National Security & Foreign Policy

Issues ››› National Security & Foreign Policy
  • The Drudge Report Has Linked To Russian Propaganda Sites At Least 91 Times In 2016

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Drudge, RT, Putin

    The Drudge Report, the website owned and operated by conservative gossipmonger Matt Drudge, has linked to -- the website for the news service owned by the Russian government -- at least 67 times in 2016. According to an analysis by Media Matters for America, The Drudge Report also repeatedly linked to stories from other Russian-owned news sites, Sputnik News (22 times), and TASS (twice).

    RT (previously known as Russia Today) broadcasts via satellite in Russian, English, and Spanish around the world and hosts its official website at Russian President Vladimir Putin described the network as an attempt to introduce “another strong player on the world’s scene, a player that wouldn’t just provide an unbiased coverage of the events in Russia but also ... try to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams.”

    Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, reporter and former Moscow-based correspondent Julia Ioffe described RT as “the Kremlin’s propaganda outlet” that has at times sought to “stick it to the U.S. from behind the façade of legitimate newsgathering.”

    In recent months, controversy has grown about apparent attempts by the Russian government to interfere in or influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

    According to The New York Times, U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly told the White House that they have “high confidence” that the Russian government was “behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee.” The Washington Post has reported that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are currently investigating “what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions.”

    Drudge has repeatedly used his site to promote stories that idolize Putin, while also painting America, its government, and figures like President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton in a negative light.

    Over the last year, the Drudge Report has linked to several RT stories in this same vein.  These include:

    A story headlined “Russia to reveal location of US military satellites...” (paired with another story claiming the Kremlin is working on a “teleportation” program).

    A claim from the Russian government alleging that a U.S. Navy destroyer was “dangerously close” to a Russian boat. Yet in other reporting, U.S. officials said the Russian ship was demonstrating “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers.

    A “vow” from Putin to “neutralize” what RT described as a “US missile shield threat.”

    A column claiming “Satan Worship Rises In USA.”


    Drudge also linked to the Sputnik News service 22 times over the last year. Foreign Policy described Sputnik as “another compliant outlet to trumpet the Kremlin line” that depicts “the United States as an ailing imperial power bent on holding on to its domains.”

    Sputnik stories linked by Drudge include:

    A story accusing Google of “Hillary Search Manipulation.”

    An article headlined “Robots Wage War On Humanity 2055.”

    A report with the headline “WIKILEAKS Assange: GOOGLEClinton Deal...”

    Drudge also linked to stories from TASS, the official Russian news agency, twice over the last year.

  • Former George W. Bush Ethics Lawyer: Trump And His Family Need To Cut Ties With The Trump Organization If Trump Wins 

    Richard Painter: Trump's Foreign Business Conflicts Are "A Serious Problem" Deserving Of Media Attention

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, says if Republican nominee Donald Trump becomes president, the only way to avoid serious conflicts of interest would be for Trump and his family to sell all of their holdings in the Trump Organization. Painter also stressed that the issue was a “serious problem” that warrants increased media attention.

    The ethical mess presented by the Trump Organization is back in the news thanks to a Newsweek piece by reporter Kurt Eichenwald, who explained that if Trump and his family don’t cut ties to the family’s business conglomerate, Trump would “be the most conflicted president in American history, one whose business interests will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” due to the Trump Organization’s relationships and financial entanglements with foreign interests.

    Painter, who served as President George W. Bush's chief ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, said the conflicts are so vast and serious that Trump and his family should simply sell off the company’s assets if he becomes president.  

    “He needs to be out, he and his family need to be out,” Painter said in a phone interview Wednesday. (Trump has previously suggested that he would turn his business empire over to his children if he wins the presidency.)

    “To deal with the conflicts of interest the answer is to have all of these holdings, put ‘em all into a holding company, one company. He assigns all of his personal interests in everything to a holding company, then does an initial public offering for cash on Jan. 20 with the registration statement and he takes the cash, puts it in treasury bills or something like that.”

