How Team Trump used Fox News as a laundromat for unverified Russian information about top Democrats

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By Marshall Cohen, Oliver Darcy and Zachary Cohen | CNN

While most of the nation was largely fixated over the past week on President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, the President and his allies in right-wing media have been engrossed with something else entirely.

Trump, with the help of outlets like Fox News, has been pushing a dishonest narrative in touting intelligence documents that his administration declassified last month on the eve of the first presidential debate. They claimed the information was a supposed smoking gun proving that Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration sought to frame Trump with a Russian collusion scandal.

But when examined closely the documents indicate no such thing. In fact, by the Trump administration’s own admission, they are based on unverified Russian intelligence that could be totally bogus. Which is to say that the President and Fox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson are hyping and disseminating information that originates from a foreign adversary to bludgeon top Democratic officials.

Trump and his allies have even gone so far as to demand or suggest that President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden should be charged with actual crimes — again, resting much of their case on unverified Russian chatter and other cherry-picked material that the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency warned against releasing, as CNN previously reported.

It’s the latest episode in a long-running attempt by Trump and right-wing media to portray the Obama administration as nefarious actors who sought to launch a coup of an incoming Republican administration. This “deep state” conspiracy has been thoroughly discredited.

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What makes this situation more alarming is that John Ratcliffe, Trump’s Director of National Intelligence who declassified the documents, appears to be selectively doing so to help Trump accuse his 2020 opponent of committing a crime — all with the help of a major US media organization.

It has some current and former intelligence officials aghast.

“We are acting like a banana republic, with various cabinet officials so beholden to a dictator, they violate all norms and rules simply to curry favor,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer who oversaw operations in Europe and Russia before retiring last summer.

Polymeropoulos told CNN that Ratcliffe, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Bill Barr, “have forgotten their oath to protect America; they only serve this President, and history will judge them for that.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which Ratcliffe runs, declined comment.

Dubious documents

The dubious narrative being propagated by Trump and his allies was born out of materials released on September 29 by Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist whose qualifications for the top post have been questioned. He was confirmed for the job in May on a party-line Senate vote with all Democrats opposed. Before Ratcliffe, there were never more than a dozen senators who voted against a nominee for director of national intelligence.

Ratcliffe publicly disclosed the unverified Russian intelligence about Clinton despite concerns raised by the CIA and NSA, according to people briefed on the matter.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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