Nick O’Malley is a senior writer and a former US correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

He has a column in today’s Fairfax papers.

Almost every paragraph contains an error. Seriously. You’d have to read Peter FitzSimons to find more errors of fact or logic:

This is the first para. It’s refuted by everything that follows:

It seems pretty clear now what Donald Trump learnt from the Mueller investigation.

He goes on:

On page 77 of Mueller’s report it says that when Trump was told that the special counsel had been appointed to investigate him, “he slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f—ed’.”

But he wasn’t. As the investigation ground on, Trump came to believe he was, shall we say, untouchable. He even began to boast this was the case.

Hold on a sec. Not so fast. Let’s have some context. What does page 77 of the Mueller Report say? It’s important to know.

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When Trump says “I’m f—ed”, Trump was referring to the fact that a special counsel drags on and preoccupies the President and the White House. How do we know that’s what Trump actually meant? Because it’s on page 77:

The President returned to the consequences of the appointment and said, “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. it takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

Did O’Malley lie? Was he being lazy? Did he think no one would check?

O’Malley then weaves more to bring in the Mueller report, which we know amounted to a giant bowl of steaming nothing:

But he wasn’t. As the investigation ground on, Trump came to believe he was, shall we say, untouchable. He even began to boast this was the case.

“I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as President,” Trump said during one interview. “But I don’t even talk about that because they did a report and there was no obstruction.”

Of course, neither Article 2 of the US constitution nor Mueller’s report say any such thing.

“If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said in a public statement.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment,” he wrote in the conclusion of his report.

Mueller’s job was not to find innocence. Mueller’s job was to find evidence of wrongdoing. Even courts don’t find someone innocent.

Mueller reversed the burden of proof on Trump. Here’s a challenge: find any other person held to that standard. Outside of a dictatorship, that is. Not many people on the left caught on to that fact.

O’Malley goes on:

But who cared? Trump’s state media corps at Fox News certainly did not, nor did his steadfast supporters, those who make up 40-something per cent of American voters and 90 per cent of Republican voters. With numbers like that Congressional Republicans weren’t going to kick up a fuss either.

So Fox and Trump’s supporters were meant to desert him based on a finding of … nothing?

Reverse it for a moment: why are people like O’Malley continuing to hang Trump based on no evidence? That’s more serious because journalists are meant to rely on facts of which O’Malley has none.

O’Malley then uses his spidey-senses to go inside the White House. Of course, this means he guesses. A lot:

An exhilarating sense of imperviousness appears to have settled over the White House, and Trump continued to govern as he had campaigned – largely divorced from reality, mostly from decency and always from consequences. Accountability was out the window. Imitators around the world took note.

That’s just a jumble or rage amounting to nothing. But he is correct to say that “imitators around the world took note”. But he’s wrong about how Trump was imitated.

They didn’t imitate Trump because Trump is unique. Instead, politicians copied his methods. And the key method is to ignore the mainstream media and stop pandering to them. Why? Because the media is full of ignorant and arrogant dumb arses. Like the entire roster of CNN and MSNBC in the US, and the ABC here. And O’Malley.

Trump profited from foreign national delegations who shacked up at a hotel bearing his name around the corner from the White House and he channelled travelling US military through his property in Scotland, snaffling up defence coin too.

This has been making the news in the past week. Apparently military at Trump Hotels receive upgrades and special services. Maybe other resorts should do the same.

But O’Malley leaves out some context. Context, you see, is everything. This is from the hyper-left VOX article linked above:

Overnight stays in the area around Ayr, Scotland, are not new. Refueling of military planes at the nearby Prestwick Airport, a commercial facility, began under the Obama administration, and those stops sometimes necessitate overnight stays due to federally mandated rest requirements. However, overnight stays in the area have increased dramatically since Trump entered the White House: So far this year, there has been a 500 percent increase in the number of overnight stays compared to 2015.

Unless Trump is booking the hotels or has ordered it, this is just a smear to bolster a weak case. Again, a case of nothing. Nice try, though.

Speaking of nothing, O’Malley goes back to James Comey, the disgraced former FBI Director:

He sacked an FBI director who had launched an investigation into his dealings with Russia.

He sacked Comey because Comey wouldn’t say Trump wasn’t being investigated. In fact, Comey was investigating. So Comey had lied to Trump.

He lied so constantly that fact-checkers struggled to keep pace. A recent tally by The Washington Post had him at 12,019 false or misleading statements over 928 days.

