Susan Greenwood: Cherry-picked half-truths and misleading oversimplifications
April 3, 2018
Response to Terry McLaughlin's column of March 14, yet again, she presents her opinions as facts, many of which are actually oversimplifications, half-truths and outright misrepresentations. So, just to set the record straight:
She states: "The information that has been released to the public by the Congressional House Intelligence Committee has clearly shown that … A Trump victory was not their [the Russians'] goal, but rather the undermining of our democracy."
Perhaps that is wishful thinking on Ms. McLaughlin's part? Facts, from the document "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections," published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Jan. 6, 2017: "Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."
Is Ms. McLaughlin perhaps privy to facts and information not in the possession of the director which would countermand these findings?
She next asserts: "… members of Congress from both parties, including California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Adam Schiff, have been forced to admit that no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump's campaign and Russian operatives has yet been discovered."
That is wrong. In fact, the PBS News Hour notes that in an interview earlier in March, "The top Democrat on the panel said Tuesday there is "significant evidence" of collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. California Rep. Adam Schiff said Democrats are writing their own report with conclusions from the intelligence panel's yearlong investigation into Russian meddling." The interview is available online.
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She goes on to state: " … the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign paid the Perkins Coie Law Firm to hire an opposition research firm called Fusion GPS to "conduct research regarding Candidate No. 1's (Trump) ties to Russia." Fusion GPS then hired Christopher Steele, a former British M16 officer, to use his extensive Russian sources to provide information designed to taint Donald Trump."
That assertion is cherry-picked and misleading. Fact, verified by Politifact: "Fusion GPS … was first hired by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication that was reporting on the Republican primary field." And, further: "'It's not made up. It wasn't politically motivated. And it did not set out with the intention to smear Donald Trump.' That's what the co-founder of a research firm, Fusion GPS, told Congress about a dossier his firm produced during the presidential campaign."
Ms. McLaughlin further states: "According to testimony before the Intelligence Committee by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, not one claim in the "dossier" concerning Trump has been proven to be true, and former FBI Director James Comey has discredited it as 'salacious and unverified.'"
Those are both oversimplified distortions. As reported by multiple news sources — including Fox News! — "Investigators say McCabe recounted to the panel how hard the FBI had worked to verify the contents of the anti-Trump "dossier" and stood by its credibility. But when pressed to identify what in the salacious document the bureau had actually corroborated, the sources said, McCabe cited only the fact that Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had traveled to Moscow." And a fact, again from PolitiFact: "And in one instance, Comey described some material in the dossier as "salacious and unverified."
Facts do matter. Terry McLaughlin has been given a voice of some prominence in our public forum, by virtue of her bi-weekly column. It seems to me that she then has the added responsibility of doing her due diligence to ensure that she distinguishes her opinions, to which she is eminently entitled, from authentically sourced and researched facts and information — and that she stop disseminating and promulgating what I think we've all grown increasingly weary of: that dreaded "Fake News" — sensationalized misrepresentations, cherry-picked half-truths, and misleading oversimplifications.
Susan Greenwood lives in Auburn.