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Trump Parrots Hannity’s Lies About Obama Response To 2009 Swine Flu Outbreak

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

While speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon at the White House, President Donald Trump made a false claim about the Obama administration’s handling of the H1N1 flu (also commonly known as “swine flu”) back in 2009. And there’s a good bet that he’s learned this latest fiction from Fox News — and his favorite host, Sean Hannity.

“If you go back and look at the swine flu, and what happened with the swine flu,” Trump said, “you’ll see how many people died, and how actually nothing was done for such a long period of time, as people were dying all over the place. We’re doing it the opposite. We’re very much ahead of everything.”

As Media Matters has previously documented, Hannity and other right-wing personalities and outlets have circulated a lie that the Obama administration had done nothing about H1N1 — waiting six months to declare a national emergency, they say — while Americans died in vast numbers. In fact, this is totally false, and it also relies on obfuscations based around bureaucratic terms of art and specific effects on government regulations.

The Obama administration declared a public health emergency in April 2009, for the purpose of freeing up funds for emergency preparedness. Then came an official national emergency declaration in October 2009, which also served a specific regulatory purpose by waiving certain federal requirements to allow hospitals and local governments to set up alternate treatment sites. And in the interim, the government had been working with researchers on developing a vaccine for the H1N1 strain and coordinating its launch in the fall.

In fact, just on Wednesday night, Hannity repeated the charge of Obama waiting to declare a national emergency. And while briefly acknowledging the health emergency early on, he threw in yet another lie.

CitationFrom the March 11, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Hannity

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): For more perspective, we go back to 2009. That year, more than a thousand Americans had died in a six-month period from H1N1, better known as swine flu, that virus, and 20,000 Americans had contracted the pandemic before President Obama himself declared a national emergency. One of his health officials on day 11 did, in fact, say it was an emergency to release some funding. Got to tell the truth on all cases, but a thousand Americans at that point had died.

In fact, at the time of the public health emergency declaration in April 2009, there had been just 20 confirmed cases of H1N1 in the United States — and no deaths.

From a Reuters fact check, published two days ago:

A public health emergency for Swine Flu, also known as H1N1, was declared on April 26, 2009 by the Obama administration with no deaths in the U.S. (see here). While Obama personally declared H1N1 an emergency in October 2009, when over a thousand had died (see here), the “Secretary of Health and Human Services first declared a public health emergency” on April 26, 2009. Statements that say Obama and his administration waited until 1,000 had died before declaring an emergency often ignore this April 26, 2009 Government announcement (see it here). The claim that there were 1,000 deaths when a public health emergency was declared under Obama’s administration is therefore false.

One has to wonder: Was Trump watching Hannity last night and repeating the charge today? (Before Hannity’s repetition of the lie Wednesday night, it was being spread anew on Twitter by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.)

The H1N1 pandemic was a highly prevalent infection, with a later analysis showing it had infected 1 in 5 people worldwide. However, its death rate was very low, estimated at only 0.02 percent (around 200,000 deaths globally and 12,000 in the United States). By contrast, COVID-19 appears to be much more dangerous among the infected population so far, with a currently estimated mortality rate of 1 percent, or 10 times the normal flu.

Trump Cancels Denmark Trip While Ranting About Obama

 

 

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, responding to President Donald Trump’s offer to purchase Greenland, stressed that the island is not for sale — and Trump responded this week by canceling a trip to Denmark he had planned. Trump has maintained that he believes Frederiksen was being disrespectful, and during a press conference outside the White House on Wednesday, Trump used the cancelation as an excuse to bash former President Barack Obama — telling reporters that foreign countries, including Denmark, cannot get away with the type of disrespect they showed the United States when Obama was in the White House.

Trump told reporters, “I thought that the prime minister’s statement that it was absurd was nasty. I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do was say, ‘No, we wouldn’t be interested.’”

Trump added, “I thought it was not a nice statement, the way (Frederiksen) blew me off because she’s blowing off the United States. And we’ve done a lot for Denmark…. She shouldn’t treat the United States that way.”

Conservative writer David Frum has a theory on Trump’s decision to cancel his Denmark visit: Trump, Frum told Radio 4, didn’t really cancel because of Denmark’s stand on Greenland, but because he knew Obama planned to visit Denmark next month and feared he would be overshadowed. And Trump was clearly obsessed with Obama during the Wednesday press conference.

Trump claimed that when Obama was president, disrespecting the U.S. was the norm — whereas he demands respect for the U.S.

“President Obama, when they wouldn’t let him land in the Philippines — when they treated him so badly in so many places, the Philippines is one that comes to mind…. They can treat him any way they want to, that’s up to him,” Trump told reporters. “But they can’t treat the United States with the statement ‘how absurd’….Respect has to be shown to the United States.”

Trump went on to address other subjects during the press conference, from gun control to immigration. And he found other reasons to attack Obama, claiming that the policy of separating families at the U.S./Mexico border was instituted under Obama’s watch.