Fact-checking is in the eye of the beholder (irony detected and accepted). Check out the Washington Post link. There’s a lot of elasticity in the word “lie”. So much so that calling them “lies” is a … lie.

He caused the CIA to extract a highly placed Russia asset because of careless handling of classified intelligence. One of his cabinet secretaries threatened to fire top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees if the agency didn’t disavow a public statement contradicting his false warnings about the path of a deadly hurricane.

This claim about the spy is the claim that compelled this fisking of O’Malley because this is a fraud.

This article in the Washington Post directly refutes the claims made in the article quoted by O’Malley. Here are the first few pars of the WaPo refutation:

Here’s some advice for the media covering President Trump: If you don’t want to be accused of reporting fake news, don’t report fake news.

Case in point: On Monday, CNN correspondent Jim Sciutto reported [the article O’Malley links to] that a highly placed U.S. intelligence source inside the Kremlin was pulled “in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.” Sciutto continued, “The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak … [that] had been provided by Israel.”

Sorry, the decision to extract the source was first made before Trump took office, and the reason was mishandling of classified intelligence not by Trump but by the Obama administration. As the New York Times reports this week: “C.I.A. officials worried about safety made the arduous decision in late 2016 to offer to extract the source from Russia.” What prompted that decision? Leaks to the media about the covert source’s reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered and orchestrated Russia’s 2016 U.S. presidential election interference campaign.

Read it all. O’Malley, you should read it, too. Especially that first line:

Here’s some advice for the media covering President Trump: If you don’t want to be accused of reporting fake news, don’t report fake news.

O’Malley continues:

“You know what’s the most shocking [part] of it? That it isn’t shocking anymore,” the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, told CNN earlier this month. “I am almost numb. It is one thing after another, after another.”

O’Malley quotes a Democrat who doesn’t like Trump. Great journalisming there.

More from O’Malley:

On July 24 despondent Congressional Democrats made one final attempt to extract some political leverage out of the Mueller investigation, dragging Mueller before them in the hope he might say something more damaging about the President than he had been willing to commit to in print.

Mueller stuck to his dry legalese and Trump declared victory. “It was,” he said, “a great day for me.”

Unless O’Malley is paid by the word, there’s no reason to put this in. But it was a great day for Trump because Mueller fizzled like a dud Catherine Wheel. Only a fool thinks Mueller did well. Does O’Malley? Is Trump’s assessment wrong?

With the muck from the 2016 election shovelled to the side, Trump turned his attention to the 2020 race. The very next day after Mueller’s last appearance in Congress, July 25, Trump made a call to the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, who told Trump that he needed more US-made Javelin missiles, Ukraine’s primary defence against Russian tanks.

Hold on … what “muck”? Mueller couldn’t find any. The Democrats tried to manufacture it but it blew away like dust.

Then we get to the recent fraud – the Ukraine phone call on 25 July.

“I would like you to do us a favour,” Trump responds, going on to ask Zelensky to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, his leading political opponent in the 2020 election, over work that Biden’s son had done for a Ukrainian energy company.

Dangerous ground, there, Nick. Because we can read the White House release. Here’s the context:

ZELENSKY: Yes you are absolutely right. Not only 100 per cent, but actually 1000 per cent and I can tell you the following; I did talk to Angela Merkel and I did meet with her. I also met and talked with Macron and I told them that they are not doing quite as much as they need to be doing on the issues with the sanctions. They are not enforcing the sanctions. They are not working as much as they should work for Ukraine. It turns out that even though logically, the European Union should be our biggest partner but technically the United States is a much bigger partner than the European Union and I’m very grateful to you for that because the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine. Much more than the European Union especially when we are talking about sanctions against the Russian Federation. I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defence purposes.

TRUMP: I would like you to do us a favour though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you are surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.

Specifically, Trump asked – using a throwaway line (“I would like you to do us a favour”) – for Ukraine to investigate Crowdstrike, a company with strong links to the Democrats and Obama.

That’s the “favour line”. Here’s the section on Biden:

TRUMP: Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.

ZELENSKY: I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100 per cent my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company [Crowdstrike] that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100 per cent. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.

The point of what Trumps is saying is that Biden bragged about stopping the investigation. We know this because there is a video of him saying it.

Ukraine has a lot of corruption. Trump’s line – agreed to by Zelensky – is about corruption.

The “I would like you to do us a favour” line is seen by Democrats as the sign of a quid pro quo. If their entire case rests on those few words then you can see just how weak the case is. It rests on a throwaway line.

Oh, and there is one more thing.

