By John Ubaldi, “Ubaldi Reports”
One of the preeminent tenets for any journalist is the avoidance of a conflict of interest whether real or perceived, unfortunately today’s media seem to have forgotten the very basic ethics of journalism.
Minutes after then Republican candidate Donald Trump stunned the world with his upset win over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, it was in this moment the Russian collusion narrative was born.
Since the end of the 2016 election the nation had been inundated with every salacious allegation that Trump and members of his campaign had directly or indirectly colluded with the Russians. This had to be the only plausible explanation why he won the presidency and Clinton lost.
The media would interview anyone and everyone that would push this narrative that Trump had colluded with Russia. The Democratic Party repeated this theme for over three years. The media kept utilizing House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff listening to his every word as he pontificated that he had direct evidence of Russian collusion.
Obama administration officials such as CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have peddled the same pontification on CNN, MSNBC and other media affiliates about Russian collusion.
These same individuals and other senior Obama administration officials had testified under oath there was no evidence of Russian collusion. Early this month the House Intelligence Committee released 57 transcripts of interviews with senior Obama administration officials showing that testimony under oath was the polar opposite of what they pontificated on MSNBC, CNN and other media outlets.
Why haven’t the media challenged these officials for lying?
How did a Russian dossier which was unverified, unsubstantiated get presented to a federal judge by the DOJ & FBI, as there only source evidence in obtaining FISA surveillance warrants?
Why did the media accept this dossier as fact when at no time was it ever verified or substantiated? For three years the nation was told that this dossier played only a small part, that other evidence was submitted in obtaining a FISA warrant as a prelude to conducting surveillance on members of the Trump campaign team.
Later we learned the dossier was the only evidence presented to obtain a FISA warrant.
Then Chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes (R-CA) put out a memo detailing the massive abuse of the FISA warrant application process, but he was attacked and ridiculed by the main stream media and former Obama administration officials.
The Democrats released a rebuttal to the Nunes memo with then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) issuing his own response ridiculing the very fact no abuse had ever taken place. For three years the media couldn’t get enough of Schiff and kept interviewing him as he continued repeating the narrative of Russian collusion by the Trump administration. Schiff continued to maintain he had seen direct evidence.
After the president fired then FBI Director James Comey, in May of 2017 then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein initiated a special counsel investigation led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee a Russian collusion investigation. The premise of the special counsel would be to find out if Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election and whether Trump or any member of his campaign had colluded with the Russians.
After the special counsel investigation was launched by Mueller, the media reported on every salacious allegation that Trump and members of his administration had indeed colluded with Russia. Throughout this period dozens of former Obama officials from intelligence, other areas of national security spoke out on the duplicity of President Trump and his connections to Moscow.
During this period the New York Times and Washington Post were both awarded the prestigious 2018 Pulitzer Prize for its “deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.”
In March of 2019, Special Counsel Investigator Robert Mueller found no evidence in his report that any American directly or indirectly had cooperated or had colluded with Russia during the 2016 election or afterward.
During seven hours of testimony on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, Mueller again reiterated from his report that no American directly or indirectly had cooperated or had colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
The question the media never asked what were their sources and why did they continue to believe the same Obama administrative officials and other Democratic elected representatives; especially Representative Adam Schiff?
Has the media strayed so far from the ethical standards found in the “Society of Professional Journalists” were it states;
- Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
- Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.
- Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
- Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
What about acting independently;
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
- Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
What about being accountable and transparent;
- Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
- Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.
- Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.
Over the decades the media has systematically perpetrated a cultural of bias and this has metastasized into hatred for the Republican Party and especially against Donald Trump. Democratic political analyst Doug Schoen who worked on both the campaigns for Bill and Hillary Clinton, stated that many of his media friends have mentioned to him that it’s their sole mission to take down the presidency of Donald Trump.
Has the media lost its objectivity and become a partisan actor in national politics?
One example of this partisan journalism is how the media covered the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault accusations compared to the way they covered former Vice President Joe Biden’s sexual assault accusations. One received extensive coverage and was presumed guilty; the other was barely covered at all and when they did he was under the assumption of innocent until proven guilty; basically Biden would be afforded due process.
In last four years we have seen relentless coverage of Russian collusion; we have now learned there was no evidence, with the entire investigation based on an unproven dossier paid for by the Hilary Clinton presidential campaign, and the Democratic National Committee. Perkins Coie law firm was authorized to funnel payments to Fusion GPS who then paid former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele for unverified sources from Russian intelligence.
This dossier was the basis for the DOJ and FBI to obtain various FISA warrants to conduct surveillance on Trump and members of his campaign. Where was the media’s reporting on this serious constitutional abuse of power?
In December 2019, Department of Justice Michael Horowitz released his IG report that highlighted 17 different instances of serious abuses of the FISA warrant application process. Those that perpetrated these abuses are currently being used as legal analysists on major cable news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC.
Just last month the same IG reported that his office took 29 random samplings of FISA warrant applications. All the applications where riddled with serious constitutional violations. Horowitz suggested that the FBI while eavesdropping on suspected spies and terrorists made significant constitutional errors extending far beyond those made during that investigation.
In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Horowitz stated, “As detailed in our report, among other things, we identified fundamental and serious errors in the agents’ conduct of the FBI’s factual accuracy review procedures (“Woods Procedures”) with regard to all four FISA applications.”
