USA Today Blacklists The Federalist For The Crime Of Getting The Trump-Russia Story Right

USA Today Blacklists The Federalist For The Crime Of Getting The Trump-Russia Story Right

The irony could not be richer. Within days of Mueller’s report exposing the mainstream media as highly paid scandalmongers, a USA Today editor branded The Federalist ‘not reliable.’
Margot Cleveland
By

When news broke on Friday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had submitted his report on the Russia-collusion investigation to Attorney General William Barr, and that no further charges would be forthcoming, I penned an op-ed and submitted it to USA Today, which had published my work several times, including as recently as last November.

USA Today first solicited an op-ed from me on my analysis of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in October 2018. While I typically write for conservative-leaning publications, I purposefully seek out mainstream outlets on occasion, hoping to bring some balance to the news diets of media organizations, which tend to lean left.

Sunday evening, after reviewing my submission, Deputy Editorial Page Editor David Mastio replied via e-mail that the paper would publish it the next day, pending a routine fact check. I noted that I was happy to provide additional sources if needed. I then double-checked all of my supporting references and confirmed that they were solid, but sent on two additional links to congressional documents anyway, thinking they would be quicker to verify than the references I had provided.

Then came a shocker from Mastio: USA Today had instead decided to reject the submission because I cited The Federalist and National Review.

“Going forward, assertions of fact need to be backed up with mainstream media sources or original documents,” Mastio wrote. “Links to National Review or [T]he Federalist (or similar sites on the left) are not reliable.”

Never mind that USA Today just last month published an opinion article that directly cited The Federalist. Never mind that the newspaper has repeatedly published articles that cite analysis from The Federalist and its writers. Never mind that even the publication’s news pages, not just opinion sections, have cited breaking news sourced directly to The Federalist.

And never mind that on the topic of my now-rejected op-ed—how mainstream media ignored the real Trump scandal—The Federalist was one of the only publications in the country that consistently got the story right.

“The entire point of my Op-Ed is that the media ignored the true scandal,” I fired back to Mastio. “And had your fact checkers bothered to look at the articles, they would have discovered that every statement of fact was backed-up with the original sources issued by the government.”

“[T]he articles laid out how the original sources established the facts—something the mainstream media refused to do,” I wrote. “Again, the point of my article.”

Mastio didn’t even bother to suggest the facts I had asserted were false. How could he, when they were accurate? Instead, he snidely dismissed the source, as if the mainstream media organizations that had consistently botched the Trump-Russia story for the last two years were the only publications on earth that can be trusted on the matter.

The irony could not be richer. Within days of Mueller’s report exposing the mainstream media as highly paid scandalmongers, Mastio branded National Review and The Federalist “not reliable.” And the mainstream media’s blind spot was the entire point of my opinion piece!

So, what exactly did I write that USA Today found factually unsupported? I have no idea! Mastio didn’t say, and the basic facts I presented couldn’t have been more vanilla. You can read the entire article here at The Federalist, where I am a senior contributor. (One must wonder whether Mastio even bothered to open the links I provided because, had he done so, he would have known about my connection to The Federalist before he branded my publisher “not reliable.”)

As for my citations to National Review and The Federalist? Spot on. I cited Andrew McCarthy’s work at National Review, including this article in which McCarthy exposed—using original source documents—how the applications for surveilling the Trump campaign wrongly relied on double and triple hearsay. McCarthy also explained that the surveillance authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court “enabled the FBI to intercept not only [Page’s] forward-going communications but also any stored emails and texts he might have had,” which would have given the FBI access to campaign communiques.

McCarthy is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He served as the federal prosecutor in the criminal trial against the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman and 11 others, obtaining convictions against the terrorists for their roles in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. The only world in which McCarthy isn’t credible is one where Trump Derangement Syndrome runs rampant.

The articles from The Federalist I cited in my original submission to USA Today were mine, and heavily researched. They provided citations and links to original, and government-generated, source documents. The reason I cited my articles was because I broke the stories while the mainstream media ignored the growing evidence of FISA abuse in order to continue their chase of the Russia collusion decoy.

For instance, in support of the statement that “while the released FISA applications remain heavily redacted, the details disclosed suggest that the DOJ and FBI did not update the court on developments, such as statements made by key witnesses during interviews with agents,” I cited this article at The Federalist. That article compared the relevant portions of the FISA applications line-by-line, submitted before and after the FBI interviewed former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos and Papadopoulos’ supposed Russian connection, Joseph Mifsud.

