A recent blitz of “bombshell” headlines initially appear to show there might actually have been some collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia. First, there was The Guardian claiming that Paul “Manaford” (oops, the source meant Manafort) met with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks in spring 2016, with the obvious implication that it was done to plan or coordinate WikiLeak’s Hillary Clinton email dump.
Mollie Hemingway ably pointed out holes in the story by mentioning, among other issues, that Manafort would have entered the Ecuadorian embassy to meet Assange in the heart of London, which is blanketed by the most robust network of video cameras in the world. There would be video and it would have leaked. It hasn’t.
Margot Cleveland followed up with a nice article showing that The Guardian’s anonymous sourcing doesn’t pass muster against on-the-record denials from both Assange and Manafort, especially in light of the pattern of the media’s several false starts with other competing collusion theories.
We can now add NBC News, which just published a very misleading piece that incorrectly appears to be another “smoking gun” gotcha of Russia collusion. The first sentence reads, “Two months before WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, right-wing conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi sent an email to former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone anticipating the document dump.”
Left-wing conspiracy theorist Anna Schecter quoted one email from Corsi as saying, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps…One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”
The Public Already Knew Assange Planned More Dumps
The article completely overlooks whether the “word” Corsi was referring to could have been information that was already available in the public domain. Corsi allegedly wrote this email on August 2, 2016. In March 2016, WikiLeaks launched a database of 30,000 emails and email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state. These documents were legally obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, not hacking.
Subsequent to the March 2016 release but before the Stone email “predicting” more, Assange released additional emails that appear to have been obtained extra-legally. As reported in the June 12, 2016 issue of The Guardian, Assange announced on television that WikiLeaks had obtained and was preparing to release “more emails sent and received while [Clinton was the] US secretary of state.”
On July 21, 2016, Heavy reported that Assange would release the new emails as part of “a series,” which strongly suggests Assange planned to time the releases for maximum effect in the presidential election. On July 27, 2016, The New York Times noted that Assange was timing his email releases for maximum political damage, releasing one batch for the Democratic National Convention. Following the July, 2016 release of documents, Assange publicly announced that his website might have “a lot more material” relevant to the U.S. electoral campaign.
Assange made no secret of his disdain for Clinton, whom he deemed a war-monger. A politically astute observer could have assumed that Assange would save a release for October. To put it another way, Corsi sent Stone an email with predictions that could have easily been deducted by reading the widely available news reports and listening to Assange’s public statements.
The Russia Story Is Still Reading the Tea Leaves
It should also be noted that Corsi predicted two dumps, one “shortly after” he returned from a trip, and one in October. WikiLeaks released emails on July 22, and a series of John Podesta leaks beginning October 7 through the next several days. Thus, Corsi appears to have guessed wrongly or relied on bad information in predicting a dump after August 2, “shortly after I’m back.”
Corsi and Stone are big talkers, who seem to lie or guess to make themselves appear to be connected and in the know. Stone effectively admitted to exactly that, so it’s highly relevant whether either Stone or Corsi were passing off already public information as the inside scoop. Corsi claims his foreknowledge of the Podesta attack was a product of him connecting the dots.
Another commonly cited “smoking gun” is Stone’s now-deleted August 21, 2016 cryptic tweet, “Trust me, it will soon be the Podesta’s turn in the barrel.” But this could easily be a reference to the August 19, 2016 Politico story two days earlier, which said The Podesta Group had hired outside counsel because of its connection to the emerging scandal over lobbying for the Ukraine that put Manafort “in the barrel.”
If so, the prediction would have nothing to do with the hack of Clinton Campaign chairman Podesta’s email. Writing “the Podesta’s” in the tweet makes it more likely that Stone was referring to both Podesta brothers John and Tony, as in, “both of THE Podesta (brothers) are going in the barrel over Tony’s lobbying.” Or it could have referred to the name of their lobbying firm, “THE Podesta Group.” Either way, the tweet appears to refer to the past, not the future.
The newest bombshell is the story that Michael Cohen is now pleading guilty to lying about when the Trump Tower in Moscow deal actually fell through. So that’s it! That’s what the Russians had on candidate Trump all this time: a deal to build a new tower in Moscow.
According to The New York Times, this bombshell appears to have already fizzled, because the president does not appear to have said anything about the deal that conflicts with Cohen’s account in the plea deal. And none of that has anything to do with the election. Like so many other Trump-Russia collusion theories, this is yet another half-built bridge that doesn’t connect to the other shore.
The Entire Pattern of The Collusion Hoax Is Similar
It’s important to reflect on the Russia collusion hoax’s long history of truth-bending bombshells. One is reminded of ABC’s goof last year when it incorrectly reported that Trump directed Michael Flynn to make contact with Russian officials before the election. That request came after the election.
Who can forget the CNN story that incorrectly reported Donald Trump Jr. received a “heads-up” from WikiLeaks that it was about to release documents? The story, like this one, turned out to be the result of a bungled timeline. The “heads-up” came ten days after the release.
One is also reminded of the stories “confirming” the Fusion GPS dossier’s account of Cohen travelling to Prague to collude with the Russians. Not true. Notwithstanding clear debunking of the Prague trip account, The Hill continues to cite a non-functioning link in its article headlined, “Mueller can prove Cohen made secret trip to Prague before the election.”
One can also be reminded of the CNN story reporting that then-White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci met with Kirill Dmitriev, a figure in a Russian-government investment fund. CNN fired three of the reporting journalists and retracted the story the next day.
Here’s Some Garbage. Make Smoke Out of It
Here’s another interesting parallel between the Corsi and Manafort stories: Both Corsi and Manafort now claim the special counsel is refusing to accept their truthful accounts of the facts and have heavily suggested they will be prosecuted if they don’t change their stories. These reports remind us of complaints about Mueller No. 2 Andrew Weissmann who, in the Enron prosecutions, was accused of intimidating witnesses to provide incriminating testimony against prosecution targets.
After two years of this Trump/Russia hoax, the truth-bending bombshells still find their way into headlines. Keep in mind that Special Counsel Robert Mueller likely has every text, email, and voicemail that anyone connected with the Trump campaign ever made or recorded, and probably recordings of several of the phone calls. These latest leaks demonstrate that the Mueller team isn’t above spinning their cast-offs as smoking guns for the eager media.
Much ink has been spilled trying to determine how the Russia-collusion investigation got started. There’s simply no mystery here. As I’ve repeatedly documented, Clinton hired Fusion GPS to push the Trump-Russia hoax as a way to counterweight her email legal troubles. Fusion GPS paid money to journalists and the wife of a senior Department of Justice official (Bruce Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr) to help.
Fusion also hired Christopher Steele to help. He was already working with the FBI and is documented to have been its paid informant as early as February 2016. Fusion GPS continues to receive millions of dollars to continue “researching” the story. We never have learned which journalists received payoffs from Fusion GPS (although it’s unclear why any money would be needed to sic the media on Trump). Because The Guardian’s source is secret, we can’t rule out that it is also related to or paid by Fusion GPS in some way.