Accuracy in Media

With pressure building to release a memo that Republicans say will turn the Russia collusion investigation on its head, mainstream media is rushing to minimize the impact.

One strategy is to discredit the memo itself on the grounds it was prepared by the Republican staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and thus includes “talking points” as opposed to the findings of an investigation that involved hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents.

The other is to point out that the dossier of opposition research on then-candidate Donald Trump contains some really valuable information.

The Washington Post put forth both cases in a story headlined: “GOP memo on surveillance ‘abuse’ seeks to discredit the Trump-Russia dossier.”

It then uses the term “talking points” four times in the story to further signal that the memo is a partisan project whose conclusions can’t be trusted.

“A document described by House Republicans as a top-secret memo about surveillance “abuse” contains talking points focused on discrediting Fusion GPS, the firm that hired a British ex-spy to compile intelligence reports about alleged connections between President Trump’s associates and the Kremlin, according to people who have read it,” the Post story begins.

It then tells the story from the side of the Democrats, who voted unanimously to keep even their fellow members of the House from being able to read the document. It said Adam Schiff  (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, did not discuss the contents of the document except to call it “profoundly misleading” and “drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI.”

“Conservative Republicans are increasingly calling for the document’s release after first declaring it should remain classified,” the Post reported, though Republicans voted unanimously to release the document to fellow members and are seeking to release it to the public.

The hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, which trended on Twitter for days after the committee allowed House members to read it, “was the top hashtag being promoted” by Russia-linked Twitter accounts. That’s according to Hamilton 68, which tracks Russian Internet activity in the U.S. on behalf of the German Marshall Fund, a left-leaning think tank that focuses on Trans-Atlantic issues.

WikiLeaks has offered $1 million in bitcoin to anyone who would share the memo, which meant this was a coordinated attack on U.S. law enforcement.

“’Not surprisingly, the GOP campaign to attack the FBI has been joined by the same forces that made common cause during the Trump campaign – WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and a multitude of online Russian bots are now involved in promoting this effort,”’ the Post quotes Democratic members as saying in a statement.

“We all know [the Republicans] are engaged in complete and total warfare against the FBI,” an anonymous committee official said. “They’re trying to tie all of that to Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele as some unholy seed.”

Two other “talking points” raised to the Post by Schiff in the course of not revealing the memo’s contents. And both have to do with rehabilitating the much-discredited dossier GPS Fusion dossier that alleges various Trump misdeeds, including a bizarre incident with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.

One is about how former spy Christopher Steele told the FBI he had not revealed his evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russia to the FBI, then declaring later in a lawsuit that he had.

The other is that Republicans would have liked to have known about this memo before they voted to reauthorize the Section 702 surveillance program, even though the events described in the memo have nothing to do with Section 702.

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