Serial misinformer Peter Schweizer falsely claimed on Fox News Sunday that Hillary Clinton had unilateral power to veto the Uranium One deal as part of the nine-agency review panel that oversees such proposals. But members of the review panel only have power to make recommendations to the president, not unilaterally veto them.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough suggested that the State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton removed Algeria from a list of state sponsors of terror because the nation donated money to the Clinton Foundation, a baseless charge given that Algeria has never been on the State Department's list of terror sponsors.
On the April 27 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Scarborough used recent media criticism of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation stemming from the right-wing opposition research book Clinton Cash to suggest the likelihood of illegal coordination between donors to her family's charitable foundation and policy decisions she made as secretary of state. Scarborough claimed that when the Algerian government "wanted to be taken off the terror list in the State Department" the government "wr[o]te a check" to the Clinton Foundation:
SCARBOROUGH: I think it was Algeria maybe that had given a donation that went unreported at a time when they wanted to be taken off of the terror list in the State Department. They write the check, they get taken off the terror list. Now can you?-- at the same time, and then it goes unreported by the Clinton Foundation. Is there a quid pro quo there? I don't know, that's really hard to tell.
This is pretty simple stuff. So Algeria is on the terror list, they want off the terror list, the State Department is making a decision to do it, they write a check for what? How much? How many million dollars do they write a check for? I don't know, but Algeria writes a check ... they write a really big check to the Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation takes the check, and then just, out of nowhere the State Department then decides, well, they are going to take Algeria off the list. Now why did Algeria write a big check to the Clinton Foundation at the time they want something from the State Department?
But the allegations of a quid pro quo relationship hinted at in Scarborough's questions are baseless, because Algeria was not listed as a state-sponsor of terror at any point during Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state -- or at any other point. Currently, the list includes only Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria, although Cuba's status is being reviewed. According to NPR, the only nations ever to be removed from this official list are Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and South Yemen.
In fact, Algeria remains a key U.S. ally and partner in the global fight against terrorism in North Africa, according to a State Department report published in 2014, long after Clinton left her post.
Algeria did make a donation to the Clinton Foundation during Clinton's tenure there, in the form of $500,000 to help with relief in Haiti after an earthquake ravaged the nation. According to a February 25 report in The Washington Post, Algeria was "spending heavily to lobby the State Department on human rights issues" around the same time. The Clinton Foundation admitted to improperly failing to disclose this donation.
Just one month after Fox News' Bill O'Reilly brazenly threatened a New York Times reporter, warning her he'd go after her "with everything" he had if he didn't like the article she was writing about him, Times reporter Jo Becker happily cooperated with Fox News for its 60-minute special, The Tangled Clinton Web, which aired April 24.
Based on the pending book Clinton Cash, which is being published by Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins and heavily promoted by Murdoch's Fox News, Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and Murdoch's New York Post, The Tangled Clinton Web represented a mishmash of half-baked Clinton conspiracies that had Hillary and Bill Clinton at the center of a supposed vast web of international bribes and payoffs.
And yet there, featured amidst the waves of misinformation, was a New York Times reporter. Becker's Fox News' appearance was noteworthy, not only because of O'Reilly's stated contempt for the newspaper. But because Times journalists don't make a habit of regularly appearing on openly partisan Fox News, a cable channel that has embraced claims of Obama birtherism and has depicted the president of the United States as a racist, communist sympathizer who apologizes for America. (According to the Times' newsroom guidelines, when appearing on television programs staffers are supposed to avoid forums "that emphasize punditry and reckless opinion-mongering.")
Why the Becker appearance? In part, because she wrote a controversial piece last week that was inspired by Clinton Cash. Part of the Times' unusual "exclusive" arrangement with the book's author, Becker's article tried, and failed, to show how donations to the Clinton Foundation influenced Clinton's State Department when it signed off on the sale of Uranium One, a Canadian company with uranium mining claims in the U.S., to the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom.
