For nearly a year and a half now, the American public has been told that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the presidential elections.
The biggest proponents of this conspiracy theory are a small number of politicians and nearly all major media, who have put their reputations and credibility on the line in promoting the theory. They have promised the American public over and over again that evidence proving collusion would emerge.
No such evidence has emerged. To the contrary, a yearlong investigation by the House intelligence committee concluded earlier this month that there had been no collusion.
This, however, was not new information. An inter-intelligence agency investigation conducted by the director of national intelligence and ordered by then-President Barack Obama into the Russian interference in the 2016 elections found no evidence at all of collusion.
So why have media organizations been so willing to blindly follow and promote the Russia-collusion narrative, without any proof, while official research could find no basis for it?
This is because many media themselves had become part of the conspiracy against Trump.
At the heart of the allegations that Trump colluded with Russia was the so-called Trump dossier. In April 2016, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had hired opposition research firm Fusion GPS, through law firm Perkins Coie, to produce the dossier.
Its key author, former British spy Christopher Steele, relied almost exclusively on Kremlin-linked sources in producing the report. These included a senior Kremlin official, a senior Russian official in the Russian Foreign Ministry, and a former top-level Russian intelligence officer still active in the Kremlin.
Nevertheless, the dossier was used by the FBI and Department of Justice under Obama to obtain a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, a declassified House intelligence committee memo shows. This warrant could have been used, through the so-called “two-hop rule,” to spy on all members of the Trump campaign, including Trump himself.
In a text message to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, the FBI deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, said: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Strzok was in charge of the Russia collusion investigation, and in this text we see him proposing a strategy in the event that Trump would be elected. The goal of the “insurance policy” was to stoke enough public outrage to get Congress to impeach Trump.
This is where the media organizations fit in. They dedicated vast amounts of time and resources to push the unverified narrative that Trump colluded with Russia.
The Media Research Center found that the Russia collusion narrative received, by far, the most media coverage on the major networks—receiving more than twice the amount of coverage than the second-most covered topic, health care reform.
But it goes beyond that. Reporters with a select number of large media organizations themselves had received confidential briefings by Steele, the author of the Trump dossier.
According to court documents in the UK, where Steele is being sued for libel, Steele’s defense attorney writes that he had been instructed by Fusion GPS to provide in-person briefings to reporters on at least two occasions.
Among those who were briefed by Steele were reporters of The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Yahoo News, and The New Yorker.
According to the court filing, Steel briefed the media on the contents of the dossier.
The House intelligence committee also obtained bank records from Fusion GPS showing that it had made direct payments to reporters covering Russia-related topics.
Law professor Ronald Rychlak, a leading expert on Russian disinformation operations, told The Epoch Times last year that the Trump dossier had all the hallmarks of a classic Russian disinformation campaign.
With the Russian sourcing of the Trump dossier in mind, some of America’s largest media had become, knowingly or unknowingly, part of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the elections and to undermine trust in U.S. institutions.
This is the same thing that the Russians did using social media. The indictment of 13 Russian nationals by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller in February revealed that operatives were using social media to promote both liberal and conservative causes to exacerbate divisions in American society.
A united American people who, despite their differences, stand together are strong against all adversaries. That is exactly why Russia sought to create deeper divisions in American society and to undermine trust in a democratically elected president.
As for the media that have stoked the flames of division, and spread Russian disinformation, time will tell whether they can ever restore their reputations and credibility.