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How the New York Post ginned up a corruption accusation against a special counsel investigator

The Murdoch-owned paper laundered false accusations against DOJ investigator Jay Bratt, then buried the truth in the 18th paragraph

Right-wing media outlets are spreading a misleading story from the Murdoch-owned New York Post, which alleged improper coordination between special counsel Jack Smith’s investigators and President Joe Biden’s White House in charging former President Donald Trump. The article, titled “Biden staffers met with Special Counsel Jack Smith’s aides before Trump indictment” is front-loaded with sensationalized depictions of a meeting between Department of Justice investigators and White House staff in the lead-up to bringing charges against Trump for his alleged theft and mishandling of classified documents. The Post buried the legitimate explanation for the meeting between the DOJ investigator in question, Jay Bratt, and legal staff at the White House, which was simply an interview with a fact witness who had worked there during the Trump administration. The Post then additionally explained that Bratt is in fact a longtime DOJ attorney in its national security division.

  • New York Post stacked the deck with exaggerated accusations of secret coordination behind Trump’s indictment, then buried the facts debunking them

    • The article’s opening sentence alleged that a reported White House meeting in March 2023 was now “raising serious concerns about coordinated legal efforts aimed at President Biden’s likely opponent in 2024.” The article pinned its allegations on a meeting between investigator Jay Bratt and Caroline Saba, then the deputy chief of staff to the White House counsel’s office, “just weeks before” Smith “brought charges against former President Trump.” Also reportedly present was an FBI agent, Danielle Ray. [New York Post, 8/26/23]
    • The Post ran accusatory comments from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former attorney and co-defendant in the Georgia election subversion case: “There is no legitimate purpose for a line [DOJ] guy to be meeting with the White House except if it’s coordinated by the highest levels.” Giuliani also responded to a question about whether he believed that the Biden administration and Smith were coordinating Trump’s prosecution. Giuliani replied, “You’re damn right I do” adding: “What’s happening is they have trashed every ethical rule that exists and they have created a state police. It is a Biden state prosecutor and a Biden state police.” [New York Post, 8/26/23]
    • The Post also ran a comment from law professor Jonathan Turley, a Fox News contributor and vocal Trump defender, who claimed that the meeting “raises obvious concerns.” Turley said the meeting “raises obvious concerns about visits to the White House after [Bratt] began his work with the special counsel. … There is no reason why the Justice Department should not be able to confirm whether this meeting was related to the ongoing investigation or concerns some other matter.” [New York Post, 8/26/23]
    • In the 16th paragraph, the Post finally included a response from the special counsel’s office. More than halfway through the article, the Post reported: “Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel, said Bratt was at the White House for a ‘case-related interview’ but declined to comment further.” [New York Post, 8/26/23]
    • Finally, in the 18th paragraph, the Post reported that the meeting was an interview with a relevant witness, and not political coordination at all. The Post reported: “A person with knowledge of the 2023 visit insisted that it was ‘an interview of a career official who was also working at the White House during the Trump Administration.’” [New York Post, 8/26/23]
  • Right-wing media jumped on the New York Post’s story, falsely accusing the Biden administration of coordinating with the special counsel to prosecute Trump

