Over two years after the Mueller Report undermined the accusation that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election, yet another “bombshell” Trump/Putin story was widely shared on Thursday among media figures that regularly got it wrong on Russia.
The Guardian‘s Luke Harding reported on a leaked document that he claimed to originate from within the Kremlin, and which “appear[ed]” to show that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorized a secret spy agency operation to support Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The report also alleged that the Russians viewed the former president as a “mentally unstable” person who would support Russia’s interests and cause “social turmoil” in the U.S.
The story quickly went viral and was the number one trend on Twitter Thursday morning. It was also reported on by news outlets such as Daily Beast, Business Insider, and Raw Story. It was also shared by high-profile media figures like David Corn of MSNBC, Lincoln Project founder George Conway, and NBC’s Frank Figluizzi; as well as members of Congress like Democratic California Rep. Ted Lieu.
There were also, notably, several news outlets that did not immediately repeat the story on its face, The New York Times and Washington Post, both of which were at the forefront of peddling the claims of Trump/Russia collusion.
The Washington Post journalist Philip Bump expressed skepticism, writing, “It is odd that this document, so closely related to the national discourse over the past five years, only emerged now. It was purportedly leaked from within the Kremlin, but that happened only now? Or it only trickled down to the media now, when so many other things emerged more quickly? It’s curious.”
Johns Hopkins professor of strategic studies Thomas Rid warned in a tweet that one should “remain somewhat cautious” about the story, noting the Guardian’s use of language such as “are understood to have been” and “seem to represent.” He said such language “makes [him] wonder how much the Guardian even knows about the source.”
This Guardian story is likely to make big waves. I would remain somewhat cautious for now, however. For a “leak” of this magnitude, we need at least some details on the chain of custody. Also note the Guardian’s own hedging (“papers appear to show”) https://t.co/U3rq2Ac8S6
— Thomas Rid (@RidT) July 15, 2021
Former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Chris Krebs, who was fired by former President Trump shortly after the election, agreed with Rid’s assessment and indicated in a tweet that he would not be taking the bait.
Agree w/ @RidT on this Guardian reporting on Russian plans for the former President. This is far too convenient & reeks of #disinfo operation. It could all be individually or collectively true and at the same time planted & fake. So in the meantime, I’m taking this approach: https://t.co/0ZMSUfeJ9I pic.twitter.com/9vNSASnEB9
— Chris Krebs (@C_C_Krebs) July 15, 2021
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out that the story’s author, Luke Harding, was the same journalist who reported one of the “most sensationalized stories of the Trump era.” The story alleged Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort met several times with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 election.
It was Harding who published was one of the most sensationalized stories of the Trump era: that Manafort repeatedly met Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. It was utterly fabricated. Everyone knows it’s bullshit, never happened. Yet the Guardian has never corrected or retracted it pic.twitter.com/v86Xzr7hHt
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 15, 2021
If you take the story to its logical conclusion, Putin’s alleged covert effort to get Trump elected for his own benefit was likely disappointing given the former president’s anti-Russia policies.
In his first year in office, former President Trump signed tough sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 election and approved a plan to provide Ukraine with anti-tank missiles in their proxy war with Russia. He also spent his entire administration fighting back against Russia’s plan to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which the Biden administration passively obliged for it to move forward. Biden said about the Germany-Russia pipeline that “good friends can disagree.”
Despite the fact that it was proven President Biden’s son Hunter had significant and deep financial ties to Russia, many in the media have once again forced on an obsession with the Trump/Russia story.
Between alleged collusion, the Steele Dossier, and a host of other stories over the last five years, the media has been wrong time and time again in their quest to find an excuse for the shock they felt when Donald Trump was elected in 2016.
The story from the Guardian appears to buckle once again, at least at this time, under scrutiny.