Accuracy in Media

On Tuesday, MSNBC turned to Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, to bolster its claim that Robert Mueller was investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Wikileaks in the release of the Democratic Party emails.

Akerman unspooled his theory on the case, which turns on the fact that President Trump goaded reporters to look into the emails from the Democratic National Committee that were published on Wikileaks. This, according to Akerman, is proof Trump conspired with the Russians – they give him information to win his election; he agrees to drop all sanctions against them.

“What we’re dealing with here is a conspiracy to break into the Democratic National Committee, steal emails, and use those emails to help Trump get elected, and the quid-pro-quo for that was the dropping of sanctions,” Akerman told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

“What was left out of this whole narrative was the one end with Michael Flynn, who was dealing with the Russian ambassador over sanctions, and the whole notion that the Trump administration was going to get rid of all the sanctions after he took office.”

Akerman formed this theory based on anonymous reports that Mueller had asked whether Trump knew about the Wikileaks emails before they were published or if he was involved in the emails’ release. There has been no actual evidence, aside from the anonymously sourced stories, that either was true or that Mueller’s investigators are pursuing this line of inquiry.

Moreover, the sanctions Trump supposedly had promised to lift remain in place.

Then, he referenced a June 9 meeting in which Donald Trump Jr. said he was going to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“They bring all this dirt on Hillary Clinton up to New York to this meeting with the Russians,” Akerman says, referring to an exhaustively documented meeting in which a Russian lawyer and others tried to convince Trump Jr. to talk to his father about immigration policy. The meeting lasted 20 minutes, several of the Trump aides there left early, and there was no follow-up by the campaign or administration.

“The dirt is the equivalent of the emails,” Akerman said. “That’s what Papadopoulos tells us.” He refers here to George Papadopoulos, a low-level campaign functionary who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.  

“But this is exactly where it’s going. Because what happens Roger Stone is dealing with Guccifer 2.0; he’s dealing with Wikileaks. We know he’s dealing because new communications just came out that contradict what he was saying about his later dealings,” Akerman said.

“He did exactly the same thing he did in the Oval Office when you showed that clip before where President Trump gets up and says “Russia get those emails.’ He does it in public. He did the same thing in the Oval Office with the Russian ambassador where he released classified information he got from the Israelis.

“This is a man who is very cagey and does this in a public way so it doesn’t look like he’s actually helping the Russians, but he is.”

Hayes tried to make clear this is Akerman’s own theory of the case, but he allowed Akerman to fill about six minutes of airtime to launch what can only be considered unfounded conspiracy theories.

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