The Discredited Books At The Heart Of Trump's Speech

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Donald Trump cited claims from two discredited anti-Clinton books -- Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash and Gary Byrne’s Crisis of Character -- in his June 22 speech attacking Hillary Clinton. Clinton Cash is filled with errors and sloppy research, while Crisis of Character has been strongly denounced by Secret Service veterans as implausible.

Trump Cited Discredited Book Clinton Cash

Trump Cited Heavily Discredited And Sloppy Book Clinton Cash. During his speech attacking presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump cited Clinton Cash, which he claimed “documents how Bill and Hillary used the State Department to enrich their family at America’s expense.” The book is a trainwreck of sloppy research and shoddy reporting that contains over 20 errors, fabrications, and distortions. Reporters criticized Peter Schweizer for pushing conspiracies "based on little evidence" that are "inconsistent with the facts" and "false"; taking quotes "badly out of context"; excluding exculpatory information that undermines his claims; and falling for a fake press release. [DonaldJTrump.com, 6/22/16; Media Matters, 4/30/15]

Clinton Cash Author Peter Schweizer Has A Long History Of Errors, Retractions, And Questionable Sourcing. Schweizer has a disreputable history of reporting marked by errors and retractions, with numerous reporters excoriating him for facts that "do not check out," sources that "do not exist," and a basic failure to practice "Journalism 101." [Media Matters, 4/20/15]

Trump Picked Up Discredited Russian Uranium Conspiracy From Clinton Cash

Trump Picked Up Russian Uranium Conspiracy That’s "Based On Little Evidence." Trump cited Clinton Cash’s conspiracy about a Russian uranium company. From his remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20% of America’s uranium holdings to Russia, while 9 investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation. [DonaldJTrump.com, 6/22/16]

Time: Schweizer Offered "No Indication Of Hillary Clinton's Personal Involvement In, Or Even Knowledge Of, The Deliberations." A Time report debunked Schweizer's Rosatom/Uranium One conspiracy by explaining that it is "based on little evidence." To the contrary, the publication reported that an "official involved in the process said Clinton had nothing to do with the decision":

The suggestion of outside influence over U.S. decisionmaking is based on little evidence -- the allegations are presented as questions rather than proof. The deal's approval was the result of an extensive interagency process that required the assent of at least nine different officials and agencies. A former State Department official who participated in the deal's approval told TIME that Clinton did not weigh in on the uranium sale one way or the other, and her campaign calls the allegations in the book "absurd conspiracy theories."

[...]

The State Department's role in approving the deal was part of an extensive bureaucratic process, and the chapter offers no indication of Hillary Clinton's personal involvement in, or even knowledge of, the deliberations. State has just one vote on the nine-member committee, which also includes the departments of Defense, Treasury and Energy. Disagreements are traditionally handled at the staff level, and if they are not resolved, they are escalated to deputies at the relevant agencies. If the deputies can't resolve the dispute, the issues can be elevated to the Cabinet Secretary level and, if needed, to the President for a decision. The official chairman of CFIUS is the Treasury Secretary, not the Secretary of State.

[...]

One official involved in the process said Clinton had nothing to do with the decision in the Uranium One case. Jose Hernandez, who as former Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs was the State Department's principal representative on the committee, rejected the notion that Clinton's foundation ties had any bearing on the deal. "Secretary Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter," he told TIME. A spokesperson for Hillary for America, Josh Schwerin, also attacked the suggestions made in the book. The transaction "went through the usual process and the official responsible for managing CFIUS reviews has stated that the Secretary did not intervene with him," Schwerin says, "This book is twisting previously known facts into absurd conspiracy theories." [Time, 4/22/15, via Media Matters]

Schweizer: "No, We Don't Have Direct Evidence." During an ABC News interview, Schweizer admitted he had no "direct evidence" proving Clinton intervened on the issue:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But the assistant secretary who sat -- the assistant secretary of State who sat on the committee said she never intervened on any CFIUS issue at all.

PETER SCHWEIZER: Well, I think that deserves further scrutiny. I would question that. To argue that (INAUDIBLE)...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But based on what? Based on what?

SCHWEIZER: Well, I think based on her (INAUDIBLE)...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have any evidence that she actually intervened in this issue?

