Media collusion & Fusion GPS: Were US journalists paid to peddle ‘Russiagate’?
Even before Donald Trump ascended to the White House, the US media had been relentlessly driving the narrative that Trump, WikiLeaks and the Russians colluded to hack the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers before dumping the damaged goodies into the public realm. This elaborate bit of sabotage, as the story goes, deprived the Democrats of the White House.
Despite the effectiveness of the story to deflect attention away from the real crimes of the Democratic Party, while at the same time splashing the increasingly irate Russians with mud, the narrative is beginning to show considerable wear and tear.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, dropped a veritable bomb in the Beltway when he signed a subpoena to seize the financial records of Fusion GPS, the ‘opposition research’ group behind the so-called ‘Trump dossier.’ The 35-page document hatched by former British spy Christopher Steele is loaded with sex, lies and – alas – not a single videotape.
Nunes forwarded a simple question: who paid for the dossier?
At first blush, it seemed the mystery had been resolved. The law firm Perkins Coie LLP, whose partner Marc E. Elias served as the Clinton campaign’s general counsel, came forward and said it had paid Fusion for the ‘dirty dossier’ on behalf of the DNC. Never mind the failure of the Clinton campaign to disclose the $10 million price tag to fund the dossier, which may amount to money laundering, argued Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
This convenient legal fire wall, however, did not satisfy Nunes. On Friday, he pushed his demands further, asking for the names of journalists and law firms that Fusion GPS might have paid, possibly to support wild allegations mentioned in the ‘Trump dossier.’
The response by Fusion executives was as shocking as it was telling. In addition to requesting that the courts block the subpoena, they fell back on the First Amendment ‘right to confidentiality’ while never denying they had paid any journalists. But if the firm has nothing to hide, why not, in the spirit of transparency, crack open the books?
Former Wall Street Journal reporter Peter Fritsch, one of Fusion’s founders, filed a statement minus a denial of the accusations, saying: “Our techniques and investigative tools for our research and investigation go beyond standard open-source methods. Fusion GPS has an extensive network of domestic and international contacts, built up over many years of reporting.”
Although it was practically impossible to independently verify the veracity of the dossier’s assertions, BuzzFeed, plumbing the depths of Western media standards, decided to publish the document in its entirety anyways. That ‘mistake’ may cost the clickable news site dearly.
Russiagate claims first victim
Proving the recklessness of the ongoing anti-Russian campaign that has gripped the American psyche, Aleksey Gubarev, a Russian-born internet entrepreneur, is suing BuzzFeed in a Florida District Court for libel.
“The Steele dossier accused Mr. Gubarev of overseeing a botnet operation that flooded Democrats’ computers with porn, viruses and spyware,” according to the Washington Times. “It said the operation was financed by the FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency.”
Gubarev is also demanding that BuzzFeed, which his attorneys argue is “not a real news organization,” reveal the identity of the source that passed it the unsubstantiated dossier.
Last week, Gubarev's attorneys submitted subpoenas against a number of other major news organizations, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker and CNN for depositions to reveal who leaked the dossier to BuzzFeed.
Meanwhile, in an effort to defend himself from libel charges, Steele said his investigative work was never meant to be made public, and Fusion GPS should not have released it.
Flight from reality
It cannot be overestimated how much the so-called ‘Trump dossier’ and the lies it propagates have sabotaged US-Russia relations many years into the future. Indeed, whenever Trump was dragged through the deepest mud, Russia was dragged even deeper.
On the second page of the seedy dossier, we already enter the theater of the absurd as we get a glimpse of Trump’s “perverted” shenanigans while on a trip to Moscow. Years before anyone could have guessed he would one day be presidential material, the dossier alleged that the billionaire real estate developer employed a “number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show” on one of the beds in the Ritz Carlton where he believed President Barack Obama and his wife had slept.
As the story goes, Russian intelligence filmed the buffoonery and now has “enough embarrassing material… to be able to blackmail him if they wished” stashed away in a vault somewhere.
However, the most damaging part of the dossier, as far as Russia is concerned, involves the claim that the Kremlin was “behind recent appearance of DNC emails on WikiLeaks as means of maintaining plausible deniability.”
To date, not a single shred of evidence has been produced to substantiate this claim, which has resulted in bad blood between the United States and Russia seldom witnessed even at the height of the Cold War. From the closure of diplomatic facilities to tit-for-tat sanctions, the madness continues.
Yet, like any good lie that requires ever new lies for fear it will become revealed, the truth is beginning to seep out of the cracks in this fantastic story. And in the most unexpected of places.
For example, in a new book released by Donna Brazile (‘Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House’), the former DNC chairwoman throws the entire DNC under the bus, accusing her colleagues of treating her like a slave, being sexist and rigging the entire system in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Unsurprisingly, former top officials came out and said Brazile’s views prove that she had come under the unwitting influence of Russia, the faraway nation that conveniently explains every problem.
“It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponent, about our candidate's health,”said a letter from 100 top DNC staff, including John Podesta, Huma Abedin and Robby Mook.
The real revelation, however, comes when Brazile admits to feeling fear following the death of Seth Rich, who worked as the voter expansion data director at the DNC before he was shot twice on his way home on July 10. Some suggest he may have been the source of a leak at the DNC that provided WikiLeaks with significant amounts of incriminating data.
Brazile, who dedicated her book to the memory of Rich, writes that she was “haunted by the still-unsolved murder of DNC data staffer Seth Rich and feared for her own life, shutting the blinds to her office window so snipers could not see her and installing surveillance cameras at her home.”
Yet if the media was so sure that it was a crazy conspiracy theory that Rich was the possible source of the leak, as opposed to a Russian ‘hack,’ what was Donna Brazile so worried about?
These are the types of questions that are beginning to emerge as the anti-Russian narrative starts to go wobbly and those involved – including, possibly, journalists – see their unsubstantiated story lose all credibility.
With some perseverance and a little bit of luck, Congressman Nunes may get the answers so many people are looking for.