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How 2016 Failures Keep Haunting The Beltway Media

The Hillary Clinton exoneration tour continues, and with it comes the deafening silence from news organization that gleefully bought into GOP attacks on her during the 2016 campaign. Determined to never acknowledge their sweeping failures during the last presidential cycle, the Beltway media show no signs of having learned anything over the last four years. Indeed, newsrooms refuse to be transparent about what kinds of changes, if any, have been put into place to make sure the epic failures of 2016 are not repeated this election cycle. 

After Trump’s partisan Justice Department launched an investigation of the Clinton Foundation, in an obvious effort to “mollify conservatives” still obsessed with Clinton bashing, the inquiry has produced no proof of any wrongdoing, the Washington Post recently reported. The Clinton Foundation’s “corruption” was a GOP manufactured gotcha story that the press gleefully amplified for 18 months between 2015 and 2016. 

During that time, the New York Times and the Washington Post published more than 200 articles about the Clinton Foundation, according to Nexis.

Yet even today, you often get a blank stare today when you ask journalists about the 2016 media fiasco. They simply don’t see the failures, or won’t admit to them. Note that the editor who oversaw the Times’ disastrous campaign coverage four years was recently elevated up the masthead, landing one of the newspaper’s most senior positions. Institutionally, there is certainly little evidence that the Times brass feels like anything went wrong in 2016. 

For lots of Democrats and liberals, the failures of the 2016 coverage are obvious for all to see, as the press treated Trump like a celebrity while holding Clinton, the first woman presidential nominee, to ridiculous double standards. Fact: Trump refused

to make personal donations to any charities, while Clinton helped bankroll a wildly successful one. But she was the one relentlessly x-rayed by the media for a year on the topic of charities.

And for the record, the Times, which essentially sponsored the Clinton Foundation smear by teaming up with a Breitbart writer, still has not assigned a reporter to cover the latest exoneration of the Clinton Foundation. To date, the paper has only published a Reuters wire story, buried where nobody would notice it.

We’ve seen this shoulder shrug before. Last year, when a lengthy State Department investigation concluded there was no systemic or deliberate mishandling of classified information in emails sent to and from Clinton’s private server while she was secretary of state, the Times covered the story on page 16 and devoted 649 words to that exoneration. Recall that during the final stretch before the 2016 campaign, the Times famously crammed three separate Clinton email stories onto its front page on the same day, signaling to readers that the story had reached epic, blockbuster proportions.

Reporting on the Justice Department’s exoneration of the Clinton Foundation, Vanity Fair presented the attacks on the charity as a baseless “conspiracy theory championed by conservatives.” CNN made the same point, stressing that “Trump” in 2016 was “making the case — with scant evidence — that Clinton was somehow using her official office to feather her own nest.”  The media in recent days have been clear, that the blame should lay with “conservatives” and “Trump,” who concocted the hollow Clinton Foundation gotcha story during the previous campaign. 

But that’s only half of the truth. The other half — the half that the press does not want to discuss in 2020 — is that the media willingly co-cosponsored that conspiracy theory and turned it into legitimate news. It was the Beltway press, dripping with contempt for Clinton, that breathlessly hyped the non-story for weeks and months in 2015 and 2016.  Today though, the mediawon’t come clean. Instead, editors and producers develop amnesia and insist it was only “conservatives” and “Trump” who peddled the Clinton Foundation smear. 

How did we get to such an absurd place, where the press depicted a wildly successful and transparent charity as some sort of ominous web of political deceit supposedly drenched in shadowy payments?

This paranoid fantasy was part of the all-consuming narrative depicting Clinton as a globally powerful villain who schemed around the world to line her pockets (while working 80 hours a week as Secretary of State). This preposterous theory suggested that not only did she serve in Obama’s cabinet but she was effectively president of the United States. It meant that Clinton must have dictated uranium policy and she who single-handedly signed off on the Uranium One deal — not in fact nearly a dozen federal U.S. agencies.

It was a deeply misogynistic tale that portrayed the first woman presidential nominee in American history as being deeply untrustworthy in a way that powerful men in Washington, D.C. are never shown. Rather than admiring Clinton’s decades worth of accomplishments, those achievements were held up to scorn as the press tried furiously to construct a storyline about her duplicitous ways, most famously surrounding her emails and the Clinton Foundation. 

The latter story was concocted in 2015 when Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins published Clinton Cash by longtime Republican partisan writer Peter Schweizer. A sloppy, book-length attack on Clinton Foundation donors, the book tried (and failed) to show how foundation donations corrupted Clinton’s decisions during her time as secretary of state; how the foundation acted as a side door for millionaires to buy influence inside the Clinton camp.  The New York Times and the Washington Post then teamed up with Schweizer and helped push his flawed Clinton opposition research. 

In many of those news accounts, the fact that the Clinton Foundation is a charity was often downplayed, including the organization’s pioneering mission to provide cheaper, better  medicine to millions of poor HIV/AIDS sufferers around the world. Or its innovative efforts on global healtheconomic inequalitychildhood obesity, and climate change

 “If Hillary Clinton wasn’t running for president, the Clinton Foundation would be seen as one of the great humanitarian charities of our generation,” nonprofit analyst Daniel Borochoff of Charity Watch  told CNN in 2016. 

Months later, after conceding that recent news reports hadn’t proven any actual wrongdoing or lawbreaking with the foundation or in its connection with the State Department when Clinton was secretary of state, editorials appearing in t Washington PostBoston Globe, and USA Today, among others, were nonetheless adamant: Shut it down. 

And now we know, via a handpicked Trump Justice Department prosecutor, that there was never any there there. The whole gotcha smear campaign was a joke, and the media played along. Sadly, there’s no indication any lessons have been learned for 2020.

