Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is not above the occasional conspiracy theory. Almost exactly four years ago, for example, the far-right Arkansan told voters that Islamic State militants may come to North America, partner with Mexican drug cartels, plot terrorist strikes, and target his land-locked state.
Pressed for some kind of evidence, Cotton referenced a piece from an unhinged conspiracy-theory website. A Washington Post fact-check piece said at the time, “As a lawmaker, Cotton needs to be careful about making inflammatory statements based on such flimsy evidence.”
Alas, it was not a lesson the Republican took to heart.
Cotton appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday, and the host asked about the leak of Christine Blasey Ford’s letter that detailed Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged attack against her. The GOP senator responded by connecting a series of dots.
“Hugh, I believe the Schumer political operation was behind this from the very beginning. We learned last week that a woman named Monica McLean was Ms. Ford’s roommate, and she was one of the so-called beach friends who encouraged Ms. Ford to go to Dianne Feinstein and the partisan Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.
“Well, it just turns out, it just so happens that Monica McLean worked for a Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, now a virulent anti-Trump critic on television and former counsel to Chuck Schumer. So I strongly suspect that Chuck Schumer’s political operation knew about Ms. Ford’s allegations as far back as July and manipulated the process all along….”
It’s always fun to see politicians play the degree-of-separation game. In this case, Dr. Ford has a friend, that friend used to work with a lawyer, and that lawyer used to work for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Ergo, Schumer’s political operation “was behind this from the very beginning.”
Or as Milhouse might say, “We’re through the looking glass here, people.”
All joking aside, Cotton’s connect-the-dots conspiracy theory isn’t just silly, it’s based on a foundation of factual errors. The Washington Post explained overnight:
We decided to fact-check Cotton because U.S. senators should get the facts straight before trotting out incendiary accusations.
Not a whiff of evidence shows that McLean conspired with Bharara or Schumer or both to leak details about Ford’s letter. Contrary to what Cotton said, McLean never worked for Bharara. McLean left the FBI’s New York field office in 2009; Bharara was U.S. attorney from 2009 to 2017. Bharara and McLean both say they don’t know each other.
A few minutes of simple research would have set things straight for Cotton. Bharara had tweeted four days before Cotton’s interview that McLean “never worked for me,” and it’s an elementary fact that U.S. attorneys don’t supervise FBI agents. (Senators should know that kind of stuff.)
Despite the fact that Cotton’s conspiracy theory is plainly foolish, I’d put the odds of Donald Trump repeating the claim as if it were fact at 50-50.