Anatomy of a Fusion smear (2)

We are now in position to identify the hallmarks of a Glenn Simpson/Fusion GPS fabrication. The Fusion smear of Cleta Mitchell is illustrative. Cleta’s case offers a small example, but this is not a small matter. The Russia hoax giving rise to the appointment of Robert Mueller represents the case writ large. This is Glenn Simpson’s world. We’re just living in it.

The Fusion smear follows a template with four hallmarks in the news stories that disseminate it after it has been planted:

• The story is based on two vaguely described anonymous sources. In the McClatchy story by Peter Stone and Greg Gordon smearing Cleta they appear as sources “who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

• The story reports that some government authority is investigating something. The fact that the something has been planted by Fusion GPS with the government authority is kept from the reader.

• The story is pegged to an investigation that is itself vaguely described.

• The story supports the merits of the Steele/Trump dossier or some other Fusion conspiracy theory.

In Michael Isikoff’s Yahoo! News story reporting the investigation of Carter Page we have “multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.” Christopher Steele is described as “a well-placed Western intelligence source.”

Chuck Ross takes up the sourcing of this story in the excellent Daily Caller column “The problem with the news article at the center of Carter Page warrant.” Ross observes: “Isikoff used vague sourcing in his Carter Page article. He also failed to disclose that his information was the fruit of an anti-Trump opposition research campaign funded by Democrats.” Isikoff knew that Simpson and Steele “were working for Democrats.” However, “Isikoff did say that he was unaware that Simpson was working for the Clinton campaign and DNC.” Sometimes it helps not to know too much.

For another classic of the genre, see Stone and Gordon’s January 18, 2018 McClatchy story “FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump.” Quotable quote: “All of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because Mueller’s investigation is confidential and mostly involves classified information.”

Kim Strassel’s Wall Street Journal column “Russia, the NRA and fake news” (accessible here on Outline) deconstructs the McClatchy NRA story. Implicit in Strassel’s column is the template above.

David Corn departs slightly from the template in the October 31, 2016 Mother Jones article “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.” He describes the author of the Trump dossier as “a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence.” Steele otherwise remains anonymous. Why?

Corn’s article omits information crucial to a fair evaluation of his story. Rather, Corn vouches for Steele via an unnamed “senior US government official not involved in this case but familiar with the former spy[.]” This official “tells Mother Jones that [Steele] has been a credible source with a proven record of providing reliable, sensitive, and important information to the US government.”

Hey, this seems to have done the trick with the FBI. Why not Corn?

Corn also grants Steele paymaster Glenn Simpson anonymity. He is described as one of Steele’s “American associates.” Corn notes Simpson’s original retention to perform opposition research project originally financed by “a Republican client critical of Trump.” Query: Is this supposed to be the Washington Free Beacon? Free Beacon editor Matt Continetti’s statement suggests it is. Why not name him/it?

Corn then adds parenthetically: “Before the former spy was retained, the project’s financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.” Here Corn must be referring to Perkins Coie, but Perkins Coie was a law firm representing both the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. “A client allied with Democrats” really doesn’t cut it.

There is no excuse for the anonymity granted Simpson and his confederates in these stories. Simpson is an operative working on behalf of clients advancing a specific agenda that bears on the credibility of the stories he has peddled. The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross quotes Greg Gordon defending the story smearing Cleta courtesy of Glenn Simpson: “We stand by our story. As you know, we already quoted Ms. Mitchell as denying these allegations. We do not discuss the sources for our stories.” Now that we have a handle on Gordon’s source we can understand why he might want to leave it at that.

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