SCHWEIZER: No, we don't have direct evidence. But it warrants further investigation because, again, George, this is part of the broader pattern. You either have to come to the conclusion that these are all coincidences or something else is afoot. [ABC, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, 4/26/15]

FactCheck.org: Schweizer "Presented No Evidence That The Donations Influenced Clinton's Official Actions." [FactCheck.org, 4/28/15]

Fox's Chris Wallace To Schweizer: "You Don't Have A Single Piece Of Evidence That She Was Involved In This Deal." During an interview with Schweizer about the uranium deal, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace observed: "You don't have a single piece of evidence that she was involved in this deal, that she sent a memo to the person -- the State Department representative who was on this committee and said, hey, we want to approve the Uranium One sale." [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 4/26/15]

Separate State, Federal, And Foreign Agencies Approved The Deal. From Time:

Before purchasing a controlling stake in Uranium One, the Russian conglomerate also had to get approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an independent agency outside of the State Department's purview, as well as Utah's nuclear regulator. It also received the sign-off of Canada's foreign investment review agency. [Time, 4/22/15]

Uranium One Deal "Was The Outgrowth Of A Diplomatic Initiative" Started By The Bush Administration. Time wrote of the Uranium One purchase: "The deal itself was the outgrowth of a diplomatic initiative launched by the Administration of George W. Bush to expand trade opportunities between Russia and the U.S., including in the area of nuclear power." Schweizer worked as a consultant to the Office of Presidential Speechwriting in the Bush White House from 2008-2009. [Time, 4/22/15]

Uranium One Chairman Said Clinton Foundation Donations Came "Before There Was Any Idea Of This Takeover." The Wall Street Journal quoted Ian Telfer, chairman of Uranium One before its sale, stating that the Clinton Foundation donations started before the deal was known:

Mr. Telfer, in an interview Wednesday, said he made the contributions not for the sake of the Clintons, but to support his longtime business partner, Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining executive and longtime Clinton friend who co-founded the program to spur development in poor countries.

"The donations started before there was any idea of this takeover," Mr. Telfer said. "And I can't imagine Hillary Clinton would have been aware of this donation to this growth initiative," he added.

Similarly, Telfer told the Financial Post that the Clinton Foundation donations occurred when "there was never any thought of influencing anyone because there was nothing to influence." [Wall Street Journal, 4/22/15; Financial Post, 4/24/15]

Trump Picked Up Discredited Iran Telecommunications Conspiracy From Clinton Cash

Trump Suggested Iranian Firm Escaped Sanctions From Secretary Of State Clinton Because It Paid Bill Clinton. Trump cited Clinton Cash’s conspiracy theory regarding an Iran telecommunications company. From his remarks, as prepared for delivery:

A foreign telecom giant faced possible State Department sanctions for providing technology to Iran, and other oppressive regimes. So what did this company do? For the first time ever, they decided to pay Bill Clinton $750,000 for a single speech. The Clintons got their cash, the telecom company escaped sanctions. [DonaldJTrump.com, 6/22/16]

But Schweizer's Citation Says The Decision Was An "Executive Order" By President Obama. While Schweizer attributed the November 2011 decision solely to the State Department, his actual citation makes clear it was President Obama's decision. The press release states: "On November 19, President Obama signed E.O. 13590, which significantly expands existing energy-related sanctions on Iran." As a civics website explains, "Executive Orders (EOs) are legally binding orders given by the President, acting as the head of the Executive Branch, to Federal Administrative Agencies." [State.gov, 11/21/11; ThisNation.com, accessed 4/28/15, via Media Matters]

Yahoo News On Schweizer's Reporting: "Circumstantial" With "No Smoking Gun." Yahoo News wrote of Schweizer's Ericsson claim:

In a chapter obtained by Yahoo News, Schweizer marshals circumstantial evidence to suggest that Sweden-based global telecommunications giant Ericsson effectively influenced Hillary to spare it from punishing economic sanctions for doing business with Iran by paying $750,000 to Bill Clinton to speak at a Nov. 12, 2011, telecom conference in Hong Kong. There is, however, no smoking gun. [Yahoo News, 4/22/15]

Trump Cited Gary Byrne’s Crisis Of Character, Which Secret Service Veterans “Strongly Denounce”

Trump Highlights Byrne’s Claim That Clinton “Lacks The Integrity And Temperament” To Be President. From Trump’s June 22 remarks, as prepared for delivery:

She lacks the temperament, the judgment and the competence to lead.