If it was a lever – a quid pro quo – then no one told the Ukrainians:

An unnamed Ukrainian official said that Kiev was not made aware that the U.S. suspended security funds until a month after President Trump‘s call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, which calls into question the whistleblower’s account and Democrats’ arguments that there was a quid pro quo for the aid.

In other words: there was no quid pro quo. Especially related to a “favour”. For there to be a threat for an outcome, the recipient needs to know about the threat, otherwise, it isn’t a threat!

“Give me five dollars or I’ll punch you in the face” is a quid pro quo. There is a threat (the punch) and a price ($5).

If trump was threatening, Zelensky didn’t know. Some threat.

Back to O’Malley:

Apparently aware that strong-arming foreign leaders to damage domestic rivals might not be entirely legal, someone on Trump’s staff buried the record of the call in an encrypted system designed to protect national security material rather than political contaminants. But one whistleblower was disturbed enough to make a written complaint to the intelligence community’s inspector-general which was finally made public late this week.

Lots of problems here.

The US strongarms everyone. That doesn’t even need explanation. Leaders threaten and cajole all the time. The US can withhold favours or give state visits or shout outs … this is a weak line of argument.

But if you want to go down that line, what should be made of this famous incident when Barack Obama told Dmitry Medvedev he would have “more flexibility” on difficult issues like missile defence after the US election, TV cameras were rolling.

As he leaned towards his Russian counterpart, the US President was overheard saying: “This is my last election … After my election, I will have more flexibility.”

The flexibility referred to missile defence.

“I understand your message about space,” replied Medvedev, who will hand over Russia’s presidency to Vladimir Putin in May.

“I will transmit this information to Vladimir.” The US leader has defended his comments, ahead of the November poll, insisting they reflect a political reality that “everybody understands”.

Trump could use the same defence – everyone understands that the US president pushes and prods.

As for O’Malley’s line that “someone on Trump’s staff buried the record of the call in an encrypted system designed to protect national security material”, the White House leaks like Bin Laden’s head (to steal a phrase from Tim Blair).

Encrypting a phone call with a foreign leader is no big deal. A lot of information in government isn’t put on open source. Not just because of leaks but because of attacks from foreign powers. This is a mountain out of a molehill.

Which brings us to the “whistleblower’s” complaint:

Its language is blunt and its allegations explosive.

“In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple US government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election,” it begins.

Yes, that is explosive.

And then the “explosive” allegations kind of fizzles.

Indeed the record of the call is so damning that the Democratic House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff observed this week that it sounded like a “a classic mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader”.

“Like any mafia boss, the President didn’t need to say, ‘that’s a nice country you have, it would be a shame if something happened to it’ because that was clear from the conversation.”


Schiff was the main propagator of the Trump-Russia collusion fantasy and we know how that ended.

To try to make something out of nothing, Schiff created a “parody” with the Mafia overtones. It was theatre designed to get on the news and appeal to journalists who didn’t want to do real work. Like O’Malley. It worked.

But perhaps what is most illuminating about the rough transcript – which was put together by White House staffers who were present during the call – is that the President seemed to think that it might exonerate him. He has variously described the phone call as “nice” and “beautiful”. He boasted via Twitter that he had authorised its release.

It may not “exonerate” (people like O’Malley would never accept that anyway), but nor does it hang him. And shouldn’t it ring alarm bells that Trump released it with alacrity? Unlike his tax returns. There’s a reason he got it out just after the Democrats pulled the trigger. It was a trap. It. Is. Nothing.

More O’Malley:

Since the day she was sworn in as Speaker of the House after the 2018 mid-term election, Nancy Pelosi, the de facto leader of the Democratic Party, has doggedly restrained those among her caucus who were desperate to impeach the President.

True. Because there was no evidence. She’s not stupid. Those around here on the other hand …

Aware that the Republicans’ failed impeachment of Bill Clinton helped drive his popularity to an eye-watering 73 per cent, Pelosi was of the view that Democrats should focus on beating Trump at the ballot box.

That she was able to maintain discipline for so long in the face of Trump’s endless incitement is testament to her political skill. Recently she was likened to Mel Gibson’s William Wallace in the movie Braveheart, desperately imploring his troops to “hold, hold” as the English cavalry thundered towards them.

What incitement? Winning? Oh, there is that:

When news broke that a President who had won office with the support of Russian interference in the last election was now accused of seeking Ukrainian assistance to win the next, and of threatening to withhold military aid to further his cause, Pelosi quickly accepted that she could no longer ask her caucus to hold.

