MSNBC host Rachel Maddow gave a “heads up” to other news organizations on Thursday after she was sent what she believes are faked National Security Agency documents alleging collusion between a member of the Trump campaign and Russian government.
“Somebody, for some reason, appears to be shopping a fairly convincing fake NSA document that purports to directly implicate somebody from the Trump campaign in working with the Russians in their attack in the election,” Maddow said in a lengthy segment on her show.
She suggested that the unidentified muckraker who sent her the fake documents hopes to undermine news organizations in general and deflate the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, which has been going on for nearly a year.
“This is news, because: why is someone shopping a forged document of this kind to news organizations covering the Trump-Russia affair?” Maddow asked.
On June 7, an unidentified person sent documents to an online tip line for Maddow’s show, she said.
That was two days after The Intercept published legitimate NSA documents that were stolen by Reality Winner, a contractor for the agency.
Maddow said that the documents sent to her show appeared to have used The Intercept’s published documents as a template. Secret ID markings on The Intercept reports appeared on the documents passed to Maddow.
She said that metadata from the set of documents sent to her show preceded the publication of the documents published in The Intercept. Maddow suggested that it was possible that whoever sent her the forgeries had access to The Intercept documents. But she also theorized that whoever sent her the fake documents could have changed the metadata somehow.
The documents Maddow received appeared legitimate at first glance, she said, but several clues suggested that they were forgeries.
Typos and spacing issues raised eyebrows, but it was secret markings on the documents as well as their contents that convinced Maddow and her staff that the records were fakes.
But Maddow said that that “the big red flag” for her and her team was that the document she was given named an American citizen — a specific person from the Trump campaign — who allegedly cooperated with the Russians during the presidential campaign.
“We believe that a U.S. citizen’s name would not appear in a document like this,” asserted Maddow, who said that her team consulted national security experts on the matter.
“And so, heads up everybody,” Maddow warned.
The host pointed to two recent retractions — one at CNN and the other at Vice News — and suggested that they were the result of a similar scheme to undermine news outlets covering Trump.
In the case of CNN, three reporters were fired after the network retracted an article alleging that Trump transition team official Anthony Scaramucci was under investigation for ties to a Russian investment fund.
CNN said that the three reporters were fired because of shortcomings in their reporting process, but the network has been tight-lipped about what those shortcomings were.
Vice retracted two articles about a Trump robot display at Disney World.
“One way to stab in the heart aggressive American reporting on [the subject of Trump-Russia collusion] is to lay traps for American journalists who are reporting on it,” said Maddow.
“And then after the fact blow that reporting up. You then hurt the credibility of that news organization. You also cast a shadow over any similar reporting in the future…even if it’s true.”
Maddow did not provide details about who sent her team the faked NSA documents.
But she concluded her segment saying, “We don’t know who’s doing it, but we’re working on it.”