    Painter, who has publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton, points out that the criminal conflict of interest statute that bars such associations for federal employees does not apply to the president or vice president. 

    But he said that still does not make them acceptable and said previous presidents and vice presidents have divested themselves from such conflicts upon taking office.

    In his article, Eichenwald explained the Trump Organization’s blatant conflicts of interest have been “largely ignored,” something Painter says the media should rectify.

    “I think it needs media attention, I think it’s a serious problem,” he said. “The fact that he won’t even deal with it just like he won’t release his tax returns is a serious problem. The problems with Clinton is we just hear the same stuff over and over again, there is not a lot of stuff to talk about. … With Trump we’ve got this long list of problems.”

    Painter said that the key danger is when U.S. economic or foreign policy affects a nation with which Trump has business dealings or a business relationship. He fears that would put the U.S. at risk.

    “My number one concern is the amount of debt and the way he’s basically beholden to the banks. Like any real estate guy he has the support of loosey goosey credit regime and that means cronies in the banks keep throwing money at him,” he said. “What the Newsweek article does is flesh out another dimension of this particularly with respect to the international holdings and I very much suspect that they’ve only uncovered the tip of the iceberg.”

    He continued, “He has holdings all over the world, financial relationships all over the world. These are people who would be directly impacted by United States foreign policy. He makes money abroad because he has friends and if he has enemies he’s going to lose money abroad. This is a very serious problem for the United States from the vantage point of our foreign policy and our national security to have a president with significant economic exposure outside of the United States.”

    Painter stressed that for Trump to simply turn over control of The Trump Organization to his children would not be enough.

    “Just turning it over to his son and say his son is going to manage it, or his daughter, that doesn’t solve the problem,” Painter said. “I don’t think that if he has these financial interests and turns it over to his son, he knows what’s there. He knows who they're dependent on outside the United States. He knows which foreign governments and which organizations, which business consortiums he’s dependent on. If the statute applied to him, the criminal conflict of interest statute, that solution would never work.”

    Painter has also -- while explaining "there is little if any evidence that federal ethics laws were broken" by Clinton and those working for her -- urged the Clintons to further distance themselves from the Clinton Foundation. 

  • Meet The Iraq War Architect: Paul Wolfowitz Uses Opportunity On NBC To Re-litigate Iraq Invasion

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    NBC’s Meet the Press hosted Paul Wolfowitz, one of the discredited architects of the Iraq War, on the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Wolfowitz took advantage of the platform to downplay his role in starting the conflict. He also used his appearance on the program to object to statements that President George W. Bush misled America before the war, despite a Senate intelligence report which concluded that the Bush administration made its case for war with statements not supported by the intelligence available at the time.

    Wolfowitz, who served in the Bush administration from 2001 through 2005 as Deputy Secretary of Defense, is universally recognized as one of the original architects of the Iraq invasion. He infamously predicted the war reconstruction effort could pay for itself from Iraqi oil revenue (for reference, the cost of the Iraq War is now estimated to be more than $2 trillion), and publicly accused Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) long after the intelligence community had informed the Pentagon that he did not. Later, Wolfowitz claimed that the conflict was primarily about liberating the Iraqi people rather than confronting the supposed WMD threat, while also making the assertion -- without evidence -- that without the invasion, "we would have had a growing development of Saddam's support for terrorism."

    On his September 11 appearance on Meet the Press, Wolfowitz said he rejects the title of “architect of the Iraq war,” because he “was not the commander-in-chief, or even the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, or national security advisor.”

    Wolfwowitz also whitewashed President Bush’s misleading statements leading up to the war. Wolfowitz said: “People who say after the fact that Bush lied and got us into a war, he wasn’t lying. He was saying what everyone believed” about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Host Chuck Todd responded by asking, “Who lied? … Somebody got us into this, and somebody convinced the United States Congress that weapons of mass destruction were imminent in Iraq.”

