News and Commentary

Trump Posts Misleading Tweet About Late-Senator John McCain’s Alleged Involvement In Steele Dossier Distribution

On Sunday, President Trump criticized the late-Senator John McCain of Arizona in a tweet about the unverified Steele dossier:

So it was indeed (just proven in court papers) “last in his class” (Annapolis) John McCain that sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election. He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual). Even the Fake News refused this garbage!

The president had previously criticized McCain on Saturday:

Spreading the fake and totally discredited Dossier “is unfortunately a very dark stain against John McCain.” Ken Starr, Former Independent Counsel. He had far worse “stains” than this, including thumbs down on repeal and replace after years of campaigning to repeal and replace!

As of publication, the tweets have a combined 169,000 “likes” and have been retweeted approximately 47,000 times. However, the president makes three misleading claims in his Sunday tweet, one of which is bolstered by his Saturday tweet.

First, Trump claims that McCain “sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media.” This is only partially true.

According to Fox News, in a document from September 2018, “former senior counterintelligence FBI agent Bill Priestap confirmed that the FBI received a copy of the first 33 pages of the dossier in December 2016 from McCain.”

McCain himself admitted to providing the FBI with the dossier in his May 2018 memoir.

However, if one believes the currently available records, McCain did not provide the dossier to the media, as the president’s tweet seems to imply. It was David J. Kramer who showed the dossier to BuzzFeed, which then published it. Kramer, who previously served with the State Department in multiple roles, is currently an affiliated senior fellow at the McCain Institute for International Leadership.

Kramer seemed to believe that Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson wanted the dossier delivered to FBI officials by a Republican in order to avoid a partisan dismissal, reports The Daily Caller.

Kramer stated:

I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack.

Second, as for McCain wanting to publish the document “before the election,” as the president tweeted, there is no indication that this is true. Moreover, it doesn’t appear that the senator even received the document until after Trump was elected, according to Kramer’s testimony.

There’s a critical distinction to be made here. While John McCain provided the FBI with the dossier, according to the available testimonies, he did not also give it to the media.

While Trump’s third misleading remark is much less consequential, it should nonetheless be clarified. The president claimed that John McCain was “last in his class” at Annapolis. This is false.

According to report from History, and cited by Mediaite, McCain graduated “fifth from the bottom of his class” at the the U.S. Naval Academy. The late-senator even spoke about his low achievement and subversive nature during a speech in 1993, stating that his time at Annapolis was not remarkable because of “individual academic achievement,” but because of an “impressive catalogue of demerits…”

National Review reports that McCain graduated 894 out of 899 in his class. While that is low, it’s not “last,” as the president stated.

Daughter Meghan McCain has responded to the president’s tweet:

No one will ever love you the way they loved my father…. I wish I had been given more Saturday’s with him. Maybe spend yours with your family instead of on twitter obsessing over mine?

The president has neither addressed nor corrected the misleading nature of his tweets as of publication.