Blown Coverage: How the Media Was So Badly Deked on Russiagate


We all should now know after the exhaustive Mueller investigation that there was nothing to the much-hyped “Russian collusion” narrative. But did the public need to wait over two years to find that out, wasting megatons of civic energy and poisoning our political processes?

It is now clear that the citizenry could have widely agreed on the truth, if only it had a mainstream media that focused on simple, commonsense factual inquiry, and avoided sensational partisan hysteria.

How so?

We begin with the earthshaking claims of Trump-Russia collusion, first widely circulated in January 2017, tarnishing the president-elect before he took office. Pre-election reports of “Russian meddling” had been downplayed by President Obama, who had assumed a Hillary Clinton victory.

But as Trump headed into the White House, Obama holdovers went on offense. DNI James Clapper attached as an appendix to a National Intelligence Assessment a summary of the pulp-fiction Steele Dossier, replete with outlandish tales of peeing prostitutes, kompromat, and a Trump-Kremlin electoral conspiracy.

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FBI Director James Comey then briefed President-elect Trump on these claims on Jan. 6, 2017. The partisan, CNN-bound Clapper, it appears, immediately leaked this to his future employer, using the news hook of a president-elect briefing. Waiting in the wings to leak its full copy of the Dossier was BuzzFeed, publishing it in full on Jan. 15, 2017.

Quickly, on Jan. 19, 2017, David Corn of Mother Jones suggested that a key Steele source was one Sergei Millian, a 38-year-old with vague connections to Trump, and a claimed but unproven pipeline to the Kremlin. On March 29, 2017, two months before Mueller began, The Washington Post blared a front-page story that it had uncovered Millian as Steele’s “Source D,” who related the salacious peeing prostitute tale.  Deep in the article, The Post casually mentioned that Millian was also called “Source E,” seemingly Steele’s alternative nomenclature for Millian.

But, not disclosed in the article, Source D, a supposed Trump loyalist, had a far different alleged source of knowledge than Source E, a Kremlin insider. That Source D and E were the same person should have been a stunning revelation, showing both Steele’s deception and the absurdity that one source could know both ends of an explosive international conspiracy, while he would eagerly risk his life by blabbing.

Rather than concluding that the collusion narrative was therefore a likely canard, The Post observed that Trump “was unable to shake the Russia story,” while portraying Millian as either a “shrewd businessman” or “bystander unwittingly caught up” in scandal, likely “a little of both.” Think James Stewart in “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

Then Mueller indicted George Papadopoulos for lying about his dealings with mysterious Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who Mueller depicted as having “Russian connections” and having told Papadopoulos about Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, while fixing him up purportedly with “Putin’s niece.”

While mainstream media-hyped Mifsud’s Russian links, five minutes on the internet would have revealed Mifsud’s close teaching colleague to be the chief security vetter of British Intelligence, Claire Smith.

A 12-year-old could thus discern that Mifsud may be a British spy, but certainly not a Russian asset. But Mifsud to this day has been characterized by mainstream media as a Russian spy because, as David Gergen noted on behalf of CNN, referring to the opposing commonsense view, “we don’t put much stock in what they are arguing.”

The third leg of the clown trifecta was Stefan Halper, a foreign policy professor at Cambridge, with undoubted Western intelligence connections, reportedly on the payroll of the United States Department of Defense.

Just as Mifsud dangled Putin’s purported niece, Halper offered Papadopoulos his glamorous assistant with the alias Azra Turk, while also attempting to persuade Trump associates Carter Page and Steven Miller to travel to London. These three pins should have made a row to any journalist with common sense.

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On top of this, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok’s lover Lisa Page had texted him in December 2015 about his request for “Oconus LURES,” spy speak for luring a target residing outside the United States to travel to a more favorable locale, in this case England, where the CIA and FBI were cooperating with British Intelligence.

Of course, Dossier author Steele, retired MI-6, and his assistant, CIA contractor Nellie Ohr, were connected not only with the Clinton campaign which paid them, but more obviously with the British-American intelligence team, as cutouts to falsely procure a FISA warrant to spy on Trump.

Looking at this tableau now, anyone can see that Trump was being set up by his own intelligence agencies, and that “Russian collusion” was the left’s elitist version of the proletarian birther conspiracy, one which never took mainstream hold, designed to discredit the incoming Hawaiian-born President Obama.

But if the true story was so obvious, why didn’t our mainstream media quickly adopt it? Very simply: they didn’t want the truth to get in the way of the preordained media narrative, which promised a contemporary replay of the Watergate scandal, deposing in disgrace a disliked, duly elected president.

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John D. O’Connor is the San Francisco attorney who represented W. Mark Felt during his revelation as Deep Throat in 2005. O’Connor is the author of the new book, “Postgate: How the Washington Post Betrayed Deep Throat, Covered Up Watergate, and Began Today’s Partisan Advocacy Journalism,” the co-author of “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” and is a producer of the 2017 film of the same name, written and directed by Peter Landesman.