    But instead of asking an Iraq War architect to deflect blame from the administration he served in, Todd could have referenced the Senate Intelligence Committee report that was covered by news outlets when it was released in June 2008. The report found that some statements by President Bush and senior members of the administration about Iraq, terrorist organizations, and weapons of mass destruction were “contradicted by available intelligence information,” “did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments,” and “were not substantiated by the intelligence.”

    From the June 5, 2008, United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, titled Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information:

    (U) Conclusion 12: Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

    Intelligence assessments, including multiple CIA reports and the November 2002 NIE [National Intelligence Estimate], dismissed the claim that Iraq and al-Qa'ida were cooperating partners. According to an undisputed INR [State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research] footnote in the NIE, there was no intelligence information that supported the claim that Iraq would provide weapons of mass destruction to al-Qa'ida. The credibility of the principal intelligence source behind the claim that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with biological and chemical weapons training was regularly questioned by DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], and later by the CIA. The Committee repeats its conclusion from a prior report that "assessments were inconsistent regarding the likelihood that Saddam Hussein provided chemical and biological weapons (CBW) training to al-Qa'ida."

    (U) Conclusion 13: Statements in the major speeches analyzed, as well additional statements, regarding Iraq's contacts with al-Qa'ida were substantiated by intelligence information. However, policymakers' statements did not accurately convey the intelligence assessments of the nature of these contacts, and left the impression that the contacts led to substantive Iraqi cooperation or support of al-Qa'ida.


    (U) Conclusion 15: Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

    The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate assessed that Saddam Hussein did not have nuclear weapons, and was unwilling to conduct terrorist attacks [sic] the US using conventional, chemical or biological weapons at that time, in part because he feared doing so would give the US a stronger case for war with Iraq. This judgment was echoed by both earlier and later intelligence community assessments. All of these assessments noted that gauging Saddam's intentions was quite difficult, and most suggested that he would be more likely to initiate hostilities if he felt that a US invasion was imminent.

  • How The Drudge Report Became Vladimir Putin’s Top Media Cheerleader

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    On Labor Day, visitors to the Drudge Report, the conservative news aggregator operated by Matt Drudge, were greeted by an above-the-fold story about the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama at the G20 Summit in China. Drudge’s headline for the story was “Lion And The Pussycat”:

    The Drudge headline is part of a larger pattern from the site of consistently promoting Putin and his strongman style of leadership (the “Lion”), which Drudge has often contrasted with President Obama, whom he characterizes as a weaker leader (the “Pussycat”). Drudge has also consistently promoted pro-Russian news and information, repeatedly harping on the idea that American power is weakening and in decline.

    Matt Drudge has extolled the virtues of Vladimir Putin for some time. In 2013, Drudge declared that “Putin is the leader of the free world,” adding to a chorus of conservatives backing the Russian leader. Around the same time, Drudge featured Putin at the top of his site as “Putin To The Rescue” (a headline he would re-use two years later) as the leader began discussing a possible military role for Russia in Syria.

    Over the past few years, Drudge has used his site to promote a steady stream of stories favorable to Putin, often while denigrating President Obama and the United States.

    Drudge’s boosterism of Putin has continued even as the FBI and other investigative services have alleged that hackers working at the behest of Russian intelligence have compromised American computer systems, including via an intrusion at the Democratic National Committee.

    The U.S. director of national intelligence has also recently testified that an inquiry is currently underway to see whether Russians are attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election.

    Drudge Makes A Putin/Trump Connection

    Drudge has couched some of his stories about Putin with accompanying articles and headlines comparing his leadership style to that of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    In December, Drudge highlighted a Financial Times piece that compared Putin to Trump using the text, “Russian president offers glimpse of strong leader.” This was paired with an article describing Putin as part of a “strongman revival” showing a “global trend.”

    During the Republican primaries, Drudge spotlighted a comment from Putin describing Donald Trump as a “very talented man.”

    Drudge Hypes Putin As A Strongman

    The Drudge Report has repeatedly highlighted stories focusing on Putin as a strong or tough world leader, often in a military context.

