Posted by Curt on 28 December, 2019 at 10:59 am. 5 comments already!


In March 2017, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow invited Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) onto her show to talk Russia. She noted that in a House hearing, Schiff had cited the 35-page dossier of memorandums compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Ever since that document had burst into national politics — and surfaced on the BuzzFeed website in January 2017 — Maddow had closely monitored its reception.

Each time she addressed the dossier, she was careful to alert viewers that it was unverified. But she had espied some developments that appeared to support the dossier’s nitty-gritty. So she asked Schiff: “When you cited … that dossier, should we stop describing that as an uncorroborated dossier? Has some of the information of that been corroborated?”

Schiff sidestepped the question.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz did not. Over a nearly two-year investigation released on Dec. 9, Horowitz and a team of investigators reviewed at least a million records, interviewed more than 100 individuals and otherwise probed the actions of the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation. In so doing, they reached an answer to Maddow’s question.

Claims in the 35-page dossier fell into three pails, according to the report: “The FBI concluded, among other things, that although consistent with known efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, much of the material in the Steele election reports, including allegations about Donald Trump and members of the Trump campaign relied upon in the Carter Page FISA applications, could not be corroborated; that certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with information gathered by the Crossfire Hurricane team; and that the limited information that was corroborated related to time, location and title information, much of which was publicly available.”

The Horowitz team didn’t attempt an independent fact-check of the dossier, opting instead to report what the FBI had concluded about the document. Unflattering revelations pop up at every turn in the 400-page-plus report. It reveals that the CIA considered it a hodgepodge of “internet rumor”; that the FBI considered one of its central allegations — that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague for a collusive meeting with Russians — “not true”; that Steele’s sources weren’t quite a crack international spy team. After the 2016 election, for instance, Steele directed his primary source to seek corroboration of the claims. “According to [an FBI official], during an interview in May 2017, the Primary Sub-source said the corroboration was ‘zero,’” reads the report.

The ubiquity of Horowitz’s debunking passages suggests that he wanted the public to come away with the impression that the dossier was a flabby, hasty, precipitous, conclusory charade of a document. Viewers of certain MSNBC fare were surely blindsided by the news, if they ever even heard it.

Name a host on cable news who has dug more deeply into Trump-Russia than MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. She’s read hundreds, maybe thousands, of court filings; she’s read the plume of literature on Russia-Trump; and she’s out with a new book on the bane of petro-states: “Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth.”

As part of her Russianist phase, Maddow became a clearinghouse for news increments regarding the dossier. Just days after BuzzFeed published the dossier in its entirety, she reported on the frustration of congressional Democrats with then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who was declining to divulge whether his people had opened an investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Sorting through the silence from the FBI and the unverified claims in the dossier, Maddow riffed on her Jan. 13, 2017, program: “I mean, had the FBI looked into what was in that dossier and found that it was all patently false, they could tell us that now, right?” said Maddow. “I mean, the dossier has now been publicly released. If the FBI looked into it and they found it was all trash, there’s no reason they can’t tell us that now. They’re not telling us that now. They’re not saying that. They’re not saying anything.”

That line of analysis has gained some important context via the Horowitz report. The FBI did, in fact, find “potentially serious problems” with Steele’s reporting as early as January 2017. A source review in March 2017 “did not make any findings that would have altered that judgment.”

It was dossier season, in any case, for Maddow.

In March 2017, the host glommed onto recent reporting by CNN and the New Yorker to the effect that U.S. authorities had confirmed that “some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier,” according to CNN.

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