“President Obama had separation,” Trump told reporters. “I’m the one that brought them together….. It was President Obama that had the separation.”

In addition to bashing Obama on immigration, Trump slammed him on Russia policy — claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin got away with more under Obama than it has gotten away with under his presidency.

“Russia outsmarted President Obama,” Trump insisted. “They took over during his term, not during mine. Crimea, they took over Crimea…. President Putin totally outsmarted President Obama on Crimea and other things…. He made a living outsmarting President Obama.”

Watch the videos below:

 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

As DNI, Ratcliffe May Target Washington Post

Imagine the indictment of a former national security official in the Obama administration for violation of the Espionage Act. Imagine James Clapper or Sally Yates facing the same charges as Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning.

That dream of right-wing media (and some left-wing critics) came one step closer to reality Sunday, when President Trump announced the appointment of Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas as the new director of national intelligence. On Sunday, Ratcliffe told Fox News host Maria Bartiromohis number one idea for “investigation of the investigators”: prosecute a source of The Washington Post.

Ratcliffe expressed the hope that the Justice Department will investigate the leak to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in January 2017 that led to the resignation of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Ignatius’ reporting raised the possibility that Flynn had lied about a pre-inauguration conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn was forced to resign after only 24 days on the job.

Flynn’s “phone call with the Russian ambassador was a highly classified NSA intercept,” Ratcliffe said. “Someone in the Obama administration leaked that call to the Washington Post. That’s a felony.”

Both legally and factually, Ratcliffe’s statement is open to question, which is no surprise. Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor who has served in Congress since 2015, is short on intelligence experience and long on dubious claims. According to ABC News, he took credit for a terrorism financing case that other attorneys say he had nothing do with. He claimed that leaked FBI texts revealed the existence of an anti-Trump “secret society” in the FBI, a story that was picked up by Sean Hannity and Fox News. In fact, the Daily Beast notes the reference to “secret society” was a passing joke, and Trump’s defenders have dropped the “secret society” meme. Whether Ratcliffe’s nomination will be approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee is an open question.

Ratcliffe’s idea for prosecuting Ignatius’ source is the fourth iteration of Trump’s campaign to “investigate the investigators,” which the president hopes will turn the tables on his legal tormenters. First, John Huber, U.S. Attorney in Utah, was assigned by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the opening of the investigation of Carter Page, the Trump hanger-on who was never charged with a crime. Second, the Justice Department’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, took over Huber’s probe and is expected to report this fall. Third, Attorney General Bill Bar assigned another U.S. Attorney, John Durham, to delve into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation; Durham’s probe is ongoing.

In addition, Ratcliffe’s claim that Ignatius’ column was based on an “NSA intercept” is unconfirmed. Ignatius has never said that. Indeed, it is not clear that the U.S. government has acknowledged that NSA intercepted Kislyak’s conversations, meaning it is possible that Ratcliffe himself may have broken the law against unauthorized disclosure.

Asked about Ratcliffe’s remarks, Ignatius said, “No comment.”

Ratcliffe’s hypothetical case is based on two sentences from Ignatius’ column of January 12, 2017, “Why did Obama dawdle on Russia’s hacking?”:

“According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”

Those were the killer questions. At the time, Ignatius wrote, Flynn and Kislyak had already acknowledged that they had talked. Both said publicly—and falsely—that they did not discuss U.S. sanctions on Russia. If Ignatius knew the substance of their conversation, he did not say it in the column. But because Flynn had indeed talked about sanctions with the ambassador and lied to colleagues about it, his days were numbered. When FBI agents interviewed Flynn on January 24, 2017, he lied again under oath.

By the end of the month, Sally Yates, a soon-to-depart Obama Justice Department official, informed the White House (in the words of another Post article) that she believed Flynn “had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.”

The message, according to the Post, “was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the ­Russian diplomat, had told Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said.”

So, around the time Ignatius wrote his column, Yates and other senior officials had definitive knowledge of “the nature” of the Flynn-Kislyak “communications,” and their information did not come from the testimony of either participant.

Where did it come from? An NSA intercept is one plausible source. It has long been an open secret that NSA routinely eavesdrops on the conversations of foreign ambassadors in Washington.

From a legal point of view, the key question is whether Ignatius’ source was sharing classified information when he or she said, “Flynn phoned … Kislyak several times on Dec. 29.” If so, Ratcliffe might have a case.

“The Justice Department does have a lot of legal precedent for saying that, if the information was classified, the person in the government who shared it violated the Espionage Act,” says Kate Martin, civil liberties lawyer for the Center for American Progress. “There are also strong First Amendment arguments against bringing charges on that basis.”

Assange and Manning were charged with violating the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that forbids “unauthorized persons” from taking “national defense information” and either “retaining” it or delivering it to “persons not entitled to receive it.”

Politically, Ratcliffe’s idea is attractive for the Trump White House because Trump loathes publisher Jeff Bezos—because the paper’s coverage of the Trump Foundation was fatally embarrassing to the Trump Foundation, and because the ex-spy chiefs who criticize Trump have always enforced the Espionage Act selectively.

