Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple has undertaken a retrospective series on “the media’s mishandling of the Steele dossier” in light of the recent Department of Justice Inspector General report on the FBI’s FISA-related misconduct investigating the Trump campaign and presidency. His series has reached nine parts with no end in sight.
Yesterday in part 9 Wemple put CNN’s advocacy of the Steele Dossier under the microscope. Wemple urges CNN to “come clean,” but CNN has responded to Wemple: “We stand by our reporting.” Wemple mocks CNN’s persistence in error. It is an admirably brutal column.
Here I ask your indulgence to repeat myself. Wemple’s series is animated by the same spirit as my own “We now know” series, of which this is a part. Wemple’s series serves an important purpose, but I hope he will expand its scope to review the role of the Washington Post in disseminating information intended to boost the Glenn Simpson/Fusion GPS project on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. At pages 48-49 of The Plot Against the President, Lee Smith traces several 2016 Washington Post stories by the Post’s own Tom Hamburger and others to Simpson and Fusion GPS “protodossiers.” In this context Smith points out that Hamburger and Simpson had collaborated on stories as staff reporters at the Wall Street Journal.
One story that would fit right in to Wemple’s series is “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier” (February 28, 2017). In this story Hamburger reported with Rosalind Helderman: “While Trump has derided the dossier as ‘fake news’ compiled by his political opponents, the FBI’s arrangement with Steele shows that the bureau considered him credible and found his information, while unproved, to be worthy of further investigation.” This is a story that appears to have had no purpose other than propping up the credibility of the Steele Dossier at the expense of President Trump.
In light of the Horowitz report, we can see that Trump had it right and the FBI had it wrong — along with the Post’s anonymous sources insofar as they sought to prop up the credibility of Steele and the Steele Dossier. Wemple could deepen his series with a look at that Post story, among others.