The New York Times dropped another “bombshell” report on Russian influence on the 2016 election Wednesday, and once again what is presented as salacious news in the headline and lead is revealed to be anything but midway through the report.
“Months before the election, U.S. spies learned that top Russians had discussed ways to use Donald Trump’s advisers to influence him,” reads the headline blasted by TheNYT in a breaking news email. The story is clearly meant to further the “Trump colluded with Russia” narrative the media has pushed for months, although it’s as yet totally unsubstantiated.
TheNYT lead builds an atmosphere of wrongdoing around Trump and his campaign aides using important sounding buzzwords and phrases. “Spies” and “revealing” information and big-time Russian officials who “exert influence.” It’s quite official sounding and obviously intended to sow suspicion.
But the (few) readers who make it to the fifth paragraph and are paying attention will realize there’s not actually much meat to the report. That paragraph hedges on the information collected by the spies, and notes the reporter has no real clue whether Russian officials actually made any attempt to influence the Trump aides in question. Oh yeah and the Trump campaign as well as both aides have consistently denied the longstanding accusations of collusion with Russia.
“The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is ongoing,” the paragraph reads. “It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.”
What this report really boils down to is the “revelation” that senior Russian officials are interested in influencing important U.S. actors, and that American spies are mostly sure they had a conversation about it. Maybe newsworthy, but hardly a bombshell.
A buried explanatory paragraph that deflates the lead is a constant in report after report on the Russia collusion narrative.
When The New York Times reported the FBI was investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, it was not until the tenth paragraph readers were informed of an important fact: “American officials have said that they have so far found no proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”
But the report adds there is evidence Trump’s associates were in “repeated contact” with people linked to Russian intelligence officials.
Some months later Reuters dropped an important sounding report on some of those contacts. Six paragraphs into the report on “18 undisclosed contacts” between Trump associates and Russian officials, the reader learns that those who familiar with the conversations see “no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia.”
The New York Times pumped out another “collusion” story Wednesday with another buried caveat, this time on “mounting concern” among U.S. officials “revealed” by former CIA director John Brennan in a big bad congressional hearing. Six paragraphs in: “Mr. Brennan acknowledged that he did not know whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives and said the contacts might have been benign.”
The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross nailed it in a recent tweet.
“Out of all the leaks thus far in the Trump-Russia probe, there have been none showing actual collusion,” he said.
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