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DEBRA J. SAUNDERS: Joe Biden meets the press

How is a Joe Biden press conference different from a Donald Trump press conference? Actually, the opposing candidates’ pressers have much in common, judging by Biden’s session with political reporters Tuesday, June 30, his first press conference in 89 days.

Most of the questions were about Trump.

Many of the questions were about Russia and a recent New York Times report, challenged as unverified by the White House, that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops.

Somehow the most damning reports about Biden never came up.

The public learned nothing from Biden’s responses on the Trump/Russia/Taliban story. The press didn’t even learn what Biden would do about what Trump might have done, had he been briefed. (Yes, two reporters couched their questions to Biden about Trump and Russia by saying “if” the stories were true.)

The exercise didn’t exactly make my profession seem fair or remotely interested in any story that does not confirm the pack’s biases.

Last month saw the release of a handwritten note by fired FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok on a Jan. 5, 2017, meeting involving President Barack Obama, Biden, then-FBI Director James Comey and others about an FBI probe into possible collusion between Moscow and the 2016 Trump campaign. According to the note, Biden suggested that Justice Department officials might investigate Michael Flynn, Trump’s designated national security adviser, for allegedly violating the Logan Act — a little-known 1799 law that bans unauthorized Americans from talking to foreign adversaries and never has been used successfully to prosecute anyone — during his talks with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn supporters see the note as proof that Obama and Biden actively pushed for the probe. And Biden seems evasive when he talks about the matter.

In May, the former vice president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he knew “nothing about these moves to investigate Michael Flynn.” When Stephanopoulos reminded Biden that he had sat in on the Jan. 5 meeting on Flynn, Biden responded that he thought Stephanopoulos “asked me whether or not I had anything to do with him being prosecuted,” which doesn’t quite make sense. Biden then said, “I was aware that they asked about an investigation.”

So did any of the reporters in Tuesday’s press briefing ask Biden if he recommended that federal investigators look into whether Flynn violated the Logan Act? No, they were too busy asking questions on the same topic without getting a good answer.

I reached out to Flynn attorney Sidney Powell to get her take on Biden meeting the press and the failure of the big papers to cover her court victories as reason to believe the Russia probe was flawed from the start.

“The media outlets are not covering the truth in the Flynn case or anything else because it will expose many powerful Democrats including Obama in the greatest and criminal abuse of power in the history of our republic,” Powell responded in an email. “There are trillions of dollars at stake in the global corruption they have created and enjoy. President Trump putting America and the American worker first jeopardizes and reduces their power and wealth. People must try to watch Biden and think for themselves. That the Left is even willing to put him forth as the candidate is terrifying. He’s a shell.”

I don’t see the news media’s soft treatment of Biden as part of a corrupt conspiracy, but I understand why Powell does.

The large media outlets only know how to look at the Flynn story one way. Flynn was the first casualty of the FBI’s Russia probe, and he pleaded guilty twice before he pleaded not guilty. So they can ignore special counsel Robert Mueller’s failure to uncover coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. And they are nose blind when Flynn’s defense attorney forces the release of exculpatory evidence that the feds had not disclosed.

Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary to President George W. Bush, tweeted, “What wasn’t asked: 1) Anything about Biden’s role in authorizing surveillance against the Trump campaign 2) Do blue lives matter? 3) Should CHOP in Seattle never have been allowed? 4) Will you prosecute those who destroy statues? 5) Should NYPD be cut $1 billion?”

These are questions that could inform voters — and they are left on the cutting room floor in favor of “if true” journalism.

Asking smart questions is not easy. Not every question will hit the mark. And it’s not wrong to ask a softball question that elicits clarity on an issue. But asking the same questions to provoke non-answers to an if-true story — we can do better than that.

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