With the recent release of documents kept classified or hidden for three years, there are new questions about the actions intelligence officials took against President Trump and his associates. Attorney and journalist Gregg Jarrett gives his take, dissecting the whole affair in painstaking detail, in Witch Hunt: The Story of the Greatest Mass Delusion in American Political History.
Sharyl: What is the greatest mass delusion?
Gregg Jarrett: It was amazing that so many seemingly intelligent people believe that Donald Trump, they convinced themselves that he was a Russian spy, that he had colluded with the Kremlin somewhere in the bowels of Moscow to steal the 2016 presidential election. And it wasn't true. It was all a hoax. It was based largely on a phony fictitious dossier that was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. And it was leaked to the FBI, the State Department, the Department of Justice, and to the media. I poured through tens of thousands of pages of government documents, transcripts of testimony, records, court records, and I dug up the evidence. I did what good journalists are supposed to do, but didn't, and as a consequence they drove the collusion conspiracy narrative. Truth and fairness were abandoned. This was the worst case of grossly reckless reporting in my lifetime. The media became witting accessories to the witch hunt.
Sharyl: There is a whole alternate theory that, if you fill in the blank, says things such as, well Mueller didn't really exonerate Trump, and the investigation was actually valid when it was started. And people really do still believe that somehow President Trump colluded with Russia in ways that just weren't precisely pinpointed in the Mueller report.
Jarrett: Well, I would encourage people to read the Mueller report. Were there contacts between advisers on the Trump campaign team and Russians? Of course there were. And there were with the Hillary Clinton campaign, as I point out in my book. But in terms of a collusion conspiracy, completely debunked by Robert Mueller and his special counsel team.
Sharyl: What is something that's talked about in your book that you think is important for people to know that they still may not know?
Jarrett: The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel was not based on facts or evidence. It was driven by vengeance. Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, had become angry that he was being blamed for the firing of James Comey. And so in an act of retribution, he appointed the special counsel. And so we have this 22 month long agonizing national nightmare of an investigation that was driven by nothing more than retribution and reprisal by Rod Rosenstein.
Sharyl: In the Witch Hunt, do you think there is a lesson for the American public in that?
Jarrett: Don't trust the media. And I say that with a heavy heart because I'm a member of the media. But I've come to learn that too many of them are blinded by their own political bias and their personal animus, especially toward Donald Trump. They cut corners, they don't do their job properly. They don't verify information. They're too quick to accept as gospel anonymous leaks. And we see it happening every day still.
Sharyl (on camera): Jarrett argues the failed move to oust Trump from office with impeachment charges was just a continuation of the witch hunt.