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Sara Carter

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  • Right-wing media figures have led Trump's purge of Department of Justice officials they perceive as threatening

    Here’s who they have left

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & GRACE BENNETT

    Right-wing media have consistently lined up behind Donald Trump to defend him against any and all allegations regarding Russian interference in the presidential election. Led primarily by Fox News and primetime host Sean Hannity, right-wing media figures have denounced, undermined, or maligned Department of Justice and FBI officials involved in the broader Russia investigation since it began. 

  • How Steve Bannon and Sean Hannity's ginned-up Hillary Clinton uranium story became a congressional investigation

    Pro-Trump conservatives want to talk about their own Russia narrative. The only problem is that it's bullshit.

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump has spent much of his presidency engulfed by congressional and criminal investigations into Russian efforts to help him win the 2016 presidential election. But today, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, announced he was joining a new congressional probe -- one that appears to revolve around the purported Russian ties of Trump’s opponent in that race, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    This is no accident. Like the work of the House Select Committee on Benghazi before it, this is a partisan investigation with a political purpose, with its roots in the conspiratorial muck of the right-wing media. But while the Benghazi probe -- as Republican leaders eventually acknowledged -- was an offensive push to damage Clinton’s political standing in the lead-up to the 2016 election, the new one is a defensive move aimed at protecting Trump by diverting attention to his former opponent. The effort's loudest champion is Sean Hannity, the Trump propagandist and sometime adviser who has claimed for months that the “real collusion” with Russia revolves around a bogus conspiracy theory linking Clinton to the 2010 sale of the uranium mining company Uranium One to the Russian government.

    The story begins with Breitbart.com head Stephen Bannon. In 2012, long before he became the Trump campaign’s chief executive and joined Trump’s White House as chief strategist, Bannon launched the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit conservative investigative research organization. Three years later, GAI’s president, the discredited author Peter Schweizer, authored the bestselling book Clinton Cash. The book, built on GAI’s research, alleged that Bill and Hillary Clinton “typically blur the lines between politics, philanthropy, and business.” It was a trainwreck of sloppy research and shoddy reporting, but was heavily promoted by mainstream outlets thanks to a cunning media strategy overseen by Bannon, and taken up by Trump during the campaign.

    One of the book’s bogus allegations was Schweizer’s claim that Hillary Clinton played a "central role" in approving the purchase of Uranium One by the Russian State Atomic Nuclear Agency. Schweizer speculated that she did so because of the money given to the Clinton Foundation and her husband by Russians and people linked to the deal. But this made no sense, and several reporters assessing Schweizer’s claims rejected them. The State Department had one of nine votes on the committee that approved the deal; the State Department rep said Clinton never intervened on the issue; there were critical questions about the timing of the donations Schweizer referenced; and even Schweizer said he had no direct evidence Clinton had intervened.

    The false allegations might have been forgotten in the wake of the election. But in January, the U.S. intelligence community announced that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin with the aim of harming Clinton’s campaign because “Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” Reporting from a host of news outlets ever since has suggested that Trump’s campaign aides and associates had a series of troubling interactions with Russians, triggering congressional investigations and eventually a criminal probe by special counsel Robert Mueller. With Trump’s presidency hanging in the balance, his allies have searched for a way to rebut the charges.

    Hannity eventually settled on the old Clinton Cash allegations. Claiming that there is no evidence to support what he terms “black-helicopter, tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories about so-called Trump-Russia collusion,” the Fox host declared that the “real collusion” is between Clinton and Russia, as demonstrated by the Uranium One tale. He pushed that argument over and over again to his audience of 3 million, making it in more than two dozen monologues over the summer.

    Then a week ago, Hannity tweeted this:

    Hannity was promoting a report by John Solomon, the executive vice president of The Hill, which purported to advance the Uranium One story. According to Solomon’s anonymous sources, “Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow.” Solomon provides no evidence that the Clintons were aware this was happening, and of course the underlying conspiracy theory that Clinton pushed the Uranium One deal through still makes no sense. But it’s something the right-wing press can use to try to shift attention away from Trump.

    Solomon is an investigative journalist who has had many acts in the business. This year, he’s drawn attention for his work as chief operating officer of Circa News, a mobile-first platform with an independent brand that the conservative goliath Sinclair Broadcast Group bought in 2015, hollowed out, and turned into its own pro-Trump news website. At Circa, Solomon and his colleague Sara Carter excelled at turning out stories -- often anonymously sourced -- alleging impropriety by former Obama national security officials and former FBI Director James Comey. Feeding into the right-wing narratives about efforts by nefarious deep-state actors to tear down the president, Circa’s reporting received glowing reviews from Trump’s most conspiratorial supporters.

    But Circa’s biggest fan is Hannity -- as The Hill put it in March, he “has repeatedly lauded Circa as the gold standard.” Indeed, for all intents and purposes, Solomon’s operation replaced Fox’s own journalists in providing the pro-Trump reporting Hannity needs to confirm his biases. According to Media Matters research, Carter appeared on 30 episodes of Hannity from May 15 through the end of August -- the only guests to show up more often were Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett. Solomon made 14 appearances on Hannity’s Fox News show during the same time frame.

