Mass media meltdown: A partial list of ‘bombshells’ with no basis in fact

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, March 25, 2019

“Bombshell” became the go-to word for the corporate media from the moment Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel in the Trump-Russia “collusion” investigation.

It seemed a new “bombshell” was dropping by the day. The “B” in MSNBC could have been changed to “bombshell.” And the Mueller report itself would be the mother of all bombshells.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and President Donald Trump after getting word that the Mueller investigation had ended.

Oops. On March 22, Mueller officially ended his nearly two-year investigation without charging collusion and by informing the Justice Department that he recommended no further indictments.

“Based on 2017 news flashes, this was not the way it was supposed to turn out,” Rowan Scarborough wrote in a post mortem of the years-long investigation for The Washington Times.

On Jan. 10, 2017, a Democratic Party-funded opposition research paper told of an “extensive conspiracy” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Christopher Steele’s dossier, based on six Kremlin sources, “captivated Washington and fueled collusion charges by Democrats and the liberal media,” Scarborough wrote.

And then the purported exclusives began: The New York Times reported a blockbuster – if not a bombshell: The U.S. government possessed a year’s worth of phone records and intercepts showing that “Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence.”

Two months later, President Barack Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan, testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that he has “encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals.”

“It raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals. I don’t know whether or not such collusion – and that’s your term – such collusion existed,” said Brennan, who accused Trump of treason.

Later in 2017, CNN reported that “U.S. intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence.”

Right up until the time Mueller ended his investigation, Brennan had predicted that numerous Trump-related indictments were imminent.

On Jan. 25, he said on MSNBC: “I expect there to be a significant number, and a significant number of names that will be quite familiar to the average American.”

He also said, “I think the shoes that are yet to drop are going to be the ones that are going to be the most profound, and that will hit the people at the top of the organization.”

On March 5, he said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if, for example, this week on Friday, not knowing anything about it, but Friday is the day the grand jury indictments come down and also this Friday is better than next Friday because next Friday is the 15th of March, which is the Ides of March. And I don’t think Robert Mueller will want to have that dramatic flair of the Ides of March when he is going to be delivering what I think are going to be are his indictments, the final indictments as well the report.”

As for the February 2017 New York Times article on “repeated” contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence, then-FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress that the story was wrong and he warned congressional leaders not to believe it.

Rep. Adam Schiff and many of his Democratic colleagues ignored Comey’s advice. Schiff often said that “collusion” was in “plain sight” without offering any evidence (probably because, as the Mueller report stated, there was none).

The Daily Caller compiled a list of what it called the “worst media screwups in the history of Russia theories.”

1. CNN Accuses Don Jr. Of WikiLeaks Collusion: Last December, CNN’s Manu Raju reported that WikiLeaks emailed Donald Trump Jr. to give him access to stolen documents a full 10 days before they were released to the public. Unfortunately for CNN, it turns out their sources gave them the wrong date. Don Jr. actually received an email with access to the stolen docs on Sept. 14, 2016, after they had already been released publicly.

2. ABC Tanks Stock Market With Fake Flynn News: ABC was forced to suspend Brian Ross after he falsely reported that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that then-candidate Donald Trump ordered him to make contact with the Russians. The stock market dropped a few hundred points at the news – but it turned out to be fake. ABC clarified that Flynn was actually prepared to testify that Trump asked him to contact Russia while the administration was transitioning into office. Pretty standard preparation for an incoming president.

3. The Mooch Is NOT Under Investigation: CNN earns another spot on this list for their shoddy reporting about former Trump adviser Anthony, “The Mooch,” Scaramucci. In June, CNN relied on a single unnamed source to claim that Scaramucci was under investigation for a meeting he took with a Russian banker prior to Trump’s inauguration. The Mooch denied the story and CNN later gave him a much-deserved apology. Oh … and three CNN employees resigned over the botched piece.

4. Bloomberg’s Dirty Deutsche Bank Scoop: Bloomberg initially reported in December that Mueller had “zeroed in” on Trump by subpoenaing Deutsche Bank records for the incoming president and his family. Bloomberg later admitted that Mueller was looking for records relating to “people affiliated” with Trump.

5. Sessions Exonerated: Last May, CNN was sure that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had botched protocol when he didn’t list meetings he had with the Russian ambassador on his security clearance forms. To CNN and other establishment media outlets, this was proof that Sessions was hiding something related to Russia. A little over six months later, CNN quietly walked back the scandal, explaining the FBI sent emails informing Sessions’ aide that he did not need to disclose the meetings on his forms because they were carried out in the course of his duties as a senator.

6. Russians Aren’t Just Hacking The Election – They’re Hacking Our Power Grid: The Washington Post claimed in January 2017 that Russians were hacking the U.S. power grid through a company in Vermont, only to change the story to say that only one laptop was infiltrated. It turns out that one laptop was never even connected to the power grid.

7. Republicans Funded The Dossier: A number of news outlets have consistently claimed that Republicans initially paid for the anti-Trump Steele dossier, failing to note that Steele wasn’t even contracted by Fusion GPS until after the GOP donors pulled funding. The Republican donors say they paid Fusion for standard opposition research and that they have zero connection to the dossier. The media has perpetuated this falsehood so consistently that even Comey was confused, repeating the lie in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier.

