61 Hacks Who Peddled Russian Collusion And Should Never Be Trusted Again

61 Hacks Who Peddled Russian Collusion And Should Never Be Trusted Again

Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has closed the door on Russian collusion hysteria, let’s take a look back at the Most Mistaken Men and Women in America.
Margot Cleveland
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Since 2016, some big names—both inside the government and out—have peddled the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy with such vigor you’d think they invested their life savings in Reynolds Metal Company. Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has closed the door on such hysteria, let’s take a look back at the Most Mistaken Men and Women in America (and the world).

Christopher Steele: Is there anywhere else to begin, really? The former British spy destroyed any semblance of seriousness when he included reports of the pee-prostitutes in his dossier. But the rest of the report was equal parts claptrap.

There was no secret meeting between Kremlin courtiers and former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. No trip to Prague by Michael Cohen. No quid pro quo election assistance for the lifting of sanctions. No there there. Yet his so-called report was a key basis for this entire Russian hoax saga.

Of course, all those taken in by Steele—or assisting him in trumping up years of investigations of a U.S. president based on smoke and mirrors—make the list too: Glenn Simpson, DOJ lawyer Bruce Ohr, the former FBI duo of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, fired FBI heads James Comey and Andrew McCabe, dossier courier David Kramer, and former senator Harry Reid, among others.

Then there’s Jane Mayer, whose ode to Steele at The New Yorker sought to prop up the un-propable. Former National Security Agency lawyer Susan Hennessey, a CNN contributor, also gave credence to the dossier constantly, in one instance claiming “the intelligence community and law enforcement seem to be taking these claims seriously.”

Yes, U.S. intelligence leaders were taking those claims seriously. Too seriously. Case-in-point: Former CIA director John Brennan. At least Steele was getting paid for his—to borrow a word from Brennan—hogwash. Brennan sold collusion from both inside the White House and out.

So did Obama national security director James Clapper, who played a key role in both creating the Russian collusion hoax and perpetuating it over the next two years as a CNN contributor. According to a declassified congressional report, “Clapper leaked details of a dossier briefing given to then-President-elect Donald Trump to CNN’s Jake Tapper, lied to Congress about the leak, and was rewarded with a CNN contract a few months later.”

As The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway reported, Clapper’s leak seems to have been done in coordination with Comey as a setup to give the false dossier legitimacy. Regardless, Washington Post factcheckers went to bat for Clapper, purporting to prove that he wasn’t really lying when he lied to Congress. The outcome is not only the end of credibility for Clapper but also for the Washington Post.

Former NSA analyst and counterintelligence officer John Schindler, a New York Observer columnist and sometimes CNN guest, also beclowned himself, claiming NSA Director Mike Rogers told his staff “there is no question that we [meaning NSA] have evidence of election involvement and questionable contacts with the Russians.”

Schindler then noted that “although Rogers did not cite the specific intelligence he was referring to, agency officials with direct knowledge” have “reports from 2016 based on intercepts of communications between known Russian intelligence officials and key members of Trump’s campaign, in which they discussed methods of damaging Hillary Clinton.”

Schindler also posited that when Rogers reportedly told Trump “I know you won’t like it, but I have to tell what I have seen,” it was “a probable reference to specific intelligence establishing collusion between the Kremlin and Team Trump.” That aged well.

Former CIA acting director John McLaughlin also pushed the Trump-Russia “relationship” narrative, telling MSNBC’s Andrew Mitchell that “the president is an intelligence recruiter’s dream.” To top it all off, after Mueller issued his report, “Russian security expert” Malcom Nance, a NBC and MSNBC contributor, immediately pivoted to even crazier conspiracy theories about Mueller perpetrating a coverup and more.

Over the two years of the Russia hoax, The New York Times added several more conspiratorial types to the ranks, including columnist Michelle Goldberg. Goldberg actually wondered aloud about the president whether “Putin is his handler, his hero or his co-conspirator,” adding that it’s “obviously where his loyalty lies as opposed to lying with the American people.”

The New York Times go-to-man, Paul Krugman, and front woman Maggie Haberman, also round out the newspaper of record’s decent to dithering dingbattery.

