Media Fumble Their Latest Attack on Nunes Memo

By | 2018-02-03T18:57:59+00:00 February 4th, 2018|
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The media and Democratic spinmeisters think we are stupid. Wait, check that. Not just stupid—illiterate.

How else to explain their latest attempt—to borrow a promo from CNN—to tell us an apple is a banana? More specifically, how could they twist media reports that do not say the Justice Department informed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the infamous Steele dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign into reports that say they do?

A few hours after the Nunes memo was released Friday afternoon, the Washington Post rushed to dispute one of the missive’s most explosive claims: That none of the FISA applications “disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts.” As anyone who is not living off-the-grid knows, the DNC and Clinton campaign paid millions for the shady dossier that was leveraged to win FISC approval to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page months after he left the campaign.

On Friday night, the Post reported that two U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity claimed “ample disclosure of relevant, material facts” were made to the court that “revealed the research was being paid for by a political entity.” The sources went on: “No thinking person who read any of these applications would come to any other conclusion but that [the work was being undertaken] at the behest of people with a partisan aim and that it was being done in opposition to Trump.”

Even though the Post attempted to create a phony plotline that of course the court must have known the dossier was paid for and peddled by the same party of the sitting president, as well as by the campaign of his former secretary of state and the Democrats’ presidential candidate, the paper had to fess up that “the application did not specifically name the Democratic National Committee or the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.” I mean, duh, don’t FISA court judges read Yahoo News?

But that was all the ammo that the desperate and dishonest Nunes-smear merchants needed. In a classic case of media telephone-tag, The Hill published a story Saturday morning—citing the original Post article—that begins: “The Justice Department may have told a court of the political origins of an opposition research dossier that formed part of the application for a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser.” No. The sources did not say the Justice Department told the FISC of the political “origins”—only that the dossier was paid for by a “political entity.”

On Saturday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal posted its own scoop: “The memo is critical of Mr. Steele and notes that prosecutors in their application for the warrant didn’t explicitly state that he was working for a firm funded by Democrats. But the FISA application did disclose Mr. Steele was being paid by a law firm working for a major political party, according to a person familiar with the matter.” Even if that’s true, it still does not meet what one would assume to be the rigorous disclosure standards at FISC. Further, it’s evidence that the DOJ was fully aware of Steele’s bias and artfully attempted to shield those facts from FISA court judges.

Despite anonymous sources and conflicting accounts, the This-Is-An-Apple-Not-A-Banana crowd was off with their social-media pitchforks. Let’s start with the Apple-Banana promoters themselves, CNN:

Two Obama-era flunkies weighed in:

MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin reported the unverified and uncorroborated information as fact:

The perpetually hysterical NeverTrumper Jennifer Rubin weighed in via her customary unhinged manner:

CNNs Jake Tapper also presented the Post story as fact (and don’t miss Rubin’s GIF reply to him):

But amid heavy competition, NBC News political reporter Heidi Przybyla wins the Fakest News tweet of the weekend:

And the list goes on.

You can expect to hear much more of this sophistry from anti-Trump pundits on the Sunday talk shows with little pushback from complicit hosts.

Since we don’t have access to the FISA applications, we don’t know whether the court was informed of the specific sourcing of the dossier. But it’s unlikely the FISC would grant spying powers on a U.S. citizen who volunteered for a presidential campaign based on questionable accusations made by a rival campaign and political party. It’s somewhat safe to assume the judges did not know and Nunes is correct.

And, despite their breathless condemnations that Nunes is lying in his memo, the underlying stories buttress his statement. None of the unnamed sources said the Justice Department informed the court that Steele was being paid by the DNC or Clinton campaign. They confirmed only that the information was funded by a “political entity.” That’s about as vague and broad of a description as you can provide while remaining in the realm of the truth—and it also affirms the House Intelligence Committee’s memo.

Further, these folks are arguing against a claim Nunes never made. The memo was very specific in detailing what the Justice Department told—or, rather, didn’t tell—the court about the dossier: “The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOI at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of and paid by the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.”

So, sorry, anti-Trump propagandists, we can read. Perhaps next time you decide to orchestrate a misleading social media campaign, don’t link to the actual article that disproves what you are saying.

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About the Author:

Julie Kelly
Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. After college graduation, she served as a policy and communications consultant for several Republican candidates and elected officials in suburban Chicago. She also volunteered for her local GOP organization. After staying home for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters, Julie began teaching cooking classes out of her home. She then started writing about food policy, agriculture, and biotechnology, as well as climate change and other scientific issues. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1990 with a degree in communications and minor degrees in political science and journalism. Julie lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and (unfortunately) three dogs.