As I explained at the time, the FISA applications’ “page-plus summary of Papadopoulos’ role in the Trump campaign and his supposed nexus to ‘coordinated efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election’ remained unchanged.” I then cited the relevant portions of the FISA applications, by page and with a link: “Compare pages 93-94 with pages 191-192 of the released FISA applications here,” before concluding that “these facts indicate that the DOJ did not inform the FISA court of the FBI interviews with Papadopoulos and Mifsud.”

The second Federalist article I cited was to support this statement: “The FISA application also relied on double and triple hearsay, and on unnamed and unknown sources, lacking a trail of reliable intelligence.” That article also quoted and cited the original source documents establishing these facts, namely the Steele dossier and the partially declassified criminal referral of Christopher Steele.

As I explained in the original article, the Grassley-Graham criminal referral stressed that the FISA applications “relied heavily on Mr. Steele’s dossier claims,” and “the bulk of the application consists of allegations against Page that were disclosed to the FBI by Mr. Steele and are also outlined in the Steele dossier.” Further, senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham revealed that the FISA “application appears to contain no additional information corroborating the dossier allegations against Mr. Page.”

After laying out the facts, with supporting citations, I provided a legal analysis of controlling Supreme Court precedent on the question of whether the government can establish probable cause based on information provided by a source of unknown reliability. The answer? “To find probable cause in a case where the informant is of unknown reliability, ‘courts insist that the affidavit contain substantial independent police corroboration.” Again, I cited and quoted the relevant original source material—the actual court decisions establishing these facts.

Maybe that’s the problem! I thoroughly researched the articles I authored using open-sourced materials. That’s apparently not a journalist’s job, at least according to the mainstream media. The New York Times’ self-reflective article, “After Mueller Report, News Media Leaders Defend Their Work,” exposed this perspective when quoting CNN’s president Jeff Zucker.

“We are not investigators,” Zucker pleaded. “We are journalists, and our role is to report the facts as we know them.” Having attended law school and practiced law in federal courts for years rather than going to journalism school, I apparently missed the lesson that reporters’ job is to purvey unconfirmed gossip from anonymous sources.

Beyond irony, Mastio’s response unwittingly revealed why the mainstream media got so much wrong in reporting on the Russia collusion story: The mainstream media has barricaded itself in a window-less echo chamber oblivious to reporting by the new media. How else do you explain major mistakes, like the false reports running in tandem at MSNBC, CNN, and CBS News, that emails established Donald Trump Jr. had been attempting to obtain the WikiLeaks’ documents? All three mainstream media outlets had the date of the emails wrong—the supposedly smoking gun email came after the WikiLeaks’ document dump, imploding the MSM’s “bombshell” report.

Or consider the New York Times’ blockbuster article, “Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation,” published on May 16, 2018. The Times’ byline ran three deep, but the journalists at the newspaper of record missed the reality that The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross broke a large segment of that story two months prior, when Ross wrote of Stefan Halper’s meetings with Trump campaign volunteers Page and Papadopoulos.

A second delicious irony came when I read the opinion article USA Today did publish on Monday—Never Trump Russian expert Tom Nichols’s op-ed entitled “Even after Mueller, we still don’t know what’s really going on with Trump and Russia.” Nichols’s opinion piece had nary a cite, but suggested as a real possibility that “[t]he president’s exoneration ironically rests entirely on Mueller’s caution and prudence.”

Apparently the trick to pass muster with the mainstream media is to declare by fiat, instead of citing National Review or The Federalist. Then there was this passage from Nichols’s USA Today op-ed:



This excerpt leads me to believe that the proper ploy when pitching to the mainstream media market is to frame factual assertions as rhetorical questions. Or might the answer be that bias has blinded USA Today to the truth?

Might Mastio hold an anti-Trump bias that taints his judgment?

Or might Mastio have bought into the Russia hoax?

USA Today can publish whatever news or opinion pieces it wants. But the mainstream media boycotts new media outlets—and especially modern-day investigative journalists—at its own risk: the risk of losing any semblance of relevance and credibility remaining after bungling the biggest news story in a century. And I’m not talking about Russia collusion; I’m talking about Spygate.

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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