Fox News keeps talking about “the memo.” But instead of the actual “dud” of a memo that House Republicans released last week, they’ve invented a non-existent memo out of some conspiracy theory fever dream to spread lies about:
On Friday, House Republicans and the White House released to the public a six-page memo that alleged FBI and Justice Department officials politicized the run-up to the collusion investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign. According to the GOP memo, in October 2016 those officials used the “Steele dossier” (a research document partially funded by Democrats and written by a former British spy) as the justification to seek a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) warrant to monitor Carter Page, who had previously worked for the Trump campaign. This, to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the House Intelligence Committee chair who has driven the effort to release the memo, means that the judges who approved the FISA warrants were misled, and makes everything related to the dossier false and part of a conspiracy against President Trump.
It doesn’t appear to matter that the memo itself is a dud. It doesn’t appear to matter that Nunes recused himself from the Russia investigation due to an ethics probe over improper disclosure of classified information. It doesn’t appear to matter than Carter Page, the focus of the investigation at the heart of the memo, described himself in 2013 as an “informal adviser to the staff of the Kremlin.”
No, to the editorial staff at Fox News, the real story is different: To them, the obvious conclusion is that there is a massive conspiracy in the FBI and Department of Justice to bring down Donald Trump. In their mind, the memo provides clear evidence that there is no basis for any investigation into the Trump campaign’s improper coordination with Russia during the 2016 election — but they have to essentially invent a document that does not exist in order to get there.
Sean Hannity introduced his show on Friday by hysterically describing the memo as “Watergate times a thousand.” It’s working. A recent survey found that 74 percent of Trump voters believe the FBI is biased against the president, and many prominent Republicans are falling into line, with the prospect of additional yet-to-be-released memos Nunes says will show “wrongdoing.”
Here are some of the worst lies about the memo regularly aired on Fox News over the past several days:
The Steele dossier formed the basis for the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign
Laura Ingraham said on Fox News that “the predicate for the entire Trump-Russia collusion canard was built on the foundation of the fake Steele dossier.” This is false. The memo clearly states that the FBI was investigating George Papadopoulos before the Steele dossier was released.
The memo describes surveillance of the Trump campaign
“Hillary basically paid for surveillance of her political opponent,” Fox News anchor Jesse Watters said in a hard-hitting weekend interview with Donald Trump Jr. This is false. The memo is about the surveillance of Carter Page, which began after he left the Trump campaign.
The FBI didn’t disclose any partisan motivations of the dossier
“They never informed the FISA court that in fact this money really came from the Clinton campaign and the DNC,” Sean Hannity said on Fox News. This is false. At least three publications confirmed that the FBI informed the FISA court about the financing behind the dossier.
The dossier undermines the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation
“The dossier is central to the Russia collusion theory targeting Trump, and that’s the basis for the appointment of Robert Mueller,” Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton, a guest on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, said on Friday night. “So you’ve got the corruption associated with the FISA surveillance. You’ve got the corruption associated with the FBI and DOJ working hand in glove with the Clinton campaign to push this narrative beginning in the summer of 2016 and it all led to the appointment of Robert Mueller.” This is false. Mueller’s name doesn’t appear in the memo once. And the Justice Department’s announcement that Mueller would be appointed special counsel in the Russia investigation does not mention the Steele dossier.
There’s a simple reason. Republicans, and their allies on Fox News, are fighting to sabotage the Russia investigation at every turn.