The Full House at MSNBC also got in on the action, with Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, and David Corn frequently whipping the collusion conspiracy.

Don’t forget MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who gave air time to Jonathan Chait to push the possibility that “Donald Trump has been a Russian intelligence asset since 1987,” even while admitting “it sounds nuts.” Blogger Nick Monroe highlighted more of Hayes’ hilarity on Twitter.

While he’s at it, Monroe takes down Joe Scarborough, CNN’s Oliver Darcy, and Chris Matthews.

Yet Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” wasn’t content with merely tossing about his own conspiracy theories—he invited guests on to rally the impeach Trump team, such as Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). Swalwell asserted on Matthews’ show that President Donald Trump was an agent of the Russian government.

MSNBC, CNN, NBC, CBS All Covered in Shame

Doing double duty for NBC and MSNBC, so-called reporter Ken Dilanian kept the collusion conspiracy going, even if it meant reporting fake news, such as the bombshell “that Russian-linked operatives had approached the Trump team in 2016 with access to a looming email dump.” False. Here’s CNN’s Manu Raju, formerly of Politico, “clarifying” this completely false story.

But, hey, Dilanian wasn’t the only one to make the EXACT. SAME. MISTAKE. So did CNN and CBS News, reporting respectively, “Email shows efforts to give Trump campaign WikiLeaks documents” and “House Intel investigates Trump Jr. email involving documents hacked during campaign.”

CNN was also a frequent contributor to the worst reporting column. For instance, in a quadruple-byline piece, Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper, and Brian Rokus reported that Comey would testify before the Senate that he did not tell Trump that he wasn’t a target of the pending Russia investigation. CNN was dead wrong and in his testimony, Comey confirmed just what Trump had claimed—that the former FBI director had assured the president that he was not a target of the investigation.

While they thought a simple correction sufficed in that case, CNN axed three individuals responsible for another fake Russia story, including reporter Thomas Frank. The fallout came after Frank reported an exclusive that the Senate Intelligence Committee “was investigating a Russian investment fund— the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) — whose chief executive met with a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team four days before Trump’s inauguration.”

After Breitbart News outed CNN’s “Very Fake News,” the airport staple retracted the story and fired the team responsible for publishing it. That didn’t stop its many contributors and employees from repeated and unpunished fake news transgressions regarding the Russia conspiracy, including some of the following.

Conspiracy Peddlers Also Found at Fox, CBS

Trump darling Fox News also has its own share of conspiracy theorists. Juan Williams pushed Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. as the evidence of collusion, and in a textbook example of projection, told his fellow panelists on “The Five” that they were blinded to the truth because they were “in the bunker” for Trump.

Fox anchor Shepard Smith claimed Mike Flynn’s guilty plea was proof the Russia investigation wasn’t a hoax, going so far as to pretend he was fact-checking the president.

The Washington Post’s pretend conservative Jennifer Rubin carried the cable crusade to the mainstream, writing: “Oddly, it was on Wednesday morning that we learned Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, believed there’d been no direct evidence of collusion. That assertion is hard to square with the court’s finding later on Wednesday and publicly available evidence.” And Twitter:

The Washington Post also boasts the imaginative Asha Rangappa, who just a few months ago was pushing for an indictment against Trump—a far cry from Mueller’s complete exoneration of Trump and his team from any claims of collusion. Here’s a look at Rangappa’s story archive, replete with hoax angles.

Ana Navarro, a co-host of CBS’s “The View,” is known as an anti-Trump Russia collusion supporter. Here is one of her many statements assuming the president’s guilt of treason with Russia that has finally been proven false by the Mueller report.

Dan Rather, the perennial legacy “journalist,” joined in the collusion conspiracy with some bombshell-bragging tweets that should have given away the game for anyone old enough to remember his “fake but accurate” history. Fool me once and all that.

Not Limited to Legacy Media Either

Many new media players bought the collusion claims as well. Natasha Bertrand laid out the whole—in her mind—sordid scandal at Business Insider, pushing among other things the validity of Steele’s dossier.

The NeverTrump brigade also saw their theories explode faster than a Donald Trump tweet could enrage the Republican apostates. Former Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol prophesized that it’s “likely Mueller will find there was collusion between Trump associates and Putin operatives that Trump knew about it; and that Trump sought to cover it up and obstruct its investigation.”