IMAGE: Hillary Clinton attends a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, PA, October 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

New Report On 2016 Reveals Massive Scope Of Russian Social Media Subversion

The Russian government deployed intelligence assets to carry out a massive disinformation campaign on every major social media platform to support Donald Trump and the Republicans in 2016 and beyond, according to a new report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In an exclusive story published Sunday evening, the Washington Post revealed details of the report, which is based on “the millions of posts provided by major technology firms” to the Senate committee during its investigation of Russian election interference. According to the Post:

The research — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details of how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for interfering in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.

A tidal wave of Russian messaging encouraged voting and activism by conservatives who might support Trump, while seeking to “confuse, distract, and ultimately discourage from voting” demoralize those groups — notably African-American citizens — more likely to support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Russian operatives ran thousands of social media accounts on platforms that included not only Facebook and Twitter but Youtube, Instagram, and Pinterest, along with a phalanx of email accounts on Google + and Yahoo.

Read the full story here.

Accusing Manafort Of Witness Tampering, Mueller Seeks To Imprison Him Now

Special counsel Robert Mueller charged Paul Manafort with witness tampering in a new court document filed Monday night. Mueller sought to revoke his conditional release while awaiting trial on charges of money laundering, tax evasion, and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

The court filing says Manafort tried “to tamper with potential witnesses while on pretrial release and, accordingly, has violated the conditions of his release.”

The former Trump campaign manager has been under house arrest ever since the special counsel indicted him last October 30.   He stands accused of working on behalf of a Ukrainian politician allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mueller’s new accusations may cause the judge to end Manafort’s house arrest and remand him to prison.

Specifically, Mueller says that the notorious lobbyist and fixer sent encrypted messages to former associates, urging them to make “materially false” statements about the Russia probe. At least one of those associates, affiliated with a lobbying team known informally as the “Hapsburg group,” told Mueller’s agents that in phone conversations and an encrypted messaging program, Manafort had tried to “suborn perjury” about the group’s activities in the United States.

Prosecutors also filed the witness tampering allegations in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where he is under indictment on separate charges of bank fraud and tax evasion.

Neither Mueller’s office nor Manafort responded to press inquiries about the new filing.

 

 

 

 

For Comey, Hard Questions About Rudy Giuliani And The FBI

For months, the White House has insistently whined that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is persecuting the president. Echoed by right-wing propaganda media, that theme is now amplified in Donald Trump’s tweeted blasts at former FBI director James Comey, whom he vilifies as a “liar and leaker.”

 To anyone who remembers the final days of the presidential election, Trump’s paranoid claims have always seemed ludicrous. If the bureau appeared to be tilted, it was firmly in his direction, especially in its handling of the criminal investigations of him and Hillary Clinton.

 Now Comey’s media tour promoting his new book, A Higher Loyalty, offers an opportunity to debunk such mythologizing — and to ask a few unanswered questions about the bureau’s perverse role in that election.

 In his book and media appearances, the former director tries to justify his denunciation of Clinton’s management of her emails in July 2016 when he declined to recommend prosecution — and his stunning revelation, less than two weeks before Election Day, that the bureau was examining emails on a laptop owned by her aide Huma Abedin.

 Comey insists those fateful choices reflected his moral instincts. But they also appear to have arisen from internal political dissension and thinly veiled threats of negative leaking about the Clinton probe.

 Openly voicing such threats, on Fox News and other media outlets, were former prosecutor and mayor Rudolph Giuliani and James Kallstrom, a former head of the New York FBI office. Both men repeatedly claimed to be in contact with FBI agents furious over the decision not to prosecute the Democratic nominee – if true, a blatant violation of Justice Department rules and traditions.

 As a Trump campaign surrogate, Giuliani said he had spoken with FBI agents who were “embarrassed” by Comey’s decision not to prosecute Clinton. Going further, Kallstrom warned that those agents were “not going to take this sitting down.” Appearing on Fox in late September, Kallstrom said that the agents working on the Clinton case “feel like they were stabbed in the back,” and added, “I think we’re going to see a lot more of the facts come out in the course of the next few months. That’s my prediction.”

 On October 26, just two days before Comey informed Congress about the Abedin emails, Giuliani hinted on Fox that Trump “has got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next few days…We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.”

 Which “couple of things” did Giuliani mean, exactly?

 Meanwhile the grave details of the FBI counter-intelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian connections, opened in July 2016, remained secret from the public. The only apparent leak about that probe appeared in a New York Times article the week before Election Day, under a headline that minimized its seriousness: “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link To Russia.”  That was an actual cover-up, with shattering consequences.

 The blatant political pressure from within the FBI to discredit Clinton disturbed Democrats for months after the election. Among them was Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a former FBI special agent himself, who inquired about that sore subject when Comey made his final appearance as FBI director before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“During your investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, a number of surrogates like Rudy Giuliani claimed to have a pipeline to the FBI….He even said that he had – insinuated that he had advanced warning about the [Abedin] emails described in your October letter. Former FBI agent Jim Kallstrom made similar claims. Now either they’re lying, or there’s a serious problem within the bureau.”

Comey told Leahy he was investigating those troubling circumstances. “I don’t know yet. But if I find out that people were leaking information about our investigations, whether it’s to reporters or to private parties, there will be severe consequences.”

Nothing came of that promise, made not long before Trump fired him. But the questions remain:

Did Comey ever investigate leaks from within the bureau to Giuliani and Kallstrom? What did he learn about their contacts and activities? Did he take any action when he heard their televised claims that agents were discussing the investigation with them? Does he know who leaked the stories about the Abedin emails and the Clinton Foundation? And does he know whether FBI director Christopher Wray or the Inspector General of the Justice Department are examining these breaches of conduct?

He’s doing a lot of interviews. Someone should ask him.