The headline on the New York Times piece yesterday had a vaguely sinister tone: "Schiff Got Early Account of Accusations as Whistle-Blower's Concerns Grew." Those who read the article, however, learned of a series of events featuring officials who went strictly by the book.
The intelligence community's whistleblower, aware of Donald Trump's alleged misconduct, approached the House Intelligence Committee seeking guidance. A committee aide encouraged the whistleblower to get legal counsel and share the concerns with the intelligence community's inspector general. The congressional aide alerted House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calf.) to what transpired, but the congressman didn't see the complaint or know the whistleblower's identity.
In other words, Schiff's aide directed the whistleblower to follow the law. The process moved forward the way it was supposed to.
And yet, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who appeared eager to promote the New York Times article without having read it, insisted yesterday that Schiff "just got caught orchestrating with the whistleblower." That's obviously not at all what happened, and it was curious to see the top House Republican screw this up so badly.
But it was Donald Trump who took this mistake to hysterical depths.
"Well, I think it's a scandal that [Schiff] knew before. I'd go a step further: I think he's probably helped write it. Okay? That's what the word is."
The president went on to again accuse the House Intelligence Committee chairman of being a criminal who committed treason.
I mention all of this, not because Trump's conspiracy theory is interesting, but because of the larger context. It was the president's love of ridiculous conspiracy theories that helped get him into trouble in the first place, pushing him to the brink of impeachment. If the Republican were better able to demonstrate critical thinking skills, separating fact from nonsense, he'd be in a vastly better position.
And yet, despite conspiratorial thinking getting him into trouble, Trump nevertheless thought it'd be a good idea to accuse the House Intelligence Committee chairman of helping write a whistleblower complaint that Schiff never even saw.
The scandal is only two weeks old. The president's unhinged posture may yet get worse.