Hillary Clinton had the help of Ukraine. She solicited that help. Trump didn’t solicit Russian help. How do we know? Because Mueller found no collusion. And we know that there was no threat to withhold aid – even the Ukrainians didn’t put two-and-two together … but O’Malley and the conspiracy theorists did.

Support for an impeachment inquiry exploded among congressional Democrats. Last week seven Democratic members who will fight in marginal districts in the next election and who had previously opposed calls to impeach wrote in a comment piece for The Washington Post that, “To uphold and defend our constitution, Congress must determine whether the President was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.”

Just a few days into this latest attempt to win through process what couldn’t be achieved at the ballot box, the case against Trump is collapsing. Which is why he was so eager to release the transcript of the call. He knew it had no evidence to hurt him.

The congressman and civil rights giant John Lewis, a Pelosi ally, said on the floor of the House, “There comes a time when you have to be moved by the spirit of history to take action to protect and preserve the integrity of our nation. I believe, I truly believe, the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this President has come.”

John Lewis is a civil rights giant. He’s been living off his association with Martin Luther King for decades:

But the fact that this far-left activist doesn’t like Trump is hardly news. Or a revelation. It is trying to elevate the case against Trump by using the links of Lewis to King. It is a pathetic appeal to (moral) authority.

And for the record, “the spirit of history to take action to protect and preserve the integrity of our nation” is not a reason for impeachment.

In accepting impeachment proceedings are now unavoidable, Pelosi is gambling that even if the Republican-dominated Senate refuses to convict Trump as the process demands, the allegations laid out against him will be so grave and clear as to destroy him politically.

Which is the brass nuts of the latest impeachment push. It’s about politics, not whether Trump committed a high crime or misdemeanor.

There is more than the presidential politics at stake though. Trump rose to power in defiance of old norms, certain that he could smash the practices, codes and institutions that have shaped American public life. By exerting Congress’s authority to impeach, the Democrats are seeking to reassert that old order.  Success might see a return to political accountability. And the world is watching.

This is as bad the fight to kill Brexit. The people wanted Trump because he was “in defiance of old norms, certain that he could smash the practices, codes and institutions that have shaped American public life”.

They needed smashing. The US needed a president on their side, who concentrated on Americans.

O’Malley and the left and the elites don’t understand that Trump was a backlash against a system that wasn’t working for them. Killing his presidency through this garbage won’t return to the old ways, it will cause greater disgust. They just don’t get it.

He goes on:

Even after the events of the week, Trump remained impervious to the notion that his actions might have consequences. During a breakfast address on Thursday morning, he mouthed off like a gangster, telling his audience, “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” he said in a recording of the remarks obtained by The Los Angeles Times. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Trump knows the consequences of his actions. He’s planned on them. And the Dems – and people like you, Nick – fell for the bait. It’s turning out even better than Trump thought. Because more evidence is emerging about the ‘whistleblower”. Including this little tidbit – it seems that s/he didn’t follow the rules.

This is huuuuuuuuuge.

Check out this tweet from Adam Schiff (yes, the same one).

Read it very carefully. Pay attention to the date:

This was a month before the whistleblower’s claims came to prominence, yet somehow Schiff knows the exact contents of the allegations. Perhaps, just perhaps, the whistleblower is what might be called a “motivated actor”.

Perhaps that’s why Trump thinks he’s acting more like a “spy” than a whistleblower. Because that’s what the evidence presents.

After the Mueller report was filed, Princeton professor of politics Keith Whittington considered the argument that it was reckless to begin a futile impeachment.

In an essay for the blog Lawfare he noted that the process could further divide the nation, but he also observed that “if the point of an impeachment effort is less to remove a particular individual from office than to establish or reinforce the proper expectations of officeholding, then the ultimate fate of the impeached officer is of less importance than the message sent by the impeachment.

“Impeachments can be, and have been, a vehicle for constructing, consolidating and reinforcing an important set of constitutional norms. They are a means for asserting that some behaviour is beyond the pale.”

This point by O’Malley is a rehash of his “norms” argument. This time he has an academic source to pin it on. Doesn’t matter, it’s still a weak point. Either an officeholder meets the grounds for impeachment or they do not. Trump – at this stage – does not.

‘Orange man hurt my feelings’ isn’t grounds for impeachment.

‘I wish he was Obama’ isn’t grounds for impeachment.

Articles like O’Malley’s is why so many Australians were shocked when Mueller delivered nothing. O’Malley makes readers dumber. It’s bilious meat that appeals to the fairfax tribe, but it’s no better than the fake news outlets in the US that have disgraced journalism.

Fairfax used to be better.