News and Analysis

‘Smear,’ ‘So-Called’ Investigation: Networks Ignore And Spin Steele Dossier Indictment
ALEXANDRIA, VA - NOVEMBER 10: Russian analyst Igor Danchenko arrives at the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse before being arraigned on November 10, 2021 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Although the most lurid allegations of the Steele dossier about alleged connections between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia received saturation coverage for more than two years, the legacy media have largely ignored the indictment of the dossier’s prime source. When they have covered Special Prosecutor John Durham’s indictment of Igor Danchenko for lying, they have referred to it as a “smear,” a “so-called” investigation, or proof that the dossier has been “further vetted.”

On Wednesday, November 3, John Durham issued a 39-page indictment of Igor Danchenko, a U.S.-based Russian citizen who formerly worked at the left-of-center Brookings Institution. Fiona Hill introduced Danchenko to Christopher Steele, who was hired by the Democratic National Committee to compile a dossier of allegations about the Trump campaign’s ties to Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Danchenko created such unfounded rumors as claiming that future President Trump once hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on a Moscow bed where Barack Obama had slept. The indictment says Danchenko was responsible for “the allegation that there were communications ongoing between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and that … the Kremlin might be of help in getting Trump elected.”

Based on Danchenko’s alleged inside sources, the FBI wrote that there was “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership,” because Vladimir Putin “feared” Hillary Clinton. And the FBI used the dossier to petition for four successive warrants to spy on Trump campaign official Carter Page. But that all turned out to be false.

Although Danchencko told the FBI that he obtained his information from Russians with direct knowledge of the allegations, an American public relations executive named Charles Dolan Jr. has stepped forward as the source of the misinformation. Durham has charged Danchenko with five counts of making false statements to federal investigators; the Russian could face a fine and up to five years in prison for each of the five counts.

While the allegations led to hours of banter on CNN and MSNBC, the refutation took virtually no time. The networks’ prime time hosts, who have led their broadcasts with in-depth coverage of congressional subpoenas against former Trump administration officials, have all but ignored the Danchenko indictment.

The most recent coverage came on Friday afternoon when Nicolle Wallace, the host of MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House,” who claimed the indictment merely meant the Steele dossier was being “further vetted.”

“If you peek over at right-wing media, they are still taking a victory lap and feeling avenged around the dossier being further vetted,” she said. She then asserted that “most people covered it as, sort of, unvetted but something that was out there,” although she admitted that “other people went farther [sic] than that.”

She then asked her guest, Clint Watts, to “speak to how far from reality this information space is at this point, by nature.”

Only Rachel Maddow covered the indictment in prime time, on November 4. “The unmistakable impression is that this indictment is designed to smear Christopher Steele’s intelligence reports as things that were deliberately made up and concocted by rascally Democrats,” said Rachel Maddow on Thursday, November 4. She then attempted to support the veracity of the Steele dossier by interviewing former FBI agent Peter Strzok.

MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson referred to the indictment as the product of “the so-called Durham investigation.” Her guest, Ken Dilanian, then said, “Republicans, of course, are seizing on this in support of their longtime assertion that this whole Trump-Russian investigation is a hoax, is unfounded.”

CNN took a similar approach. “John Durham appears to be doing with these cases is trying to get at the dossier,” said CNN “justice correspondent” Evan Perez on November 4. “And I’ve got to tell you, having spent time looking at this, including the fact that the former president’s campaign chair was himself compromised by the Russians, back in 2016, it’s hard to say that the FBI had no reason to investigate some of these things.”

Even when the hosts tried to be honest, they allowed their guests to state misinformation without any correction. On November 4, CNN’s Jake Tapper referred to the Steele dossier as “that dossier of unproven, disproven, and lurid allegations about Trump.” But his guest, former Watergate figure John Dean, insisted without evidence that “there are things coming up about the fact the server between Moscow and the Trump headquarters was real, and there is more information coming out about that by experts who say, ‘Hey, this wasn’t a bogus report.’ There really were communications going on.”

In reality, the FBI dismissed allegations that the Trump campaign maintained a server that communicated surreptitiously with the Moscow-based Alfa Bank in 2017.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  ‘Smear,’ ‘So-Called’ Investigation: Networks Ignore And Spin Steele Dossier Indictment