It takes some expertise to be gifted a nugget of genuine intelligence information, relevant to inquiries into associates of the current US President, and then somehow drop it on on the way to publication. But that - something that will not be a surprise to Zelo Street regulars - is more or less what has happened to (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, now holed up in her reassuringly expensive Manhattan eyrie.
Has she got news for us? Er, no
Ms Mensch has recently carved a niche for herself making claims about the connections between agencies of the Russian state and Combover Crybaby Donald Trump. Her stock rose after Michael Flynn was forced to resign over not only his Russia connections, but lying about them, and Jeff Sessions was pushed perilously close to the out door. But this kind of reporting demands accuracy, not the addition of wild conspiracy theories.
Ms Mensch started out with a straight report that “Two separate sources with links to the counter-intelligence community have confirmed to Heat Street that the FBI sought, and was granted, a FISA court warrant in October, giving counter-intelligence permission to examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia”. The problem came when she then suggested Trump himself was targeted.
Meanwhile, the Guardian, not always her biggest fan (and vice versa) had praised Ms Mensch, telling readers “In the journalistic race to get to the bottom of one of the most closely guarded secrets in Washington - the investigation into the Trump team’s contacts with Moscow - one of the biggest scoops came from an unexpected source: the British former MP and novelist Louise Mensch”. But there was a problem.
The far-right conspiracy theorists extrapolated from Ms Mensch’s “additions” to what she had actually been told to produce the suggestion that The Donald had been wiretapped. Trump, in his ignorance of how such things are authorised - you need a federal judge to approve that sort of surveillance, and that judge has to be persuaded that there is probable cause to investigate - then lost it at the weekend and made his foolish accusations.
In an effort to piece together what was happening, investigative blogger Marcy Wheeler, whom you can call as she’s a Doctor, has laid out the story in an excellently researched and measured blog post. She certainly has Ms Mensch right: “Since quitting Parliament to spend more time with her family, she has become a pundit known for taking reasonable observations, injecting just a bit of whack, and turning them into fairly unhinged theories”.
Spot on with that one. Ms Wheeler then made this observation on the original Heat Street story: “even if the FBI continued to investigate suspected ties between Alfa Bank and Trump … the specific reference Mensch used to hang the FISA order on should never have involved allegations of a wiretap in Trump Tower” [my emphasis].
Ms Wheeler continues “Mensch took a great tip - that there had been a FISC order - and slapped it onto dodgy allegations floating around in ways that didn’t even make sense for FISA, much less the allegations themselves” before stressing “Only Mensch says Trump was personally targeted in the FISA order … that’s important because this is where the allegation that the order ‘covers Donald Trump’ comes from”.
Now you can see where the convocation of the irredeemably batshit otherwise known as Breitbart got the starting point for their claims - which Trump is now said to believe over what he has been told in reassurance by the FBI.
How did the Breitbart gang put their story together? Ms Wheeler again: “Mensch’s reliance on the Alfa [bank] server story also led Andy McCarthy to suggest impropriety in January, which is the next thing cited in [Mark] Levin/Breitbart … McCarthy … uses Mensch’s inexact language to suggest FBI agents were instead using FISA to investigate bank crimes”. Thus the Breitbart story, and Trump’s weekend meltdown.
So what does Ms Mensch have to say for herself? As if you need to ask: the one thing she is not going to do is to retract or even modify one word of her article. And she is most definitely not going to recant or apologise. Instead, her first response has been to attack Ms Wheeler: “I just heard @emptywheel works for The Ivancept's @ggreenwald and if so I'm sorry I wasted so much time refuting her lies on FISA”.
As with so much of Ms Mensch’s paranoia, the abuse of The Intercept is based on the assumption that it is a Russian front (Zelo Street regulars will recall that she has also recently advanced the idea that Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin had Andrew Breitbart killed).
And her smear of Ms Wheeler can be easily disproved by checking “About” on the emptywheel blog, where one can see “Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist”. She has worked at The Intercept, but does not now. Ms Mensch got it wrong - again.
But, as that Guardian article on her scoop shows, being wrong is not something about which Ms Mensch is going to easily ‘fess up: “In her tweets Mensch is unsparing when it comes to making allegations, and she has repeatedly denounced some figures in the Trump circle as traitors. She insists she has no fear of being sued for libel. ‘I’ve never been sued because I’ve never been wrong,’ she said”.
Thus the conflation of delusion, paranoia and rank arrogance of Louise Mensch. She’s wrong so often that the true part of her FISA claims were the equivalent of a “stopped clock” moment, and the only reason the libel claims are not raining in on her is because of the cost. On the other hand, she has threatened others with libel proceedings, only to drop the idea - because, you guessed it, she was wrong.
Louise Mensch’s contribution to the Trump wiretap meltdown shows that a little bit of knowledge can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. And remember, they let her become an MP.