    Hannity heavily promoted Solomon’s story on his Fox show, devoting extensive segments to the “explosive” “bombshell” on the night it broke and the next two nights. He’s hosted Solomon, Carter, and Schweizer, harangued the rest of the press for not covering the story, and declared Uranium One “one of the biggest scandals this country has ever seen.” And on the night the story broke, he made clear what he thought should happen next:

    HANNITY: Also, is Congress now going to do its job? Will they investigate these explosive reports immediately? Will the Special Counsel Robert Mueller start looking into this Russian plot to control American uranium?

    Over the next few days, Trump’s allies on Fox and elsewhere worked themselves into a frenzy over the “real collusion” story (per Alex Jones, the “Beginning Of The End For Clinton Crime Family”). On the morning of October 19, apparently spurred on by a Fox & Friends segment on Solomon’s story, Trump himself joined the fray, tweeting, “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!”

    And now Nunes -- who had to recuse himself from Russia-related investigations earlier this year due to ethics charges that resulted from his effort to do the White House’s bidding and scuttle the Trump-Russia investigations -- is taking a hand. At a press conference today, he announced that he would be launching an investigation into the Uranium One allegations. He will be working alongside the House Oversight Committee, helmed by the former chairman of the Benghazi Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).

    When there's a congressional investigation into a Clinton, Fox knows how to respond:

    The New York Times yesterday detailed how Republican congressmen, including Nunes and Gowdy, are trying to “wrap up the investigations” into Trump’s Russia ties as quickly as possible. “Congressional investigations unfortunately are usually overtly political investigations, where it is to one side’s advantage to drag things out,” Gowdy told the Times. He knows that from experience. A year into Trump’s presidency, egged on by sycophantic media allies like Hannity, the first congressional investigation into a Clinton has begun. It won’t end anytime soon.

  • Sinclair-owned stations give platform to serial misinformer Peter Schweizer of Breitbart

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Dozens of Sinclair-owned local news stations are running a package featuring serial misinformer Peter Schweizer, a senior editor-at-large for Breitbart, making debunked allegations about Hillary Clinton’s role in a deal selling U.S. uranium holdings to Russia while she was secretary of state. This package is the latest in Sinclair’s attempt to infect local media with inaccurate right-wing commentary.

    Schweizer, whose work has been funded in large part by hedge fund billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer, used the segment to hype debunked allegations from his error-riddled book Clinton Cash. He implied that there was “cronyism” or “corruption” surrounding the selling of the Uranium One company to a Russian nuclear company while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state because the company, Rosatom, donated to the Clinton Foundation. Schweizer, who has a long history of pushing misinformation, baselessly claimed, “There was a quid pro quo culture at the Clinton Foundation, that large donors were getting favors in return for those donations.”

    From the October 20 edition of WNWO’s NBC 24 News:

    PETER SCHWEIZER: People often assume that corruption or cronyism is a victimless crime, that it’s just politicians making money and what’s the big deal? The problem is, in this particular case, there are huge national security implications.

    SARA CARTER: Peter Schweizer, the man behind the book Clinton Cash, says the U.S. government should take a closer look at the deal that allowed the Russian nuclear company Rosatom to purchase Uranium One.

    SCHWEIZER: Even at the time this deal was approved in 2010, it was massively controversial. You had a dozen members of Congress who ran national security committees, you had U.S. senators who wrote letters to the [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] raising questions about the fact that this deal was being looked at.

    CARTER: One of the points of contention for people investigating the Clintons’ potential connection to the deal were speech fees Bill Clinton received from a Russian bank while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and sat on the panel that approved the transaction. Schweizer says a Clinton Foundation review, done at the behest of Chelsea Clinton, shows a lack of transparency in their contributions.

    SCHWEIZER: There was a quid pro quo culture at the Clinton Foundation, that large donors were getting favors in return for those donations.

    CARTER: When Schweizer helped The New York Times with an article on the Clinton Foundation in 2015, a spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign told them no one has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interest of donors to the Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation did not respond to attempts for comment.

    However, as numerous fact-checkers have previously pointed out, “The State Department was one of nine agencies on the committee that approved the deal,” and “there is no evidence Clinton herself got involved in the deal personally, and it is highly questionable that this deal even rose to the level of the secretary of state.”

    The segment, which was reported by Sinclair Broadcast Group subsidiary Circa, is the latest in Sinclair’s history of pushing right-wing commentary that has been compared to “propaganda.” The broadcasting company also has selectively omitted stories that don’t fit its agenda. Recently, Sinclair has made a series of conservative hires, including discredited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson and former Trump White House aide Boris Epshteyn. In July, Sinclair announced it would be tripling the number of segments featuring Epshteyn that are sent to stations as “must-run” packages -- a typical practice for the company. There has also been reporting that Sinclair could partner with Breitbart, as the latter site’s chairman and former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has sought to expand his “platform for the alt-right” to “compete with Fox News from the right.” Both Bannon and Schweizer worked at the Government Accountability Insitute, a venture that was funded by the Mercers.

    Sinclair’s dealings with the Trump administration run deep. During the campaign, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner reportedly “struck a deal” with Sinclair to “secure better media coverage” for then-candidate Donald Trump in exchange for “more access to Trump and the campaign.” Additionally, President Donald Trump’s Federal Communications Committee has pursued deregulatory efforts that could make it easier for the Sinclair empire to grow as it seeks to merge with Tribune Media.

    Circa, and in particular its correspondent Sara Carter, have become a favorite source for others in right-wing media, especially Fox News’ Sean Hannity.