Shortly before the release of the Durham report, I wrote about the concern that we have a de facto state media in the United States. The column explored the pattern of false claims replicated across media platforms in the last four years. Then the Report was released and the media seemed intent to prove the point. However, even in this determined group, the Washington Post (which won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Russian collusion) set a new level of denial with a column by Philip Bump.
Bump has long been controversial for his role in pushing some of the false claims discussed in prior columns. Some of those are worth noting briefly because they share common elements to his most recent column.
For example, Bump was one of those who made the false claims that Attorney General Bill Barr cleared Lafayette Park for a photo op for Trump. He also claimed that Barr lied in his denial of the use of tear gas by federal agents. Bump wrote the Washington Post column titled “Attorney General Bill Barr’s Dishonest Defense of Clearing of Lafayette Square.” Not only did the Post refer to the “debunked claim” that no tear gas was used by the federal government, but goes on to state:
“It is the job of the media to tell the truth. The truth is that Barr’s arguments about the events of last Monday collapse under scrutiny and that his flat assertion that there was no link between clearing the square and Trump’s photo op should be treated with the same skepticism that his claims about the use of tear gas earns.”
It turns out that both assertions were true. Bump and others were pushing a conspiracy theory and exhibited little interest in confirming the facts. (I testified in Congress not long after the clearing of the area and stated that the conspiracy theory was already contradicted by the available evidence).
Indeed, the falsity of the photo op claim was evident within a day of the clearing. When various investigations disproved his earlier allegations, Bump wrote a rather bizarre spin on the controversy where he grudgingly acknowledged the evidence supporting Barr on the park clearing while entirely ignoring his prior accusations on the the tear gas controversy.
Bump also slammed Trump for claiming that his campaign was spied on by the FBI under the Obama Administration. (Trump used the term “wiretapping” which is a rather dated term for surveillance). Bump again guffawed at the suggestion. Later it was shown that the surveillance did target both the campaign and campaign associates.
Bump also pushed the Russian collusion story and slammed the New York Post for its now proven Hunter Biden laptop story. He was also there for the Democrats when he wrote a column titled “Why the Trump Tower meeting may have violated the law — and the Steele dossier likely didn’t.” Of course, nothing came from the Trump Tower meeting because there was no cognizable crime.
In 2021, when media organizations were finally admitting that the laptop was authentic, Bump was still declaring that it was a “conspiracy theory.” Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Bump continued to suggest that “the laptop was seeded by Russian intelligence.”
Bump often seems content that most readers will not go much beyond the headline. For example, when Trump slammed the top 20 most dangerous cities as being Democratic-run, Bump announced it was false in a column titled “Trump keeps claiming that the most dangerous cities in America are all run by Democrats. They aren’t.” However, his statistics showed that on a per capita data, none of the 20 most violent cities were run by Republicans. On a straight crime rate comparison, only one city was run by a Republican (Jacksonville, Fla.). Seventeen of the 20 cities were run by Democrats (two had independent mayors).
Anticipating the obvious response, Bump wrote that “Trump would no doubt shrug at that detail… that his assertion was only slightly wrong.” Well, yeah. The effort of the column was to avoid the underlying point on criminal justice policies to show that the number might be off by a couple cities. It literally focuses on a single tree to avoid seeing (and addressing) the forest. It would still be roughly 95% but that slight difference is the focus of the column rather than the claimed connection of crime rates to criminal justice agendas.
Given that history, many of us were waiting for Bump’s spin after years of pushing these collusion claims. He did not disappoint.
Bump again declared two parts of the column to be false and again proceeded to prove that they were not.
‘The report details how the Russian collusion conspiracy was invented by Clinton operatives and put into the now-infamous Steele dossier, funded by the Clinton campaign,’ Turley writes, incorrectly. At another point, he writes that “President Barack Obama and his national security team were briefed on how ‘a trusted foreign source’ revealed ‘a Clinton campaign plan to vilify Trump by tying him to Vladimir Putin so as to divert attention from her own concerns relating to her use of a private email server.’ It then happened a few days later.” That is also incorrect.”
Let’s start with the second claim. Bump says that it is untrue that Obama was briefed on the Clinton campaign plan. Notably, in the long time line that follows, Bump never shows how the statement is false. Indeed, he admits that “Russian intelligence obtained by the U.S. government indicates that Clinton’s campaign decided to ‘vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service.’”
Note Bump does not deny the briefing occurred. Indeed, the line is based on the Durham report and the briefing was previously reported by media. Rather, he later reveals that he is just objecting because the Clinton people would not confirm the intelligence report. He writes:
“That allegation remains unconfirmed to this day despite Durham questioning Clinton staffers about it. Clinton herself told Durham that the claim — sourced to Russia, which Durham describes as a “trusted foreign source” — “looked like Russian disinformation to me; they’re very good at it, you know.”
So Bump is citing Clinton whose campaign funded the dossier, hid the funding in its legal budget, denied its role to reporters, and actively pushed not one but two false claims with the FBI.
Bump then adds, bizarrely, that “it’s strange to argue both that the Clinton campaign explicitly sought to dig up dirt linking Trump to Russia, leading to Steele’s work in June, and that it wasn’t until late July that they decided to make this a core strategy. The latter undermines the former.” I will leave that to you to figure out.
Now on to the main event. Bump says it is false that “The report details how the Russian collusion conspiracy was invented by Clinton operatives and put into the now-infamous Steele dossier, funded by the Clinton campaign.”
Once again, when you get to his proof, it is not there. He does not defend the actual allegations in the dossier that Durham demolishes in his Report. He only suggests that others may have invented or pushed their own conspiracy theories a couple weeks earlier.
Bump curiously starts the relevant timeline in June 2016 and emphasizes that the Clinton campaign did not make the collusion effort a “core strategy” until July. That formal decision is used rather than the earlier dates when Fusion was hired and the research funded by the campaign. Durham details how Fusion approached Steele in May 2016 to do the work.
Bump details how figures like Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook were raising Russian concerns as proof that the Russian collusion allegations were not just the work of the campaign.
Citing the Clinton campaign manager as evidence that others were raising the concerns is hardly compelling. It also does not alter the fact that the campaign’s dossier manufactured false allegations that were then fed to the government and media.
In reality, there were earlier concerns by the government with regard to Carter Page being targeted by the Russians. However, Durham notes that those concerns in March 2016 over Page were not because they believed that he was an asset. Rather American intelligence “was concerned about the Russians reaching out to Page” and found that Page was not “receptive to the recruitment efforts.”
What Bump does not address are the findings in both the Inspector General and Durham reports that the Clinton campaign actively pushed the false claims into the FBI and into the media. The dossier would be used in the FISA court and former FBI Director James Comey would even continue to reference the false “tee-tape” claim from the report in 2018. The dossier would also be cited for years as “corroborated” and reliable by the media as well as Democratic members of Congress.
What is clear is that Clinton efforts were sufficiently pronounced by July 2016 that former CIA Director John Brennan briefed former President Obama on Hillary Clinton’s alleged “plan” to tie then-candidate Donald Trump to Russia as “a means of distracting the public from her use of a private email server.” The Russian investigation was launched days after this briefing.
Pointing out that there were others raising Russian contacts in the weeks before does not alter the role of the Clinton campaign in fostering the false collusion and Alfa Bank allegations as a political hit job. Bump also does not address how the campaign hid the funding and lied to reporters about its role.
However, Bump saved the best for last. After telling readers that there was nothing to see here, he further assured them that
“there’s an alternative way to consider the Russia probe: that Russia hoped Trump would win, that Trump was happy to have their help and that federal counterintelligence officials saw that as problematic.