This is just the newest iteration:
“They fear that at least parts of this dossier contain truth,” Stephens later added. “Christopher Steele was a well-regarded British spy, they idea that it’s all fake is classic Trump disassembly,”[sic]
“Who paid for this is ultimately irrelevant,” the Times columnist opined.
Of a very old Trumpian practice. Why, just yesterday:
A reporter confronted Sanders on Tuesday about the Trump administration’s contention that Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is responsible for the Iran nuclear deal, which is verifiably false, earning a “4 Pinocchios” rating from the Post‘s fact checking team.
“As I’ve said many times before,” Sanders said, “I wouldn’t use The Washington Post as my source, Jeff. You should know better than that.”
That story hit the internet as an example of White House hypocrisy, because of this tweet:
But the issue in the statement to the reporter is the issue that lines up with the attacks on the dossier: unable to argue the facts, the White House is pounding on the table.The real Russia scandal? Clinton campaign paid for the fake Russia dossier, then lied about it & covered it up. https://t.co/kR8z2zsZ7Q— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) October 25, 2017
Or, in this case, shooting the messenger. Bret Stephens is right: who paid for the dossier is irrelevant to the question: is the dossier factually correct? Is it a surprise the Clinton campaign paid for dirt on Trump? How can it be? Does that mean they only paid for dirt, and no factual research need apply? Not necessarily.
Sanders dismisses the truth, that Corker is not responsible for the Iran nuclear agreement, because it is an inconvenient truth. She dismisses it, not by addressing the truth, but by attacking the messenger of that truth. Likewise, now the White House (and others) are attacking the funding of the dossier, because they don't want to draw attention to the inconvenient truth that most of the assertions in the dossier have been confirmed (and one version of the most infamous story there, of the tape of Trump in a Russian hotel, explained the story was that Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on the bed where, he was told, Obama slept when he visited Moscow. Given Trump's penchant for undoing all things Obama, right down to the renaming of Mt. Denali, that version seems highly plausible.).
In the same way, today, the President refuses to address an issue that touches on his behavior, instead insisting the story is (a) all about him, not a grieving widow, and (b) he's a great person (so how could he do wrong?):
While speaking with reporters, Trump was asked if he’d apologize to [Myeshia] Johnson, who broke her silence on Monday and backed up Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) account of what happened during the call. Specifically, she said that Trump left her feeling “very upset,” and claimed that Trump couldn’t remember her late husband’s name.
Trump, however, completely dodged the question, and quickly pivoted to how nice he had been to her during their call.
“She sounds like a lovely lady, I’ve never seen her, I’ve never met her,” the president explained. “I was extremely nice to her, I was extremely courteous as I was to everyone else.”
When pressed by a reporter about Johnson’s account of the exchange — which differed completely from Trump’s — the president boasted about the high quality of his memory.
“[I have] one of the great memories of all time,” Trump insisted.
Believe me! If you can't shoot the messenger (and even Trump understand he can't attack the widow), praise yourself. Same intent, different target.
We've got another 3+ years of this; we might as well get good at understanding it.