Accuracy in Media

Democrats finally got to release their memo on the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the media rushed to make mountains out of the modest molehills of information offered in the document.

“Despite not offering much in the way of new information,” Slate wrote, the memo, prepared by Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.), “directly rebutted the most serious charges of the Republican memo.”

This is what Slate meant by direct rebuttal:

“The main charge of the Nunes Memo [to which this responds] was that the FISA applications [to spy on American energy executive Carter] Page neglected to note the political financing behind Christopher Steele’s intelligence dossier, which was used as one prong in the application. Steele’s dossier was paid for in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton.

“The Democratic memo responded that the DOJ customarily does not ‘unmask’ U.S. citizens who are not subject to an intelligence investigation, which is why the application left out the names of U.S. political actors who may have paid for the dossier.”

But as Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who has written extensively on this case for National Review, said, “The FBI and the Justice Department heavily relied on the Steele dossier’s uncorroborated allegations.

“You know this is true because, notwithstanding the claim that ‘only narrow use’ was made of ‘information from Steele’s sources,’ the Democrats end up acknowledging that ‘only narrow use’ actually means ‘significant use [emphasis in original] use – as in, the dossier was the sine qua non of the warrant application.”

The Washington Post started by deriding Trump’s claim that the memo “both bolsters Nunes’s case and, somehow, was a total bust for the minority party.”

“But then, Trump’s response to all things related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election – and any points of contact with his campaign – has always been dismissal without nuance,” they reported.

Later, it digs into allegations that British spy Christophe Steele, which the FBI has not been able to verify, was the “primary driver of the FISA warrant application and yet Steele’s bias in compiling that information wasn’t conveyed to the judges [who approved the warrants].”

McCarthy took that point apart too.

“As the Democrats’ own excerpt from the FISA application illustrates, unmasking [who was paying for the dossier] has nothing to do with it, because there is no need to use names at all … The dispute here is not about the failure to sue the words ‘Hillary Clinton.’

“They could have referred to ‘Candidate #2 [just as they had referred to Trump as ‘Candidate #1]. To state that ‘Candidate #2’ had commissioned Steele’s research would have been just as easy and every bit as appropriate as the DOJ’s reference to a ‘Candidate #1,’ who might have ‘ties to Russia.’

“Had DOJ done the former, it would not have ‘unmasked’ Hillary Clinton any more than Donald Trump was unmasked by DOJ’s description of him as ‘Candidate #1,’ but it would have been ‘transparent with the FISA court. By omitting any reference to Clinton, the DOJ was being the opposite of transparent.”

Media accounts glossed over the release time – on a news-dead Saturday. They also failed to report on the approval process of the memos.

“The White House had originally blocked release of the Democratic memo, saying that it would take FBI and Department of Justice recommendations in not releasing certain compromising confidential information,” Slate reported. “The FBI and DOJ had reported similar concerns about the Nunes memo, but the White House ignored those.”

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release the Republican memo but unanimously to release the Democratic memo.

Both were submitted to the director of the FBI for security reviews. The FBI asked for one change in the Republican memo, which was made. The Democratic memo seemed to be written to encourage retractions.




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