8. CNN Gets Comey Prediction Wildly Wrong: Prior to Comey’s congressional testimony last June, CNN asserted that the ex-FBI chief was prepared to contradict a key claim by President Trump – that Comey told him he was not under investigation. Sadly for CNN, Comey’s prepared testimony was released with the line, “During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower … I offered that assurance [that he was not under investigation].”

9. The ’17 Intel Agencies’ Lie: The media perpetuated a false claim from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for months, insisting that all 17 intelligence agencies agreed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. The New York Times, for example, rated that claim as true only to later say the exact opposite. Only four intelligence agencies ultimately deemed Russia responsible for meddling because the other 13 have no business making judgments on the claim. As The NYT succinctly explained, “The rest were doing other work.”

10. Manafort Notes Are A Nothing Burger: NBC botched its big scoop claiming that Paul Manafort’s notes from a meeting with a Russian lawyer included the word “donations” near a reference to the Republican National Committee. Turns out, not only did the word “donations” not appear in Manafort’s notes, but the word “donor” didn’t, either. POLITICO had to correct the NBC report, leaving the legacy network looking awfully embarrassed.



11. NBC Issues Cohen Correction: NBC issued a major correction in May on a story about wiretaps and Michael Cohen. NBC initially claimed that federal investigators were listening in on Cohen’s phone calls, but it turns out they had what’s called a “pen register warrant,” which means they could see who Cohen spoke to on the phone but could not hear what was said.

12. Did Cohen Go To Prague? A McClatchy report stated that Mueller had evidence that Cohen visited Prague in the summer of 2016, which seemed to corroborate the portion of the Steele dossier claiming Cohen visited Prague at that time to meet with a Kremlin official. However, no other outlets ever confirmed the report and Cohen told Congress during an open hearing in February that he has never been to Prague.

13. Busted BuzzFeed: The special counsel’s office disputed a 2019 report by BuzzFeed claiming that Trump directed his lawyer to lie about a potential business deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign. The BuzzFeed report was used to float impeachment proceedings and obstruction of justice charges against the president, but Mueller’s team disputed the core premise of the reporting. “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

14. Lanny Davis Obliterates CNN’s Trump Tower Story: CNN reported in July that Cohen was prepared to tell Mueller that the president had knowledge in advance of a Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians. But Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said in August that CNN’s reporting got “mixed up” and that Cohen had no information related to the Trump Tower meeting. Cohen said the same to Congress on two separate occasions. CNN doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on its reporting, despite a series of issues with the report.

15. NPR Accuses Don Jr. Of Perjury: NPR published a report in November insisting that Donald Trump Jr. lied to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow because his statements conflicted with those of Cohen. However, NPR failed to realize that the piece of Trump Jr.’s testimony they quoted was about a different project. “Trump Jr.’s statements about work on a Trump Tower Moscow that ended in 2014 referred to negotiations with Aras Agalarov,” The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Chuck Ross explained. “Felix Sater, a businessman with links to Cohen and Russian officials, tried to make a Trump Tower Moscow happen in 2015.”

16. Mic Claims Russian Spy Infiltrated The Oval: Shortly after it was revealed that a Russian spy was attempting to infiltrate right-wing networks, Mic writer Emily Singer claimed that same Russian spy was present during an Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov. Singer claimed Russian spy Maria Butina was spotted in a photo of the meeting, citing the fact that she has red hair like the woman in the photo. The woman in the photo is actually NSC staffer Cari Lutkins.

Longtime Rolling Stone writer and author Matt Taibbi published an excerpt from his new book on March 23 which argued that “Russiagate is this generation’s WMD,” a reference to news coverage during the run-up the Iraq war. “The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess.”

“This is stunning,” said Baier in reporting on Mueller’s findings. “After 675 days. After a country has been through obsession, really, of this case, and nonstop coverage, this is the conclusion: That no American conspired or worked with Russia to alter the 2016 election.”
This moment, Baier said, “is a complete win for President Trump.”

So, the two-year investigation costing U.S. taxpayers more than $25 million is over – but not for CNN.

As Kathryn Krawczyk noted in a March 25 report for The Week, the network which had so much invested in a “bombshell” that never materialized, is maintaining a “stakeout team” around Mueller’s office in Washington, D.C.

The CNN team has “spent months loitering around Mueller’s office, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious man and his even more mysterious investigation into the Trump campaign’s conduct surrounding Russian election interference,” Krawczyk wrote. “Yet even though the whole world knows Mueller’s job is pretty much wrapped, the CNN stakeout team seemingly hasn’t gotten the message.”

On March 19, CNN’s Evan Perez said Mueller was spotted dressing down at the office. On March 21, CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz noted that Mueller didn’t leave for lunch as he usually does. And on March 22, it seemed Mueller didn’t even show up – the biggest special counsel news of the day until the Department of Justice confirmed Mueller had wrapped his report completely, Krawczyk noted.

“Yet even though special counsel staffers were seen toting boxes out of the office last week, Mueller returned to work” on March 25, Prokupecz tweeted.

Krawczyk noted “That’s likely because, as Attorney General William Barr addressed in the preliminary findings from the report he delivered to Congress, there’s still a whole lot of report for Barr to review. Some of the lawyers in Mueller’s office are sticking around to tie up loose ends, like prosecuting former Trump adviser Roger Stone. Chances are, it’ll be a while before Mueller gets to return to his regular scallop dinners with his wife – and before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gets to leave like he’s long intended to do.”


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