MEDIA LABELING OF “CONSPIRACY THEORIES” SHOWS A PATTERN OF OBFUSCATION
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 3, 2019) — At a Tuesday afternoon press conference following the release of House Intelligence Committee Democrats’ report on their findings from their “impeachment inquiry” against the president, Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA28) contended that President Trump engaged in a “scheme” to “coerce” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch two investigations involving Trump’s potential 2020 political rival former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Those actions, Schiff said, caused Trump to jeopardize “national security,” attempt to subvert the 2020 election, and violated Trump’s oath of office.
In a July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy, Trump said that “our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike…” The phone call would become the catalyst for a CIA “whistleblower” to file a complaint with the Intelligence Community inspector general, but not until after he or she contacted Schiff’s office first, according to The New York Times.
Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Preamble to the Democrats’ impeachment report, respectively, refer to the possibility that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election as a “discredited theory” and a “conspiracy theory.”
Schiff claimed that Zelenskiy “desperately” wanted to meet with Trump at the White House to lend additional legitimacy to his new administration following his April election and the seating earlier in July of a politically-friendly Rada, or parliament. A former Soviet socialist republic, Ukraine has struggled with corruption and hostilities with Russia since the fall of communism beginning in 1989.
Just after the 3:00 mark in the C-Span coverage of his presser, Schiff said, “At the same time there was something President Trump desperately wanted and believed that he needed, and that was an investigation that would damage the rival that he feared apparently the most, Joe Biden, as well as an investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in our last election. Now that’s a conspiracy theory which is often summarized and characterized by the term ‘Crowdstrike.’ That conspiracy theory is a Russian narrative. That is a conspiracy theory put out, promulgated by Vladimir Putin to deflect attention away from Russia’s interference in our own election and to try to drive a wedge between the United States and the nation of Ukraine.”
Schiff did not expound as to what “Crowdstrike” is.
Moments later, Schiff reemphasized that Trump’s alleged desires amounted to “two sham investigations: one into Joe Biden; also debunked and discredited, that sham investigative theory; but also into this idea that Ukraine interfered in our elections, not Russians…”
While vice president during Obama’s second term, Joe Biden was appointed liaison between the U.S. and Ukraine following the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea.
Trump has not only been criticized by Schiff and others, but also said by Democrats to have committed an impeachable act by allegedly delaying congressionally-appropriated military aid to Ukraine to fend off Russian aggression in order to “coerce” Zelenskiy to open the two referenced investigations.
The Obama regime chose not to send “lethal” aid to Ukraine following the Russian invasion, while the Trump administration has sent Javelin anti-tank missiles and hundreds of millions of dollars beginning in 2017, a set of facts which several Republicans raised during the hearings.
According to other witnesses, the investigations into the Bidens and Burisma were never opened as a result of the July 25 conversation, and Zelenskiy did not make the “public statement” which Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani allegedly had wanted. Reporting by now-independent investigative journalist and Fox News contributor John Solomon contends that Ukraine had already reopened an investigation into Burisma Holdings, which appointed Hunter Biden to its board of directors at a salary of at least $50,000 a month while his father was vice president and U.S.-Ukraine envoy.
On October 9, Solomon told “Hannity” host Sean Hannity:
The U.S. government had open-source intelligence and was aware as early as February of 2019 that the Ukrainian government was planning to reopen the Burisma investigation. This is long before the president ever imagined having a call with President Zelensky.
Two witnesses, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and State Department Ukraine official George Kent, admitted that Hunter Biden’s position on the board suggested a conflict of interest given Joe Biden’s position in the U.S. government. For his part, Kent said he wrote to Biden’s office on the matter but received no response.
Throughout the two weeks of hearings held by the Intelligence Committee before Thanksgiving, committee Democrats and the attorney who acted as their interrogator, Daniel Goldman, appeared to discredit the notion that Ukraine might have interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “Isn’t it also true that some of President Trump’s most senior advisers had informed him that this theory of Ukraine interference in the 2016 election was false?”he asked Hill former National Security Council member Fiona Hill on November 21, as reported by CBS News with the caption, “Hill says Trump ignored warnings on Ukraine conspiracy theory.”
Hill, who resigned in July, characterized the “Ukraine meddling” theory as a “fictional narrative” that “has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.” Hill has been a board member of one of George Soros’s foundations and was said by former Trump associate Roger Stone to be a “Soros mole,” to which the mainstream media forcefully objected, particularly following Hill’s testimony.
