections.

There were obvious holes in the “unmasking” story from the start. The big two being that:

  1. Unmasking is routine. Last year there were about 7,700 unmasking requests, for example. Mike Morrell wrote about the practice in great detail here.
  2. If the Trump campaign hadn’t been having unusual—and frequent—back-channel conversations with the country who was attacking our elections, there would have been nothing to unmask.

The only world in which “unmasking” could have possibly been a real scandal is in the delusional one where the Russians didn’t systematically interfere in our elections to help one candidate while that candidate and his emissaries encouraged this interference both publicly and privately

It is on this sandy foundation that the conservative media and Bill Barr erected a pyramid of trumped up BS. The Durham investigation, Obamagate, tapping “my wires,” #ButSusanRice’sEmails—none of this makes sense unless you first reject the fundamental reality of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Once you grasp that basic, underlying fact, everything else makes complete sense: The Obama administration’s national security apparatus was looking into the perpetrators of a cyber attack on our elections. Occam has never had a straighter razor.

But if you willfully pretend this truth doesn’t exist, for political purposes, well, then you find yourself doing things like Wacko Bird #1 Ted Cruz tweeting that Obama and Biden directed an unprecedented spying campaign on Trump. Or Wacko Bird #2 Rand Paul tweeting that a man who is spreading a deadly contagion not wearing a mask is less important than the Democrats “illegally spying” on their opponents. Or John Cornyn saying that these routine actions were somehow “bigger than Watergate.”

They all convinced themselves that Biden did a treason because that is what’s required to justify their embrace of a man they knew was corrupt, that they knew would be an unmitigated disaster, and they suspected was on Putin’s payroll themselves!

So while the Barr “investigation” of “unmasking” closed with what you might call TOTAL EXONERATION, the damage is done. Because when you keep telling your supporters that the Deep State is out to get you and that the other side is spying on you and that you can’t trust the media or the courts to hold them accountable for their treason because everything is rigged against the Christian white man . . . eventually they believe you.

Then the people who believe it will go on to support candidates who fulfill that fantasy.

And around the drain we go. So in that sense there is an unmasking scandal after all. It’s just that the Republicans who were pushing it were actually the perpetrators.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark's writer-at-large and a communications consultant. He previously served as senior advisor to the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, communications director for Jeb Bush, and spokesman for the Republican National Committee.