The FBI official who ran the investigation into whether the Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election privately admitted in newly released notes that a major New York Times article was riddled with lies, falsehoods, and “misleading and inaccurate” information. The February 2017 story was penned by three reporters who would win Pulitzers for their reporting on Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia.
The FBI’s public posture and leaks at the time supported the now-discredited conspiracy theory that led to the formation of a special counsel probe to investigate the Trump campaign and undermine his administration.
“We have not seen evidence of any individuals affiliated with the Trump team in contact with [Russian Intelligence Officials]. . . . We are unaware of ANY Trump advisors engaging in conversations with Russian intelligence officials,” former FBI counterespionage official Peter Strzok wrote of the Feb. 14, 2017 New York Times story “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.” That story, which was based on the unsubstantiated claims of four anonymous intelligence officials, was echoed by a similarly sourced CNN story published a day later and headlined “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign.”
Strzok’s notes are the latest factual debunking of these stories, which were previously shown to be false with the release of Robert Mueller’s special counsel report finding no evidence whatsoever in support of the Hillary Clinton campaign assertion that Trump affiliates colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. A report from the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General on just one aspect of the investigation into Russia collusion — FBI spying on Trump campaign affiliates — also debunked these news reports.
Former FBI Director James Comey admitted under oath in June 2017 that the reporting was “false,” something his deputy director Andrew McCabe privately acknowledged to the White House earlier that year but refused to admit publicly. Efforts by the White House to get the FBI to say publicly what they were admitting privately were leaked to the media in order to suggest the White House was obstructing their investigation. “Obstruction” of the Russia investigation would form a major part of the special counsel probe, and media and Democrat efforts to oust the president.
As for the merits of the explosive New York Times story alleging repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials before the election, Strzok said it was “misleading and inaccurate… no evidence.” Of the unsubstantiated claim that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was on the phone calls with Russian intelligence officials, Strzok said, “We are unaware of any calls with any Russian govt official in which Manafort was a party.” And of the New York Times claim that Roger Stone was part of the FBI’s inquiry into Russian ties, Strzok said, “We have not investigated Roger Stone.”
The Times report, which came hours after National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was ousted due to criminal leaks against him, was one of the most important articles published by major media as part of their campaign to paint Trump as a Russian operative. Widely accepted by the media and political establishment, it did as much to cement the false and damaging Russia conspiracy theory as CNN’s story legitimizing the now-discredited Christopher Steele dossier or the Washington Post’s now-discredited suggestion that Flynn was a secret Russian operative who was guilty of violating an obscure 1799 law called the Logan Act.
The New York Times declined to retract or correct the article three years ago, even after Comey testified it was false, on the grounds that the anonymous sources who fed the false information remained pleased with the initial story.
The damage this false story caused the Trump administration can not be overstated. It’s a story worth recounting here.
Leaks Real, News Fake
“The leaks are real, the news is fake,” President Donald Trump said on February 16, 2017, when ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked him at a press conference to respond to The New York Times’ explosive report. As other reporters asked more questions related to the New York Times story, he went on to deride the media for writing negative and false stories based on anonymous sources.
The response was roundly mocked by a media class that asserted it was unimaginable that intelligence officials might be leaking anything but the most accurate information. CNN’s Jake Tapper, echoing other Democrat activists, called the press conference “unhinged.”
“I guess I don’t understand,” said CNN’s Jim Acosta, asking, “How can the stories be fake?” Numerous other reporters, presumably all college-educated, publicly claimed to wonder the same thing. The few reporters who were skeptical of the anonymously sourced reports on Russia were also mocked.
If someone associated with an intelligence agency had been granted anonymity to claim without evidence that Donald Trump — Donald Trump — had been a secret Russian agent for decades, or had for some reason paid prostitutes to urinate on a Moscow hotel bed President Obama once slept in, or had arranged clandestine meetings in Prague with top-level Kremlin operatives in a grand dirt-and-dollars-and-election-support scheme, it simply had to be true! Who was to say otherwise? Who was to demand evidence for the absurd conspiracy theory that had, it turned out, been manufactured as part of a Clinton campaign operation?
The response to Trump’s claim that the leaks from anonymous intelligence officials were producing fake news was one of many indicators that U.S. political media would be in no position to think critically or skeptically about whether they were being used by a politically motivated cabal of intelligence officials. The smarter ones might have known they were being used but simply determined they would be more than happy to play an important role in the operation.
Trump was right that the leaks were real but the news was false. Trump campaign aides did not have repeated contacts with Russian intelligence, contrary to what Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo breathlessly reported. Flynn was not a secret Russian agent. Neither was former Sen. Jeff Sessions.
Published At The Right Moment
The New York Times story was completely false, but the damage it caused the Trump administration was very real.
The false story was published mere hours after intelligence officials had successfully ousted Trump’s National Security Advisor Flynn following weeks of criminal and selectively edited leaks about his benign communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States. CNN “confirmed” the New York Times’ false reporting hours later.
The Wall Street Journal’s Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee reported based on anonymous sources two days later that the CIA was withholding important national information from Trump because of supposedly legitimate concerns over his ties to Russia. Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo debunked that reporting immediately. The Washington Post openly talked about the “cloud of Russia” hanging over the Trump administration.
Still, the combination of stories and resulting hysteria was enough to lead Trump to hold a press conference in the East Room to address the growing Russia collusion narrative. It was there he described the “real” leak, “fake” news phenomenon he was dealing with.
Once again, Trump is right and those calling him a liar are the liars. Once again… over and over. Every damned time.
The story was so fantastic and so totally bereft of supporting evidence that is was clear from shortly after the beginning that it was false. Yet the leftists gobbled it up ravenously because it’s what they WANTED to be true. Denied any facts that would support their failed ideology, the left now relies solely on lies.
And the NYT is exposed for the pathetic leftist propaganda rag it has become. The Democrats and all the left are addicted to lies.