In that same vein, The American Independent, a self-described “progressive” news outlet, reported of the Goldman-Hill exchange, “Fiona Hill says senior White House aides told Trump his conspiracy theories about the DNC server being in Ukraine were wrong, but he didn’t listen.”
In 2016, the Russian government and military, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, launched an unprecedented attack on the US election. They spent millions of rubles on hackers and trolls who systematically tried to weaken Hillary Clinton and boost Donald Trump. It’s impossible to know if their efforts tipped the scales, but Trump won by a razor-thin margin.
These are the conclusions of the top US intelligence agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. Russia’s role was also confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, who brought criminal charges against Russian hackers and trolls.
But for three years now, Trump has questioned, dismissed and contradicted these findings. He and many of his Republican allies instead adhere to an alternate reality about the 2016 election.
On November 21, The Guardian reported:
Some Republicans on the intelligence committee have pushed a discredited conspiracy theory, embraced by Trump and amplified by conservative media, that Ukraine, rather than Russia, meddled in the last election.
They contend that Ukraine was complicit in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and that computer records were fabricated to cast blame on Russia. A key talking point is CrowdStrike, a security firm hired by the DNC that detected the hack.
During the hearings some Republicans presented evidence they had gathered, including a January 11, 2017 Politico article of which the witnesses and perhaps Democrats appeared to be unaware, claiming that certain “Ukrainian government officials,” with the assistance of a Ukrainian-American and DNC operative, Alexandra Chalupa, “tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.”
Further, the article states, “…Politico’s investigation found evidence of Ukrainian government involvement in the race that appears to strain diplomatic protocol dictating that governments refrain from engaging in one another’s elections.”
On November 15, Mother Jones reported that “Democrats Say Trump’s Ukraine Conspiracy Theories Parallel Putin’s.”
In relating testimony from current U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, NBC News reported:
Taylor shared several new pieces of information in his opening statement Wednesday, including his belief that White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was an integral part of an “irregular” communication channel between Washington and Kyiv and that the Ukrainians were “ready to move forward” with the probes desired by the White House.
Taylor, however, also reiterated his belief that he felt it was “clear” that a proposed White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was tied to launching investigations into the Bidens and a conspiracy theory about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election — information he shared in his closed-door testimony in October.
“Crowdstrike” is the private company the DNC hired to complete a forensic examination of its servers in 2016. The reported breaches of the server or servers led to the transfer of thousands of DNC and Hillary Clinton-campaign emails to WikiLeaks, which published them in the months leading up to the election.
In 2017 testimony to Congress before he was fired, FBI Director James Comey admitted that the FBI never examined the server(s) so breached.
In its spring 2016 report on the DNC server breaches, Crowdstrike wrote:
CrowdStrike Services Inc., our Incident Response group, was called by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the formal governing body for the US Democratic Party, to respond to a suspected breach. We deployed our IR team and technology and immediately identified two sophisticated adversaries on the network – COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR. We’ve had lots of experience with both of these actors attempting to target our customers in the past and know them well. In fact, our team considers them some of the best threat actors out of all the numerous nation-state, criminal and hacktivist/terrorist groups we encounter on a daily basis. Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities including deliberate targeting and ‘access management’ tradecraft – both groups were constantly going back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels and perform other tasks to try to stay ahead of being detected. Both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.
The firm posted an update to its findings directly following the release of the Trump-Zelenskiy call transcript in late September. As had the FBI, Crowdstrike reported, “We have never taken physical possession of any DNC servers. When cyber investigators respond to an incident, they capture that evidence in a process called ‘imaging.’ It involves making an exact byte-for-byte copy of the hard drives. They do the same for the machine’s memory, capturing evidence that would otherwise be lost at the next reboot, and they monitor and store the traffic passing through the victim’s network. This has been standard procedure in incident response investigations for decades. The images, not the computer’s hardware, provide the evidence.”
On Tuesday, csoonline reported:
President Donald Trump, Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have all given credence to what cybersecurity experts and the US intelligence community deride as a baseless conspiracy theory pushed by Russia. That theory posits that Ukraine, and not Russia, was responsible for hacking into the networks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Kennedy quickly backtracked from blaming Ukraine for the DNC hack, but nonetheless left wiggle room to return to this contention. After admitting he was “wrong” to imply Ukraine and not Russia hacked the DNC, he went on to say, “There is a lot of evidence, proven and unproven — everyone’s got an opinion — that Ukraine did try to interfere, along with Russia and probably others, in the 2016 election.”
This promotion of a discredited theory by the highest government officials undermines efforts to deal with the consensus primary threat, security experts believe. It also casts doubt on established security forensic practices.
The concept that someone other than Russian hackers transferred the DNC emails to WikiLeaks has also been assiduously attacked by the media, effectively silencing Sean Hannity on the subject in May 2017. The media drumbeat rose to the level whereby Hannity feared he might lose his popular Fox News Channel show due to an organized petitioning of his advertisers to cease their support. Likewise, other Fox personalities dropped their reportage on the issue.
Lawsuits were then filed against Fox, one of its reporters, and businessman Ed Butowsky which were dismissed, although one dismissal was overturned in September. In turn, Butowsky has sued a number of parties for alleged defamation and loss of income.
Although mainstream articles predating Barack Hussein Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign reported him as born in Kenya or Indonesia, the same media later called the “theories” that he was born outside the U.S. “conspiracies” which had been “debunked.” However, those reports ignore a 5+-year criminal investigation conducted by a former detective and private investigator under the authority of the Maricopa, AZ County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) whose findings of forgery in the “long-form” birth certificate image uploaded to the White House server were reported publicly on three occasions.
At the third and final presser on December 15, 2016, lead investigator Mike Zullo revealed not only “nine points of forgery” demonstrating that items were copied electronically to a blank template to create the “long-form” image presented to the public bearing Obama’s name, but also that two well-credentialed forensic experts agreed with his conclusion that the image cannot possibly be genuine.
Neither the media, FBI, nor Congress would investigate why the “official” documentation of a sitting president was fraudulent.
The responsibility for the rise of the “birther movement,” or those questioning Obama’s origins, was placed squarely on Trump by The New York Times.
Tying that to the current Ukraine controversy and impeachment inquiry, Bloomberg opinion writer Timothy L. O’Brien wrote in October, “One of the telling aspects of Trump’s turn to sprawling conspiracy theorizing eight years ago, and his subsequent immersion in it, is that it’s one of the few signature pieces of his current repertoire that isn’t a throwback. Most of Trump’s behaviors are decades old. Peddling conspiracies is a relatively recent phenomenon. And his deployment of half-baked, bonkers schemes attached to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, as well as some of his ludicrous theories about Ukraine as a haven for interference in the 2016 presidential election, have boomeranged on him in ways I’m sure he never anticipated.”
While Schiff invoked Trump’s alleged violation of his oath of office and the U.S. Constitution’s Article II, which details the election, oath and duties of the president and executive branch, it is that same Article which states that the president and commander-in-chief must be a “natural born Citizen.”
Since the close of the investigation, Zullo has further reported that two U.S. intelligence agents informed him that it is “an open secret” in Washington, DC that Obama was not born in the United States, again to media silence. Additionally, Zullo said, the Trump administration has been provided with the evidence, much of which has not been released publicly, from their findings that the birth certificate image is a “computer-generated forgery.”
The “birther” moniker has persisted throughout the media to this day, although the “theory” was “debunked,” The Washington Post asserted in April.
“Some Republicans Still Think Obama Was Born in Kenya as Trump Resurrects Birther Conspiracy Theory,” reported Newsweek, which recently fired a writer and disciplined an editor for inaccurate reporting, in December 2017.
As with the “theory” that Ukraine might have interfered in the 2016 election and that someone other than Russian operatives penetrated the DNC servers to obtain the incriminating emails, the birth-certificate conclusions have been noticeably avoided or refuted, without any independent investigation, by the mainstream media. “There’s a media blackout. Nobody wants to cover this; nobody wants to talk about it,” Zullo told Carl Gallups of “Freedom Friday” in April.
As The Post & Email reported of the broadcast at the time, “Zullo referred to a book published last year by Obama Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer who Zullo said ‘actually boasts of the media blackout surrounding the [birth certificate] issue.’”
“It was Fox News; it was MSNBC; it was everything across the gambit that an order had to come down somewhere: collusion with media executives not to talk about the birth certificate,” Zullo said. “That’s bone-chilling.”
Looking for all of your news in one place? Try Whatfinger, your one-stop aggregator of news, opinion and everything else.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.