CNN's pro-Trump shill Jeffrey Lord: Trump would "have a huge political advantage" if he fired Russia investigator
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Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett has been making legally dubious claims and shilling for President Donald Trump during his commentary on the ongoing probe into possible collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government, an investigation he repeatedly dismisses when he argues, "You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election."
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Right-wing media, pro-Trump internet trolls, and fake news purveyors are boosting a report from a right-leaning journalist in a way that suggests former FBI Director James Comey might have intentionally leaked classified information to The New York Times. The report presents already-known information about Comey’s memos that recounted his interactions with President Donald Trump. Politico also reported that the source that passed along the memo to the Times confirmed that it did not contain classified information.
Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, is a regular Fox News guest, particularly on staunch Trump ally Sean Hannity’s TV and radio shows (which Sekulow has also sometimes guest-hosted). Fox and Hannity have repeatedly given Sekulow a platform to push misinformation; in fact, Sekulow made at least seven misleading or dubious allegations on Hannity’s shows between late May and June, some of which Hannity encouraged.
Fox & Friends' lack of journalistic standards: A story in 3 parts
Throughout the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends, the morning show hosts had to continuously walk back and correct a report in which they claimed that former FBI Director James Comey had visited The New York Times the night before. Fox & Friends’ initial incorrect reporting, which was eventually walked back through two follow-up segments, highlights the lack of journalistic standards on Fox News’ flagship morning show.
In the first report, Fox & Friends reporter Jillian Mele stated, “The New York Times gets a special visitor,” to which guest host Ed Henry replied, “Wonder what James Comey was doing at The New York Times. It’s so odd.”
JILLIAN MELE: The New York Times gets a special visitor. The Daily Mail got these pictures of former FBI Director James Comey stopping by their office in Manhattan. He reportedly spent three hours inside.
ED HENRY (CO-HOST): Wonder what James Comey was doing at The New York Times. It's so odd.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Why would he go right in the front door?
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): I know. He’s not even trying to hide.
HENRY: He’s wearing sunglasses.
Fox & Friends began to backtrack in its second segment on the matter, noting that a spokesperson for The New York Times had stated that Comey hadn’t gone to the paper's offices, and admitting that Comey could have entered other offices within the New York Times building. The hosts semi-acknowledged that “there may be a law firm in that building that had some sort of event for abused children” that Comey actually attended. (Reporting from the previous night had pictures of Comey at that event.) The hosts, however, continued to cast doubt, stating, “We just don’t know.”
STEVE DOOCY: Well, yesterday, just about four blocks from where we’re sitting right now, somebody realized, hey, who’s that really tall guy going into The New York Times?
ED HENRY: I’ve seen him on TV.
DOOCY: He’s wearing sunglasses. There he is right there, he’s holding his coat. He’s going in with his wife, and he came out with his wife, and --
HENRY: It’s James Comey.
DOOCY: -- and sunglasses off. It's the former FBI director going into the New York Times building.
AINSLEY EARHARDT: Clearly didn't want to hide it. He’s going in the front door, not the even a back door. He was in there for three hours.
DOOCY: Yeah. The New York Times spokesperson says he did not visit the New York Times newsroom, however, there are other businesses in that building. Also, didn't go to the newsroom, could have gone to another part.
EARHARDT: It just doesn’t look good. After he admitted to leaking to his friends that work in, that are his journalist friends, it doesn't look good.
HENRY: There are reporters for The New York Times, we should say, who are tweeting last night and this morning that there may be a law firm in that building that had some sort of event for abused children and that James Comey and his wife may have been visiting them as a charitable thing. They were in there for a couple of hours. Whether they visited more than one office we simply don't know.
DOOCY: So, it would just be a coincidence that he also leaked stuff to somebody who leaked to them.
HENRY: Yeah, might be a coincidence, yeah.
EARHARDT: Could be a Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton thing. They talked about grandkids, but they were in the plane for a long time; he was in there for three hours.
HENRY: What kind of sunglasses to wear.
In the final report on this topic, hosts continued to walk back their own reporting and speculation, claiming that “now we’re learning more,” despite the fact the tweet they were referring to was sent the previous evening. Host Steve Doocy noted that “there was some speculation” that Comey was at the New York Times building to meet with reporters, failing to note that he and his co-hosts contributed to the speculation, but adding, “As it turns out, that is not the case.”
STEVE DOOCY: Speaking of talk, yesterday there was extremely tall man with glasses seen walking into the New York Times building.
ED HENRY: There he is.
DOOCY: Does that look familiar?
HENRY: That’s James Comey.
DOOCY: That is James Comey.