In the words of a Secret Service agent posted outside the Oval Office:

“She simply lacks the integrity and temperament to serve in the office…from the bottom of my soul, I know this to be true…Her leadership style – volcanic, impulsive…disdainful of the rules set for everyone else – hasn’t changed a bit.” [DonaldJTrump.com, 6/22/16]

Politico: Secret Service Veterans “Strongly Denounce” Byrne’s Book. Politico reported on criticism of former Secret Service officer Gary Byrne’s book from current and former Secret Service members, including from the non-partisan Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service. The Secret Service veterans say Byrne was “too low-ranking” to have witnessed events recounted in the book, and suggest he is lying for political and financial benefit. 

On Tuesday, AFAUSSS, which is strictly nonpartisan, is set to release a statement blasting Gary Byrne author of “Crisis in Character,” saying members “strongly denounce” the book, which they add has made security harder by eroding the trust between agents and the people they protect.

“There is no place for any self-moralizing narratives, particularly those with an underlying motive,” reads the statement from the group’s board of directors, which says Byrne has politics and profit on his mind.

AFAUSSS rarely issues public statements of any kind.

The book has rankled current and former members of the Secret Service, who don’t like anyone airing their business in public — but who also take issue with Byrne inflating his role. Byrne was a uniformed officer in Bill Clinton’s White House. But that’s the lowest level of protection within the White House and around the president.

People familiar with West Wing security laugh at the idea that Byrne or any uniformed officer ever would have walked in on Bill Clinton anywhere, whether in a meeting or, as a New York Post article over the weekend claims, in the middle of a make-out session in the Map Room with the late daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale. The Secret Service presidential detail would have stopped him. (That affair was a well-worn rumor during the Clinton years, though strongly denied by Eleanor Mondale, who died of brain cancer in 2011.)

[...]

The group’s statement, which POLITICO obtained in advance of its release, very carefully calls Byrne a liar.

“One must question the veracity and content of any book which implies that its author played such an integral part of so many [claimed] incidents. Any critique of management by one who has never managed personnel or programs resounds hollow. Additionally, why would an employee wait in excess of ten years after terminating his employment with the Service to make his allegations public?” it reads. [Politico, 6/22/16]

BuzzFeed: “Scandalous Details” From Crisis Of Character Don’t Match Byrne’s Own Testimony. BuzzFeed highlighted a series of “discrepancies” between events recounted in Crisis of Character and the testimony Byrne gave in 1998 to investigators from Kenneth Starr’s office:

Gary Byrne, a former Secret Service agent who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House, tells a dramatic story in his upcoming book about how he personally helped a White House steward dispose of towels stained by semen and lipstick to protect the president from a sex scandal.

That story, as well as another Byrne tells about walking in on Bill Clinton making out with a TV journalist, is different from what he told investigators from Kenneth Starr’s Office of the Independent Counsel in 1998, a BuzzFeed News review of interviews, depositions, and grand jury testimony has found. [BuzzFeed, 6/22/16]

Byrne Invokes Vince Foster Murder Conspiracy. As Media Matters noted in its review of Byrne’s book:

The most gratuitous swipe at Hillary Clinton’s purported attitude is Byrne’s version of White House aide Vince Foster’s suicide. (Foster’s suicide has been the focus of conspiracy theories by conservatives for years, including most recently by Trump.) He notes that “word circulated that she berated him mercilessly.” Byrne claims that “the first time I saw Foster I figured he wouldn’t last a year,” and that he “looked uncomfortable and unhappy in the White House.” He compares Clinton’s staffers like Foster to “battered wives: too loyal, too unwilling to acknowledge they’d never assuage her. They had no one to blame but themselves, but they could never admit it.”

Byrne then regurgitates one of the long-since debunked conspiracy theories surrounding Foster’s death, writing about “a rumor” among law enforcement that Foster’s suicide weapon “had to be repaired in order for the forensics team to fire it.” Byrne claims that this and other stories made the death “spooky” and cites Foster’s suicide note in which he says “I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington.”

Byrne doesn't only question whether the Clintons murdered Foster, he also suggests he was worried that they might have wanted to kill him as well. [Media Matters, 6/20/16

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Elections
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Peter Schweizer
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