    • Right-wing legal activist Mike Davis: “President Biden clearly approved the Mar-a-Lago raid on President Trump. Jay Bratt, an unethical Justice Department official who is now Jack Smith’s counselor, was clearly the driving force. @JudiciaryGOP must subpoena Bratt and his communications.” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]
    • Judicial Watch president and informal Trump adviser Tom Fitton: “Key DOJ prosecutor who targeted and abused Trump (and now is on Jack Smith operation) had curiously-timed meetings at Biden WH.” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]
    • Right-wing podcast host Monica Crowley: “Biden's White House coordinated with Jack Smith to indict his chief political rival. This is off-the-charts corruption, on top of all the other off-the-charts corruption. The level of deliberate destruction is unfathomable.” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]
    • American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp: “Does Special Counsel mean they get even more WH coordination? Hmm.” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]
    • Fox News host Mark Levin: “Why would the senior line prosecutor involved in the document investigation of President Trump be meeting with Biden’s lawyers at the White House? Caught red handed. Bastards.” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]
    • A Fox report highlighted the Post’s article, but omitted the explanation that the meeting was about interviewing a career official who also worked in the Trump White House. Instead, Fox News correspondent Alexandria Hoff merely said, “I do want to mention, the FBI declined comment for the New York Post story.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 8/27/23]
    • Fox host Will Cain said the story “clearly, you know, confirms our suspicions” that the Justice Department is not independent. Co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy further declared, “This is communism.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 8/27/23]
    • Disgraced right-wing author Peter Schweizer also shared the article on social media. [Twitter/X, 8/27/23]
    • National Review contributor Pradheep Shanker: “This is problematic to say the least. How can a special prosecutor be independent with actions like this?” [Twitter/X, 8/28/23]
    • Fox host Brian Kilmeade mocked the special counsel spokesperson’s explanation, “Oh, now I feel better, ‘a case-related interview.’” Kilmeade’s guest, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), called the story “one more piece of evidence that indicates, again, what all of us know intuitively — Jack Smith is engaged in a partisan political indictment of President Trump.” (Johnson serves on the House Judiciary Committee, which plays a prominent role in investigations of the executive branch.) [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/28/23]
    • Far-right MAGA podcast host and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon called the Post story a “bombshell.” Bannon’s guest, right-wing activist Mike Davis, further claimed that Bratt was not really a nonpartisan public servant at all: “He’s a career Justice Department official, but he was appointed by Democrat administrations to these top career jobs, in the administrative state jobs.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 8/28/23]
    • War Room’s Jayne Zirkle: “BOMBSHELL: Jack Smith’s Communication With White House Proves Trump Indictment Was Influenced By Political Agenda.” [Twitter/X, 8/28/23]
    • On his radio show, Fox host Sean Hannity demanded, “Why do White House visitor logs show” that an investigator and an FBI agent had a meeting at the White House? Hannity credited right-wing smear merchant John Solomon’s Just The News site with breaking the story, in a post that simply lifted the New York Post’s reporting but did not include the explanation that Bratt went to interview a career official who was present during the Trump administration. [Premiere Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 8/28/23]
    • Fox News briefly carried the real explanation during a news report. Fox correspondent David Spunt said: “A source familiar with the meeting tells us that Jay Bratt … was personally at the White House to interview a career official that worked during the Trump administration that is still at the White House, or was at the White House several months ago, as part of that investigation.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 8/28/23]
    • Later that night, Fox prime-time host Jesse Watters ignored this reporting. Watters instead told viewers, “White House visitor logs just released suggest that Joe Biden is personally running the prosecutions of Donald Trump.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 8/28/23]
    • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt declared, “The deep state is back with a vengeance, it would seem.” “It does not get much dirtier than that,” Schmitt added. [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 8/28/23]
    • Newsmax host Chris Plante introduced the story, “Collusion at the highest level — and this time, it’s not a hoax.” Only after several minutes of scandalmongering, both in Plante’s monologue and the subsequent panel discussion, did the actual explanation get through from Politico reporter Daniel Lippman, who noted that “a person familiar with that visit told the paper that this was a interview of a career official who works in the White House … and it was a national security matter.” Lippman’s explanation then got pushed back by other guests. [Newsmax, Chris Plante The Right Squad, 8/28/23]
  • Republican politicians pushed the story as a justification to investigate or impeach Joe Biden

    • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): “Election Interference. House Judiciary must investigate. Put me in, Coach.” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]
    • Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy: “The White House is quietly instructing Jack Smith to take out a political opponent in the midst of a presidential election.” In a lengthy social media post, Ramaswamy wrote: “Earlier this month, I filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, demanding answers about the White House’s role in guiding Jack Smith in the unprecedented and shameful indictment of the former president. Today, we learned that a member of the White House counsel’s office met with Jack Smith’s top aide *just weeks before* he indicted the former president in the documents case. This is the clearest evidence to date of what I’ve long suspected: the White House is quietly instructing Jack Smith to take out a political opponent in the midst of a presidential election. It’s disgraceful. This is the United States of America, not some banana republic.” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]
    • Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN): “Impeach!” [Twitter/X, 8/28/23]
    • House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY): “The corruption of the #BidenCrimeFamily is unmatched. House Republicans will hold all involved in this unprecedented Witch Hunt against President Trump accountable.” [Twitter/X, 8/28/23]
    • Stefanik: “Illegal collusion.” [Twitter/X, 8/28/23]
    • GOP strategist Alex Bruesewitz: “BREAKING: Biden staffers met with Special Counsel Jack Smith’s aides before Trump indictment. Joe Biden is the one who ordered the ARREST of his top political opponent!” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]
    • Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller: “ELECTION INTERFERENCE! ‘Biden staffers met with Special Counsel Jack Smith’s aides before Trump indictment.’” [Twitter/X, 8/26/23]