“It’s no secret that the rules are different for David Petraeus than for Chelsea Manning,” says Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the ACLU. “The government tolerates, even encourages leaks of classified information from senior officials, while whistleblowers are punished.”

The double standard is engrained in bipartisan Washington culture. In the runup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bush administration officials selectively leaked information about Saddam Hussein’s WMD program without fear of prosecution. In 2015, the Obama White House leaked highly classified details about the raid to kill Osama bin Laden and faced no consequences.

By prosecuting the Post’s source, the Trump Justice Department could claim it was abolishing the double standard. As director of national intelligence, Ratcliffe would be in a position to help. Trump has empowered Barr to declassify documents from the Horowitz and Durham inquiries as he sees fit. Ratcliffe has little intelligence experience, but he does have a track record of distilling facts into misleading, Fox-friendly sound bites. “Ratcliffe would be a natural enabler in a pursuit to cherry-pick material—or, more to the point, to find material worth cherry-picking,” notes Slate’s Fred Kaplan.

If the deeply concerned intelligence officials don’t manage to kill his nomination and if the Senate approves Ratcliffe to run the nation’s 17 intelligence services, then the source of Ignatius’ story has reason to worry. A senior U.S. official might get treated like Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning. Some would see a witch hunt. Others would call it rough justice. That would be a victory for Trump, which is one reason why the Ratcliffe nomination will be resisted by the intelligence community. 

This article was produced by the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Jefferson Morley is a writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been a reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., since 1980. He spent 15 years as an editor and reporter at the Washington Post. He was a staff writer at Arms Control Today and Washington editor of Salon. He is the editor and co-founder of JFK Facts, a blog about the assassination of JFK. His latest book is The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster, James Jesus Angleton.

Obama ‘Shadow’ Presidency Is Latest Conspiracy Delusion

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Fringe media supporting President Donald Trump have claimed that former President Barack Obama violated federal law and is acting as a “shadow president” because he has talked to former and current foreign leaders since the end of his presidency. The claims, which have at least partially been parroted on Fox News, are an extension of conservative media’s ongoing conspiracy theory that Obama runs a “shadow government.”

Since Trump’s inauguration, conservative outlets have baselessly claimed that Obama is running some kind of “shadow government,” a conspiracy theory which has since been invoked by a Republican congressmanand by one of Trump’s attorneys. The right-wing hysteria took on a new level of feverishness after Obama metwith a handful of former and current world leaders, some of whom he worked closely with as president.

Pro-Trump fake news purveyors were quick to attack Obama for his post-presidency activities. Several websites, including American TodayPatriots On The RightUS Postman, and USA Daily Time, claimed in June that Obama was “undermining President Trump” while “advertis[ing]” his “shadow government.” They suggested that Obama had “committed treason” and “violated” the Logan Act, a law barring private citizens from interfering with American foreign policy and for which no one has ever been prosecutedThe Federalist Tribune and The Washington Feed also asserted that Obama would get “a lengthy jail sentence” as a consequence of the law. Eventually, more fake news purveyors continued to push the false narrative, with Mad World NewsUSA NewsflashGOP The Daily DoseThe Angry PatriotGlobal Politics NowFreedom DailyUS AdvisorENH, and Before It’s News joining in.

Additionally, “alt-right”-affiliated Infowars and fake news purveyors Conservative FightersTruthFeed, and Red Rock Tribune hyped a Daily Caller piece suggesting Obama was a “shadow president.” “Alt-right”-affiliated The Gateway Pundit also called Obama a “shadow president” who “may be breaking the Logan Act.” There has also been some discussion regarding Obama and the Logan Act on the “alt-right”-affiliatedforum 4chan /pol/.

According to social media analytics website BuzzSumo, these claims being peddled by the pro-Trump fringe ecosystem, including American Today, Mad World News, USA Newsflash, GOP The Daily Dose, The Angry Patriot, Freedom Daily, Infowars, Conservative Fighters, TruthFeed, and The Gateway Pundit, have drawn numerous Facebook engagements that rise well over the thousands, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo. There were at least 380 engagements with American Today’s article, 41,900 with Mad World News’ article, 122,500 with USA Newsflash’s article, 6,500 with GOP The Daily Dose’s article, 7,000 with The Angry Patriot’s article, 48,300 with Freedom Daily’s article, 58 with Infowars’ article, 10,200 with Conservative Fighters’ article, 8,700 with TruthFeed’s article, and 5,000 and 6,900 for The Gateway Pundit articles, respectively.

Some of the narrative has now gained cable news visibility by reaching Fox News, with host Lou Dobbs on July 6 attacking Obama for “shadowing” and trying to “undercut” Trump, and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade on July 7 wondering why Obama was “shadowing” Trump and wondering whether Obama was trying to “swamp him.”

The spread of these baseless claims yet again illustrates how the pro-Trump “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem has been used to push liesconspiracy theories, and falsehoods.

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters