News of the News: How the ‘Trump-Russia collusion’ sausage gets made
By Lee Smith May 1, 2018
The White House Correspondent’s Dinner Saturday night was a platform for the media to push back against the most powerful man in the world, the president of the United States. While Donald Trump constantly derides the top brands in American journalism as Fake News, the WHCA’s prize committee presented the Merriman Smith Award for broadcast journalism to CNN’s Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper, and Carl Bernstein for their Jan. 10, 2017 story reporting that Barack Obama’s four intelligence chiefs briefed Donald Trump that Russia had compromising information on the President-elect. The compromising information—ranging from allegations of the Trump team’s criminal activities to the sexual depravities of Trump himself—was sourced to a 35-page-long opposition research file allegedly authored by the ex-British spy Christopher Steele.
The so-called Steele dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, which hired the Washington, D.C. opposition research firm Fusion GPS to produce and disseminate it to the press. As the award citation explains: “Thanks to this CNN investigation, ‘the dossier’ is now part of the lexicon.”
CNN has never disclosed the close relationship between Evan Perez, one of the reporters on the Jan. 10, 2017 story, and his former Wall Street Journal colleagues who went on to start Fusion GPS, including the company’s founder Glenn Simpson. Nor did the Merriman Smith prize committee acknowledge how the dossier on which the leading lights of the news business have again staked their institutional credibility was disseminated to the public.
That story is now coming into focus with the recent release of seven government documents that together detail a working partnership between spy agencies and the press that helped a political attack meme go viral, even though the evidence on which it was based was demonstrably false. While this type of relationship—let’s call it collusion—may be routine in Third World countries, it does not bode well for the health of the American press, or our democratic institutions.