Horowitz continued, “We found, for example, numerous instances where the Woods File did not include supporting documentation for factual assertions contained in the FISA applications, as required by FBI policy. Additionally, we determined that the Woods File did not contain, as also required by FBI policy, documentation from the Confidential Human Source’s (CHS) handling agent stating that the handling agent had reviewed the facts presented in the FISA application regarding the CHS’s reliability and background, and that the facts presented were accurate.”
The media has been silent, has failed to investigate this serious abuse of power by the DOJ and the FBI, or questioned anyone in the Obama administration about this. Former Vice President Joe Biden who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president has never been asked any of these questions; why not?
Why hasn’t Schiff been asked to explain his memo that reported no evidence of abuse of the FISA application process?
Decades ago former Russian dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, who spent many years in the Russian gulag prison system, finally exiled gave a speech at Harvard University in 1978, admonishing the media, “What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to his readers, or to his history — or to history? If they have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same newspaper? It hardly ever happens because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a mistake, but the journalist usually always gets away with it.”
Solzhenitsyn continued, “Because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none — and none of them will ever be rectified; they will stay on in the readers’ memories. How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification.”
This statement became truer when early this month the Department of Justice decided to drop its case against former National Security Adviser Lt. General Michael Flynn.
The basis of the case was Flynn’s conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In addition the FBI tried to charge Flynn under the Logan Act, which has never been used to prosecute anyone since its passage in 1799, finally settling “willfully and knowingly” making false statements to the FBI.
The DOJ concluded that “proof of a false statement to federal investigators under Section 1001(a)(2) requires more than a lie,” and that the law which Mueller charged Flynn of violating is written in such a way that it “prevents law enforcement from fishing for falsehoods merely to manufacture jurisdiction over any statement–true or false.”
The DOJ’s announcement came in a court filing “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information,” as the department put it. DOJ officials said they concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn” and that the interview was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.”
Charges were brought against Flynn by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2017, for making false statements to the FBI. Later it was learned he was coerced to plead guilty by the FBI. After this it was revealed by unsealed documents that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn had set up a perjury trap from which handwritten notes documented by agents without his attorney present, with the primary goal was “to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
In its motion to dismiss criminal charges, the DOJ said the recently unsealed documents not only conclude the FBI had no proper predication for launching its investigation, but now call into question whether there is sufficient evidence that Flynn actually had lied to FBI agents during their Jan. 24, 2017, White House interview.
“The Government is not persuaded that the January 24, 2017 interview was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis and therefore does not believe Mr. Flynn’s statements were material even if untrue,” the motion reads. “Moreover, we do not believe that the Government can prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.”
During the course of the investigation the FBI knew that Flynn never lied and the only reason he pled guilty is that he was facing financial ruin and the government coerced him into it, stating they were then going to go after his son. During this time the FBI withheld exculpatory evidence which was favorable to Flynn.
Basically the FBI manufactured a crime, forced someone to lie to a crime they didn’t commit, forced Flynn into bankruptcy, then under extreme duress by the FBI, that if he didn’t plead guilty the federal government would target his family
The media failed to cover the serious prosecutorial misconduct by the DOJ and FBI in violating an American’s constitutional rights. Does due process only apply to Liberals and Democrats? If you are conservative and Republican you get a certain kind of justice. Remember the same team that investigated Hillary Clinton also investigated Trump, but Clinton was given every break when evidence clearly showed wrong doing.
Trump was shown no deference, treated as he was guilty when there was no evidence.
A more disturbing matter happened on May 12th, Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grennel released the names of 39 separate Obama administration officials who have asked to have Flynn’s name “unmasked” in transcripts by US intelligence intercepts of foreign officials.
Among the names listed where chief of staff Denis McDonough, CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and UN Ambassador Samantha Power.
Also on the list was former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden was asked by “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos, his response was “I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn,” Biden said.
The next day it was revealed he had participated in the unmasking and knew of the investigation into Flynn.
Why has the media not asked anyone in the Obama administration about these serious revelations? Remember how Trump was mocked when he stated that the Obama administration conducted surveillance on his campaign, the media ridiculed him for this statement. We now know this happened!
Constitutional law professor at George Washington University Jonathan Turley writing in the “The Hill” stated, “There is very little question that the response by the media to such a story would have been overwhelming if George Bush and his administration had targeted the Obama campaign figures with secret surveillance. That story would have been encompassing if it was learned that there was no direct evidence to justify the investigation and that the underlying allegation of Russian collusion was ultimately found to lack a credible basis.”
Why has the media been silent?
Turley continues, “The media portrayed both Obama and Biden as uninvolved. But now we know they both actively followed the investigation. According to former acting attorney general Sally Yates, she was surprised that Obama knew about the investigation and knew more than she did at the time. Obama called upon former FBI director James Comey to stay after a meeting to discuss the investigation. Comey had mentioned using the Logan Act to charge Flynn, even though the unconstitutional law has never been used successfully in a prosecution since the country was founded.”
It’s strange that the media or Congress would be uninterested on why a Democratic administration used a secret court to conduct surveillance and investigate an opposing political campaign, and continued doing this while the incoming presidential elect was preparing to take office, then continued while he was president.
Has a culture of bias systematically embedded itself in the media? Instead of being objective the media has now become a partisan participant and instead of avoiding conflicts of interest, real or perceived, they are now part of the Democratic Party media machine.
Without an independent media holding the government accountable the Republic becomes weaker and so does the Democracy we all cherish.