Accuracy in Media

In the past week, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have acknowledged the FBI and U.S. intelligence services had a spy in the Trump campaign and others have acknowledged that British intelligence services may have been involved.

The Times referred to the spy as an informant, but it provided a lengthy account of how the intelligence services were politicized to attack the Trump campaign. The Post further reported on the spy’s “months-long pattern of seeking out and meeting three different Trump campaign officials.”

The spy, who ZeroHedge identified as Stefan Halper, an academic and security expert who has participated in spying activities for the FBI and CIA.

But on PolitiFact, the accusation by President Trump that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped and otherwise surveilled him continues to be labeled unambiguously as “false.”

On Mar. 21, 2017, PolitiFact published a timeline of Trump’s accusation and the blowback. It not only rated all the president’s claims false, it labeled reports about the claim as false.

The first entry in the timeline is dated Mar. 4, 2017.

“Trump writes that he ‘just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!’ He doesn’t provide evidence.”

It addresses the president’s next tweet: “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

These accusations, PolitiFact states, “induce fake news websites to pick up the story. One claims that a warrant has been issued for Obama’s arrest; that claim rates Pants on Fire.

It was false because Obama’s spokesman said so. It quoted the spokesman, Kevin Lewis, as saying, “neither Barack Obama nor any White House official under Obama ever ordered surveillance of any U.S. citizen. Lewis said the Obama administration’s ‘cardinal rule’ was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice.”

The Mar. 5, 2017, entry says Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s press secretary, said on ABC’s This Week that “Everybody acts like President Trump is the one that came up with this idea. There are multiple news outlets that have reported this.”

PolitiFact rated that “false” because “no credible news reports had said that Obama wiretapped Trump.”

On Mar. 13, then-press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump did not necessarily mean wiretapping only in his tweets but Trump “used the wiretap in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities during that.

“There is no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 elections.”

On Mar. 16, PolitiFact wrote, “Spicer suggests Obama didn’t use American intelligence services, but instead the British intelligence agency GCHQ which he was able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this.’”

Its proof this is false were denials from GCHQ, which called the comments ‘utterly ridiculous’ and ‘nonsense,’ and its reporting that British Prime Minister Theresa May received assurances from the White House “that these allegations would not be repeated.”

In the final entry Mar. 20, it caps its proof with more of what it presents as denials from official sources – former FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers in this case.

Actually, Comey denies it; Rogers says he’s not responsible and would not do it.

“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said.

“The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”

Rogers said he never requested British intelligence to spy on Trump and that if h would, that would be “expressively against the construct of the Five Eyes Agreement.”

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