HENRY: He’s going into the New York Times building.
DOOCY: Three hours later there he comes out. There’s a great big story on Daily Mail about James Comey spotted at the New York Times building. We reported that this morning. We said that the New York Times spokesperson said that he did not visit the newsroom, and now we're learning more from, I think, Maggie Haberman at The New York Times -
HENRY: Yeah, saying he didn't visit the newsroom. A person close to him said that he and his wife went to a ceremony for CASA, at Covington & Burling, a major law firm, which is also in the New York Times building, and apparently that law firm was hosting some sort of charity event for abused kids. There’s some photos on Twitter of James Comey and his wife talking to those kids. Sounds like a wonderful cause. If that’s what he was doing, hats off to him.
DOOCY: Sure. And there was some speculation -- well, maybe he went to The New York Times because it wasn’t so long ago he gave that Columbia professor his notes so that they could leak it to the Times. As it turns out, that is not the case. He was there --
HENRY: Great if he was doing charity work. It does not erase the fact there’s been all kinds of leaks at The New York Times. Period, end of story.
The evolution and complete breakdown of Fox & Friends' initial reporting highlights the complete lack of journalistic standards on Fox’s morning show. Earlier this month, the hosts cited a story relying solely on “one of the online blogs.” The Fox & Friends hosts have consistently shown that they will report on a story without looking for the facts or truth behind the narrative they want to push; no one should take them at their word.
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Gingrich, who accused Bill Clinton of obstruction of justice, claims presidents can’t obstruct justice
In his flimsiest statement yet in his crusade to delegitimize the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign, Fox News contributor and Trump adviser Newt Gingrich falsely proclaimed that "technically, the president of the United States cannot obstruct justice."
From the June 16 event at the National Press Club:
Twitter users were quick to point out that Gingrich, during his time as speaker of the House, helped impeach then-President Bill Clinton, in part for obstructing justice.
But this is only the latest instance in which Gingrich has stretched the truth -- or flat-out lied -- to defend Trump. Gingrich and his right-wing media allies are currently engaged in a campaign to discredit former FBI Director James Comey and the current special counsel in charge of the investigation, Robert Mueller, even resorting to baseless conspiracy theories. Gingrich and other conservative media figures are attempting to smear Mueller as biased or having an “agenda,” with Gingrich commenting, “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair.” These same media figures have praised Mueller in the past, and Trump himself considered Mueller as a replacement for Comey to lead the FBI.
An “alt-right”-affiliated outlet and fake news purveyors are pushing a highly dubious conspiracy theory from a fringe blog that acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe is a “ringleader” in a plot against President Donald Trump.
Big League Politics, a fringe blog founded by former Daily Caller writer Patrick Howley, cited an “inside source” to claim that McCabe was the “ringleader” behind a collaboration “against” Trump by McCabe, former FBI Director James Comey, and Russia probe special counsel Robert Mueller. According to Howley, the source also called the three men “creatures of the swamp.” The blog also employs “alt-right” figure Cassandra Fairbanks, and it previously helped revive a fringe smear that Comey was biased in his investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server due to his brother’s supposed connections to the Clintons. The McCabe article has drawn slightly more than 100 Facebook engagements so far, according to social media analytics website BuzzSumo.
Soon after it was published, the report was picked up by “alt-right”-affiliated blog The Gateway Pundit, which wrote that the revelations showed that Mueller is “in bed” with McCabe and Comey, that the three are working to “undermine” Trump, and that McCabe is the “real treat” of this “swamp fiasco.” Though The Gateway Pundit regularly pushes false stories, Fox News and Trump have regularly cited its content, the White House has given its correspondent press credentials, and the site is currently trying to get congressional press credentials. The Gateway Pundit’s McCabe article has received at least 6,200 Facebook engagements, according to BuzzSumo.
Thanks to the Gateway Pundit article, fake news purveyors then spread this dubious claim. Before It’s News wrote that the report meant “FBI directors past and present apparently have it in for” Trump, and The Political Insider said that it showed “the deep state is preparing for war.” Mad World News and Washington Feed wrote that McCabe was “execut[ing]” Comey’s “treacherous” “backup plan” and that Trump needs to “get rid of” these “deep state hacks.” Freedom Daily called the report a “bombshell” that showed a “treasonous plot” that “shady” McCabe was “execut[ing]," and that Trump needed to “act quickly” to “get rid of” him. The Political Insider, Mad World News, and Freedom Daily articles have received at least 2,000, 1,600, and 5,500 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.
The “alt-right”/fake news ecosystem pushing this dubious new charge has essentially been a propaganda machine for Trump, and the network continues to target Comey and Mueller as they become potential threats to the president. Mueller is leading the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in the 2016 election, and Comey has testified that he believes Trump fired him due to the probe. The new claim also comes as Trump tweeted that he is “being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director” and that he is the target of a “witch hunt.”
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Over the past month, fake news purveyors and “alt-right”-affiliated figures and outlets have been smearing former FBI Director James Comey and special counsel for the Russia probe, Robert Mueller. The two men have been smeared by this media ecosystem, which has essentially been a propaganda machine for President Donald Trump and which perceives the two investigators as a potential threat to the president. Following Comey’s firing by Trump in May, Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, and Comey’s statement that Trump fired him over the Russia probe, this ecosystem has worked to discredit both and to assist Trump. These are five smears they have pushed.
“Alt-right” troll Jack Posobiec claimed Comey dropped a probe of Susan Rice (there’s no evidence any such probe existed) to avoid implicating himself. Shortly after former FBI Director James Comey was fired, Jack Posobiec, an “alt-right” troll with a history of pushing conspiracy theories and misinformation, claimed that an “FBI source” told him that “Comey dropped the Susan Rice unmasking investigation [because] it would have implicated himself.” The tweet was in reference to the dubious claim that former national security adviser Susan Rice violated the law by unmasking Trump aides caught up in surveillance of foreign officials. There has been no corroboration outside of the right-wing fringe that Rice was ever under FBI investigation.
Fake news purveyors ran with Posobiec’s claim. Fake news purveyors ran with Posobiec’s dubious claim, with TruthFeed claiming it “does logically make sense.” Angry Patriot wrote that it “will only affirm Trump’s decision in giving [Comey] the boot,” and Conservative Daily Post and The Washington Feed published the same article claiming that it showed Comey “was an extremely corrupt individual.” The TruthFeed, Angry Patriot, and Conservative Daily Post articles received at least 1,700, 9,300, and 6,800 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo, a social media analytics site.
Judicial Watch claimed Mueller, as FBI director, “caved” to “Islamist groups.” Following Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, right-wing group Judicial Watch published a report claiming that “as FBI director, Mueller bent over backwards to please radical Islamist groups and caved into their demands.” Judicial Watch alleged that the FBI under Mueller “eliminated the valuable anti-terrorism training material and curricula after Mueller met with various Islamist organizations, including those with documented ties too (sic) terrorism.” According to Wired, the FBI had removed those materials because “they were inaccurate or over-broad” or “because they were offensive.”
“Alt-right” outlet and fake news purveyors used Judicial Watch report to attack Mueller. “Alt-right”-affiliated outlet The Gateway Pundit used the Judicial Watch report to claim Mueller “conspired with radical Islamic groups.” Fake news purveyors joined in; Conservative Fighters and Angry Patriot wrote that it showed “the media’s glowing portrayal of Mueller” was “not true,” The Washington Feed claimed that it showed “the real picture” of Mueller, and Tell Me Now wrote that Mueller “thought it was more offensive than jihadists killing Americans” and that the report “will likely have some Americans concerned” about him being special counsel. The Gateway Pundit, Conservative Fighters, Angry Patriot, and Tell Me Now articles received at least 1,200, 9,500, 13,800, and 231 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.
Fringe blog Big League Politics suggested Comey was “protecting [Hillary] Clinton” because his brother worked at law firm connected to the Clinton Foundation. After Comey’s firing, fringe blog Big League Politics revived a claim, originating from “alt-right”-promoting outlet Breitbart, that Comey “was clearly protecting [Hillary] Clinton from … espionage and corruption charges” because his brother worked for a law firm that “does the Clinton Foundation’s taxes.”
“Alt-right” outlet and fake news purveyors ran with charge to discredit Comey. The Gateway Pundit claimed Big League Politics showed Comey’s “ties to the Clinton Foundation and the conflicts of interest that lie there are too close to not raise red flags.” From there it was revived by fake news purveyors, with Angry Patriot writing that it showed “Comey was compromised, so it is a good thing that Donald Trump removed him from office.” TruthFeed wrote that it showed Comey’s “crooked Clinton ties” meant Trump “was 100% correct to remove this shill,” USA Politics Today wondered how “Comey [was] not removed from the Hillary Clinton email investigation,” and Conservative Patriot wrote that it showed Comey was “involved in shady activities with [the] Clinton Foundation.” The Gateway Pundit, Angry Patriot, TruthFeed, USA Politics Today, and Conservative Patriot articles received at least 24,400, 5,800, 2,100, 2,700, and 4,800 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.
