By Frank Miele
In a story published Saturday by the Washington Post, we get a master lesson in Fake News.
As you might expect, the story is a biased account of the impeachment proceedings in the House, and is riddled with assumptions, errors and innuendo that have no place in real journalism.
It is, in other words, typical of the reporting we have come to expect from the Washington Post and the New York Times.
The article by Greg Miller and Rachael Blade is titled “In inquiry, Republicans ask questions about whistleblower, loyalty to Trump and conspiracy theories.” (See it here without a paywall.)
The lede follows the same general line as the headline:
Republican lawmakers have used the congressional impeachment inquiry to gather information on a CIA employee who filed a whistleblower complaint, press witnesses on their loyalty to President Donald Trump and advance conspiratorial claims that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election, according to current and former officials involved in the proceedings.
Of course, the only reason any of this is news in the first place is because the inquiry — unlike the Watergate hearings and the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings — is being conducted entirely in secret. If the process were being done in public, we would already know the questions being asked by Republicans, and more importantly we would know the answers being given by witnesses.
There seems to be an assumption in the Wapo story that the Republicans are not supposed to ask those questions, but why? Is not the whistleblower important? Did he not make an incredibly damaging charge against the president of the United States? Should not his motivation be investigated to assure that he is not a disgruntled employee and should not witnesses’ connections to the whistleblower and each other be explored to evaluate motive and coordination of testimony?
Finally, and most importantly to establish the fundamental Fakeness of the “reporting” here, what qualifies the reporters to deem the idea of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election to be “conspiratorial claims”?
As I have written elsewhere, it is quite apparent who the whistleblower is, and as we already know, the inspector general acknowledged that the whistleblower exhibited signs of political bias against President Trump. The fact that Republicans, especially in a closed hearing, want to explore the whistleblower’s connection to other witnesses is entirely appropriate.
But the Washington Post reporters parrot the misinformation that the whistleblower is entitled to anonymity. This would violate the constitutional right of every citizen to confront your accuser, and is also not established by the whistleblower law, which merely protects the whistleblower against retaliation in his or her job. It certainly does not prevent others from naming the whistleblower and challenging his narrative, as the Post suggests:
But the questions have been interpreted as an attempt “to unmask the whistleblower,” whose identity is shielded under federal law, said a person with direct knowledge of the depositions. Republicans appear to be seeking ways to discredit the whistleblower as well as other witnesses “by trying to dredge up any information they can,” the official said.
Just remember: The whistleblower law does not shield anyone’s identity. Certainly if their charges are used to accuse someone else of wrongdoing, they must surrender their hope for anonymity.
The next major display of bias in the Wapo story occurs a few paragraphs later when a straw man is set up by the reporters to try to make Republicans look like liars.
The accounts, based on interviews with 10 people involved in the depositions, also underscore the extent to which senior Republicans are directly involved in the impeachment inquiry even as party leaders claim they are being excluded from it, depicting it as a secretive – and therefore suspect – attack on the president.
Did you catch the deception there? The reporters are suggesting that because there are Republicans on the three so-called impeachment committees, therefore the claim by party leaders that “they are being excluded from it” are false. As I say, this is a straw man. Who is this mysterious “they”? Republicans never claimed that the Republican members of the committees are being excluded. That would be absurd. The Republicans are concerned that hundreds of other members of Congress are being excluded, and that more importantly the public is being excluded.
This secrecy has allowed Rep. Adam Schiff and other Democrats to selectively leak testimony damaging to the president while preventing Republicans from exposing the weaknesses in that testimony through cross-examination.
Worst of all, halfway through the story, the reporters quote additional sources who debunk their reporting in the first half of the story. In response to the reporters’ questions, a GOP official wrote a definitive statement that how they were framing their story is misleading at best, and is complicit with the Democratic narrative at worst:
“This is an utterly unfair characterization of how Republicans are using their time in the depositions and advances erroneous facts to benefit Adam Schiff’s partisan effort,” the senior GOP official said in a statement, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “Our questions have resulted in the unearthing of material that Democrats want to ignore because they run counter to their impeachment quest.”
There is too much bias and misleading information in the story for me to include all of it in this column, but one significant bit of sloppy reporting in particular should be called out. That involves questions about the Steele dossier:
Witnesses including former top White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill have been asked whether they had any interactions with Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who compiled a dossier of allegations about Trump’s Russia ties, work that was initially funded by Republicans but was later underwritten by Democrats.
This characterization of the Steele dossier is blatantly false, and if no one at the Washington Post knows it is false, they need to fire the whole newsroom.
- Here’s the truth: A group of Never Trumper Republicans at the Washington Free Beacon had hired Fusion GPS to collect opposition research on Trump and other GOP candidates in October 2015. They did not seek or gain information about Russia, but rather about Trump’s business and entertainment activities. After it was obvious that Trump was going to be the GOP nominee, the Free Beacon discontinued its use of Fusion GPS.
- Fusion GPS independently approached the Democratic law firm of Perkins Coie with an offer of investigating Trump, and it was then that British spy Christopher Steele put together his dossier for the Democrats.
- The Washington Free Beacon put out this statement when they were erroneously linked to the Steele dossier:
All of the work that Fusion GPS provided to the Free Beacon was based on public sources, and none of the work product that the Free Beacon received appears in the Steele dossier. The Free Beacon had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele. Nor did we have any knowledge of the relationship between Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, Perkins Coie, and the Clinton campaign.
In February 2018, the AP corrected its own Fake News reporting with the following correction:
“Though the former spy, Christopher Steele, was hired by a firm that was initially funded by the Washington Free Beacon, he did not begin work on the project until after Democratic groups had begun funding it.”
Apparently the crack news team at the Washington Post missed the news! In case they wanted to refresh their memory, they could look at their own timeline published in February 2018!
Lastly, the Post uses the typical Fake New trick of pretended ignorance to make legitimate avenues of inquiry by the Republicans look like they are just misleading distractions. This is especially true in regards to several statements about Trump’s interest in finding out what role Ukraine played in the 2016 election.
Republicans appear to be trying to link their concerns about the Steele dossier to Ukraine, a country Trump has said, without evidence, interfered in the election. One Democratic official present for witness testimony said Republicans were asking witnesses things like, “Are you aware that part of the evidence in the Steele Dossier originated in Ukraine?”
“The witnesses are like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ which makes sense, because it’s totally made up,” the person continued.
You will notice the use of the giveaway phrase “without evidence” applied to the president’s assertion that Ukraine did interfere with the election. You will also notice that the same phrase “without evidence” is NOT applied to the Democrat claim that the Ukraine connection is “totally made up.”
It isn’t. Democratic operatives traveled to Ukraine in 2016 to collect dirt on Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and used that information to taint him publicly and eventually to get him sent to prison.
Well, I guess you can’t expect a giant new corporation like the Washington Post to know everything, but when one lone blogger in Montana knows more about the biggest story of the century than they do, well, maybe something is rotten in the state of journalism.
WHO WE ARE
Frank Miele has spent four decades in the news business and now offers conservative commentary to counter the left-wing bias in the national media. If you enjoy reading these daily essays, I hope you will consider purchasing one of my books. They are available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions. My new book — “The Media Matrix: What if everything you know is fake?” — shows that Fake News has been around for years. The “Why We Needed Trump” trilogy tackles the politics of the last two decades: Part 1 is subtitled “Bush’s Global Failure: Half Right.” Part 2 is “Obama’s Fundamental Transformation: Far Left.” Part 3 is “Trump’s American Vision: Just Right.” Also consider subscribing to Heartland Diary on YouTube by clicking here for News Every Conservative Can Use.