    The Drudge Report placed an above-the-fold link to a threat from Putin that he could use nuclear weapons against ISIS.

    Putin made it above-the-fold in a link to a Breitbart News article referring to ongoing negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons. The headline was “Hand ‘Em Over,” with a photo of Putin.

    Drudge hailed Putin for “flex[ing] muscle” as elections approached in Russia, bundling that link with others offering defenses of Putin against American criticism:

    Drudge gave above-fold treatment to a story asking if Russian airstrikes had killed the leader of ISIS (they hadn’t) with the headline “Did Putin Kill ISIS Leader?” The report linked did not name Putin or even reference Russian forces and their activities in the Middle East at the time. It appears Drudge invoked Putin’s involvement on his own.

    As Putin moved to annex Crimea, Drudge put the headline “Putin Promises ‘Aid’ For Ukraine” above-the-fold.

    As the annexation progressed, Drudge labeled the campaign as “Putin In Control.”

    Hailing Putin, Attacking Obama

    In addition to articles promoting Putin as a strongman, Drudge has also sought to use those stories as a contrast to President Obama and United States policy.

    When Putin wrote a New York Times op-ed questioning the concept of American exceptionalism, it was featured at the top of the Drudge Report.

    While linking to a New York Post story claiming that Obama has turned Putin into the most powerful leader in the world, Drudge used the headline “Red Planet: Putin Snubs Obama.”

    Drudge promoted a Chinese claim that “Putin Humiliated USA.”

    He also highlighted a story about a “Putin cafe” that “has Obama toilet paper.”

    Drudge linked to a story purporting to tell “how Putin beat Obama in Syria.” The original headline referred to “monstrous Putin,” but Drudge removed the adjective once he aggregated the story.

    After Russia engaged in airstrikes in Syria, Drudge juxtaposed a news link of that action with another story in which Putin called America “weak.”

    After the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, Drudge led his site with a headline asking if Putin would be the one to “rescue” the world from ISIS

    Defending Putin

    When Putin has been involved in international controversies, the Drudge Report has been a part of his administration’s pushback, often with links to official Russian news outlets, or those with state sponsorship.

    The Drudge Report highlighted a story from the state-financed Russian news outlet RT in which Putin claimed that he would neutralize a purported “missile shield threat” coming from America.

    When leaked files showing international efforts to move money offshore to avoid taxes referenced Putin, Drudge linked to an official denying Putin’s involvement.

    Putin Chronicler

    Drudge has also used his platform to chronicle Putin’s day-to-day activities as leader of Russia.

    He made a note of a Putin visit to Iran, which for some reason was featured above-the-fold.

    When Putin said he was considering running for a fourth presidential term, Drudge compared him to Stalin, and it was meant in a positive light.

    A story from the official Russian news agency Tass speculating that Elton John might meet with Putin while in Russia for a concert received a Drudge link.

    Drudge headlined photos of Putin working out “Ripped Putin Hits The Gym.”

    When Russian planes bombed targets in Syria, Drudge headlined the story above-the-fold as “Putin Blitz.”

    When world leaders attended a meeting of the G20 in Russia, Drudge posted photos of Putin greeting them along with the headline, “World Into The Arms of Putin.” He also wrote that “Obama shows up late -- and alone -- to dinner with Putin.”

    A story about the Russian Defense Ministry purchasing dolphins was paired with an article headlined “Fighter Jets Sent To Watch Putin.”

    An announcement that a state media agency in Russia was dissolving also made it above-the-fold on Drudge.

    Drudge linked to a report from the Russian news agency Tass about a meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping with a picture captioned “Putin Courts Xi.”

    When Putin played in a hockey game, that made the Drudge Report too.

    Drudge illustrated an ABC News story on Putin’s exercise regimen with a photo of the president.


    Drudge took note of a Putin encounter with leopard cubs in Sochi, Russia.

    After the 2014 Olympics in Russia had concluded, Drudge put “Games Over: Putin Ready to Take Off Gloves?” above-the-fold.