Claims of collusion weren’t enough, though, for Max Boot, another Never Trump spawn. Boot took to the Washington Post to present “18 reasons Trump could be a Russian asset.” Here’s the headline, which now is even more obviously a pile of hot air than the day it was published and all the intervening days in which Boot peddled collusion.

Rick Wilson, also of Never Trump and a former Republican strategist, regularly took to Twitter as well to relight the story of Russia collusion.

Fellow Never Trumper, ex-Republican, and straight-ticket Democrat cheerleader Tom Nichols added his thoughts in an op-ed for USA Today. After proclaiming “the Deep State story is nonsense,” Nichols noted that “as I have written many times over the past two years, it is highly unlikely that there is any innocent explanation for the remarkable frequency and depth of the Trump coterie’s interactions with Russia for some 30 years, and especially during the campaign.”

I have some advice for Nichols, a Russian expert and author of “The Death of Expertise”: let the dead bury the dead.

Also, the Pulitzers Are Toast

Speaking of the dead, Joseph Pulitzer must be spinning in his grave, knowing the journalist award bearing his name recently honored the New York Times for its national reporting on the Russia-collusion hoax.

Then there’s the craziness that came from Louise Mensch, deserving of a solo spread.

The loony leftist legislators made the mix too.

The Democratic lunatics didn’t just take to Twitter, they did the mainstream media circuit pushing their delusions of collusion. In addition to Swalwell’s appearance on “Hardball,” we saw Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi selling a similar soundbite to NPR:

Well, I think that when he said he did not see direct evidence of collusion, I think that there’s definitely some kind of confusion on that. Because at the same time he said that, he also talked about overhearing a conversation on the speaker phone in President Trump’s office at the Trump Organization where the president and Roger Stone talked about an upcoming dump of emails attacking Hillary Clinton by WikiLeaks. And, again, that was something that was new news. And it had been previously denied – these types of conversations – by both President Trump and Mr. Stone. And so that could be some evidence of, you know, a conspiracy or collusion. And therefore, we have to continue to investigate.

But it isn’t merely wackadoodles like Waters, the supposedly straight-shooting moderately toned Rep. Adam Schiff has pushed collusion harder than House Democrats hit the Green New Deal socialism shtick. Here’s the now-chair of the House intelligence committee, pronouncing last August that there is “plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight.” Of course, that doesn’t mean “there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a criminal conspiracy,” Schiff conceded at the time. Actually, though, Mueller made clear there is neither.

What about every member of the media who hoisted Schiff on their shoulders while mocking Rep. Devin Nunes—the true first responder to this charade!

The Lawfare blog likewise shared in the folly. Here’s Benjamin Wittes:

And here:

Hennessey, who now serves as the executive editor of Lawfare as well as general counsel of the Lawfare Institute, adds to the anti-Trump bias pushing the Russia-collusion conspiracy, and has been for nearly two years.

Along with pretty much anyone writing for Lawfare, you can add the entire staff at McClatchy, which pushed one collusion conspiracy after another—the most infamous being the Greg Gordon and Peter Stone story that Mueller had evidence that Cohen had visited Prague. Here’s an excerpt:

McClatchy’s reporting prompted push-back from the special counsel’s office, with a spokesperson saying “that many stories about our investigation have been inaccurate. Be very cautious about any source that claims to have knowledge about our investigation and dig deep into what they claim before reporting on it.”

But a bigger buzz-kill came to those drinking the collusion cocktail when the special counsel’s office issued a statement expressly refuting a “bombshell report” by Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, claiming “Trump directed his attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Tower Project.”

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said in response to Leopold and Cormier’s BuzzFeed article.

The Guardian also found itself a little too believing in claims of collusion, publishing an utterly false “exclusive” by Luke Harding and Dan Collyns. Relying on unnamed sources, the duo claimed that “Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign.” It would have been quite the scoop—if true.

Heck, this all would have been quite a scoop if it were true. But none of it was. And that every mainstream media outlet, and dozens upon dozens of journalists, politicians, and pundits—including many I’m sure I missed—believed it was is the real scandal.

Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and current adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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