Accuracy in Media

Nothing has changed about the mainstream media’s willingness to discredit information that foreign governments perhaps helped the Obama administration spy on Donald Trump’s campaign, but the tone has changed some as evidence has grown more difficult to ignore.

In April, after President Trump tweeted that former CIA analyst Larry Johnson “accuses United Kingdom Intelligence of helping Obama administration spy on the 2016 Trump Presidential Campaign,” CNBC rushed out with a story saying UK intelligence had responded that the “allegations … were utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

On Wednesday, with the president in the UK to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, CNN took another shot at this, but the answers were slightly different.

“Trump’s claim on spying during campaign: ‘There’s no big conspiracy,’” read the headline on the story by Pamela Brown and Eli Watkins.

Gone were the stark denials and claims that Trump’s assertions were “ridiculous and should be ignored.” In their place was a lead that read: “United Kingdom Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace downplayed the possibility that British intelligence spied on the Trump campaign in 2016, largely dismissing the claim as he declined to issue a specific denial in line with longstanding UK practice.”

In the second paragraph, Brown and Watkins note that “Trump and his allies have in the past claimed, originally citing an uncorroborated account from Fox News, that Britain tapped phones in Trump Tower at the request of then-President Barack Obama.”

CNN knows Trump’s claim relied on far more than a report from Fox News. Attorney General William Barr has asserted on numerous occasions, including at least twice before Congress, that spying did occur on the Trump campaign and that foreign actors, including the UK, could be involved.

It then continued to present Wallace’s non-denial as a denial. “Asked about the claim, Wallace stated the UK’s traditional response of not confirming or denying questions of intelligence before suggesting the claim was wrong and that their intelligence officials had more pressing matters.”

It then quoted him as saying, “I don’t think our intelligence services have any spare capacity to spend time spying on our friends and allies. You know, if you want to know what’s going on in American politics, switch on the news, go to a press conference and you can find out what’s going on.”

George Papadopoulos may well know what’s going on. He was convicted and served 14 days in jail for lying to investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller. He has charged the British tried to entrap him and record him saying things they could turn over to U.S. intelligence to help the Hillary Clinton campaign for president in 2016.

“Mueller’s own team told me that Alexander Downer [an Australian diplomat who has worked with British intelligence] was recording (spying) on me,” he tweeted. “I testified under oath about it to Congress and reported him to authorities. It’s all a matter of time until both Steele and Downer are exposed as the idiot spies that got caught and burned by the UK.”

In another tweet on Monday, Papadopoulos said, “This week, the first recently declassified spy documents will be released to the American public. Including on Stefan Halper (‘the walrus”) and his attempted set up of both Flynn and me in London. UK was running the operations with the CIA.”

Wallace’s response to these charges was not to deny them but to kvetch about resource allocation.

“Pressed in his CNN interview on Tuesday, Wallace declined to ‘speculate on intelligence matters’ before again downplaying the spying claim,” CNN wrote.

“’In the days of social media, there’s an awful lot of speculation that goes on about these things,’ Wallace said. ‘There’s no big conspiracy, and the idea that I would take an intelligence officer off a job of, I don’t know, targeting al Qaeda in a place that’s of mutual interest to us, to put him on spying of a campaign, of a presidential candidate, I think it’s just not … it’s not going to be the reality.’”

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