News and Commentary

CBS ‘Fact Check’ Claims Steele Dossier Is Not A ‘Clinton Campaign Document’

Those on the Right know that so-called fact checkers consistently nitpick — or outright distort — things Republicans say in order to say they’re lying. Well, here’s another example.

CBS News decided to “fact check” President Donald Trump’s recent claims about the dossier prepared by Christopher Steele that was used to obtain a FISA warrant to wiretap former adviser Carter Page. Here’s what Trump said:

It was classified to cover up misconduct by the FBI and Justice Department in misleading the Court by using this Dossier in a dishonest way to gain a warrant to target the Trump Team. This is a Clinton Campaign document. It was a fraud and a hoax designed to target Trump …

First, CBS nitpicks Trump’s comment about why the FISA warrant was classified, saying: “Wiretap requests are routinely classified to protect sources and methods, not to cover up misconduct by the FBI or Justice Department.”

Trump wasn’t referring to all FISA warrant applications, he was obviously referring to this specific application, which contained pages and pages of classified material beyond protecting sources or methods.

As for Trump’s designation that the dossier was a “Clinton Campaign document,” CBS takes issue once again.

“It’s also not correct to call the Steele dossier a ‘Clinton Campaign document,’” the outlet wrote. “Steele was hired by FUSION GPS, a private research firm that in turn was hired by a law firm that represented the Democratic campaign.”

As to the Clinton campaign’s involvement, CBS wrote: “But Clinton’s closest aides said they didn’t learn about the research until after the election, which is probable considering they never raised the allegations publicly.”

Perhaps they reached this conclusion because the dossier didn’t appear on campaign letterhead (which is about the only thing that would have made CBS claim Trump was correct).

This “fact check” is out of line with other reporting, from none other than The Washington Post and The New York Times. The Times headlined an article: “Clinton Campaign and Democratic Party Helped Pay for Russia Trump Dossier.” The Post’s headline reads: “Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier.” The Post notes that “a person familiar with the matter” said neither the Democratic National Committee (DNC) nor the Clinton campaign knew that Fusion GPS had been hired for the research. A likely story.

Steele was hired by his business associate, Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, which had been paid by Perkins Coie, the law firm retained by the DNC and Clinton campaign. Whether the Clinton campaign team knew is immaterial; their money paid for the research that became the dossier. Trump can call it a “Clinton Campaign document” and not be wrong.

Further, the fact that the Clinton campaign didn’t use the information from the dossier doesn’t corroborate that they didn’t know about it. Clinton’s campaign believed they were going to win by a landslide, so they might have felt they didn’t need to put out the salacious rumors contained within the dossier.

(After disturbing evidence came out about the first candidate I campaigned for, I learned from one of our campaign trackers that he and the tracker for the opposing candidate knew about the indiscretions, but the other campaign never used the information. It didn’t need to. The other candidate won in the 2008 Democrat wave election.)

As much as we think campaigns will throw everything but the kitchen sink at the opposition, that’s not always the case.