The Gateway Pundit, via Wikileaks, revived a 2009 cable showing Mueller, with authorization, transported uranium to Russia. After Mueller was named special counsel, The Gateway Pundit pointed to a 2009 cable published by Wikileaks revealing that Mueller delivered a sample of highly enriched uranium -- seized from the nation of Georgia and held in U.S. custody -- to Russia, with authorization from the Georgian government, for forensic analysis. The uranium was referred to by both Wikileaks and The Gateway Pundit as “stolen,” and The Gateway Pundit used the story to suggest that Democrats should be “up in arms over Mueller’s visit to Russia” because “according to the deranged Democrats, any contact with the Russians creates a cloud of suspicion and must lead to an investigation.”
“Alt-right” outlet and fake news purveyors claimed Mueller “has [a] connection to Russia.” Infowars, a conspiracy theorist website, wrote that the cable showed Mueller “has [a] past connection with [the] Kremlin.” Fake news purveyor USA Politics Today wrote that Mueller “is not … innocent” because he “oversaw the transfer of stolen highly enriched uranium” to Russia. And The Federalist Tribune asked, “Since Obama was president than (sic), does this mean he was acting in a treasonous manner in trying to stop the flow of stolen nuclear materials by cooperating with Russia?” The Gateway Pundit, Infowars, USA Politics Today, and The Federalist Tribune articles received at least 2,300, 206, 832, and 569 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.
Gateway Pundit spun a 2015 article on the shootings in Chattanooga, TN, to claim that “Comey colluded with Obama on radical Islamic murder of US marines.” The Gateway Pundit claimed that in 2015, “the FBI under Comey was completely baffled” about the motivation of a man who killed U.S. marines at a military recruiting center and at a naval base in Chattanooga, TN, in July of that year. The fringe website claimed, “No doubt this was the conclusion Obama wanted” and spun a November 2015 Associated Press article that quoted Comey saying, “We’re still trying to make sure we understand Abdulazeez, his motivations and associations, in a really good way.” Later, in December 2015, Comey told reporters that the shooter “was inspired by a foreign terrorist organization's propaganda.”
Fake news purveyors run with Gateway Pundit’s claim. Fake news purveyors ran with The Gateway Pundit’s claim, with some additionally lying that the report was new. The Washington Feed called it “Comey’s sickest secret,” while USA News Flash said it was “sickening” because “the public record will never be revealed.” Freedom Daily claimed Comey did a “sickening thing” to “cover up the murder.” Red Rock Daily News claimed it showed “Comey and Obama are criminals.” The Gateway Pundit, USA News Flash, and Freedom Daily articles received at least 1,900, 12,400, and 16,800 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.
“Alt-right”-affiliated outlet GotNews alleged Mueller misled Congress about spying on antiwar groups. GotNews, an “alt-right”-affiliated outlet, claimed in May that a Justice Department inspector general report showed Mueller “misled Congress in 2006 about FBI surveillance of peaceful anti-Iraq War groups.” However, as the inspector general report noted, Mueller did not know at the time the information was incorrect.
Fake news purveyors used report to falsely claim Mueller is “a liar.” Fake news purveyors used the GotNews report to falsely claim Mueller lied to Congress. Angry Patriot and Conservative Fighters both wrongly wrote that Mueller “falsified testimony about the bureau’s surveillance on an anti-war protest in 2002” and that he is “a liar who illegally spied on Americans.” The GotNews, Angry Patriot, and Conservative Fighters articles received at least 637, 6,200, and 4,700 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.
GotNews reported Mueller worked with law firm representing a “big Democrat group.” GotNews in June alleged that Mueller was “partnered” with a law firm, WilmerHale, that represented the “leftist analytics firm Civis Analytics,” which it also described as a “big Democrat group.” The GotNews report ignored the fact that WilmerHale also represents three Trump affiliates: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, daughter Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The Gateway Pundit and fake news purveyors ran with the report to question Mueller's "impartiality." The Gateway Pundit wrote that GotNews showed Mueller had “ties to a particularly dangerous DNC megadonor.” Fake news purveyors also ran with the report, with Angry Patriot and Conservative Fighters writing that “Mueller’s bipartisanship seems doubtful given that his law firm worked with the Left-wing Civis Analytics,” and a Before It's News contributor wrote that the report was “raising questions about Mueller’s impartiality in his so-called ‘Russia probe’ into President Donald J. Trump’s campaign.” The GotNews, Gateway Pundit, Angry Patriot, and Conservative Fighters articles received at least 55, 3,200, 6,200, and 4,700 Facebook engagements, respectively, according to BuzzSumo.
This piece has been updated.