By cooperating with the Fox News Clinton special, a program that was drowning in misinformation, Becker and the Times lent the Fox effort a desperately needed sheen of legitimacy. (i.e. 'Even the liberal New York Times....') And that's likely why prior to The Tangled Clinton Web airing, when Fox released to the media a clip of the special, the clip featured Becker's interview--Fox was proudly brandishing its Times alliance.
What would be the only topic that could create such a strange partnership where The New York Times, the world's most famous news organization, was working hand-in-a-hand with a media outlet that during the last presidential campaign abandoned all pretense of independent journalism and produced and aired its own four-minute political attack ad?
The endless pursuit of the Clintons, of course.
Fox News baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor. But Clinton reportedly had no personal involvement in the deal, which was approved by representatives of nine U.S. agencies after a rigorous review process.
On the April 4 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier previewed his upcoming hour-long special on discredited conservative author Peter Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash, in which he accuses Bill and Hillary Clinton of influence peddling with foreign governments in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees. The segment focused on Schweizer's allegations regarding Clinton's purported role in approving the sale of the uranium mining company Uranium One to the Russian government.
New York Times reporter Jo Becker, whose own reporting on the Uranium One story has been criticized by the Clinton campaign for burying "original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale," also appeared in the segment. Both the Times and Fox reportedly "made arrangements for exclusive access" to the book.
During the preview, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:
BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?
SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Baier concluded: "So what this amounts to, in the end, is a Russian company essentially controlled by Vladimir Putin, will now be in charge of a substantial portion of American uranium. Russia sends uranium to its client state, Iran. So American uranium could well be sent to the very nation we're negotiating with to try to slow its ability to develop a nuclear weapon. Thus, we see how far-reaching the effect of the Clinton blur, as Schweizer puts it, can be."
But Baier's preview omitted important context to misleadingly suggest that Clinton personally approved the Russian purchase. According to Time, which received this chapter of Schweizer's book in advance, the State Department's role in approving the deal was part of an extensive bureaucratic process, and Schweizer's chapter offers no indication of Hillary Clinton's personal involvement in, or even knowledge of, the deliberations. In fact, Time quotes Jose Hernandez, who as former Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs was involved the deliberations on behalf of the State Department, denying that Clinton was involved in the matter at all.
Moreover, Time pointed out that the "deal's approval was the result of an extensive interagency process that required the assent of at least nine different officials and agencies" through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. According to the report, "State has just one vote on the nine-member committee, which also includes the departments of Defense, Treasury and Energy. Disagreements are traditionally handled at the staff level, and if they are not resolved, they are escalated to deputies at the relevant agencies. If the deputies can't resolve the dispute, the issues can be elevated to the Cabinet Secretary level and, if needed, to the President for a decision. The official chairman of CFIUS is the Treasury Secretary, not the Secretary of State."
Furthermore, the Uranium One deal also had to receive approval from "the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an independent agency outside of the State Department's purview, as well as Utah's nuclear regulator. The deal also received approval from Canada's foreign investment review agency."
Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon has denied any wrongdoing by Clinton and criticized Becker for burying crucial facts from her report "that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale."
Relying largely on research from the conservative author of Clinton Cash, today's New York Times alleges that donations to the Clinton Foundation coincided with the U.S. government's 2010 approval of the sale of a company known as Uranium One to the Russian government. Without presenting any direct evidence in support of the claim, the Times story -- like the book on which it is based -- wrongly suggests that Hillary Clinton's State Department pushed for the sale's approval to reward donors who had a financial interest in the deal. Ironically, buried within the story is original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale.
The New York Times is urging the Clinton Foundation to reinstitute a ban that never existed on accepting donations from foreign governments.
The Times editorial board wrote on April 23 that now that Hillary Clinton is running for president, the international nonprofit "needs to reinstate the ban on donations from foreign governments for the rest of her campaign -- the same prohibition that was in place when she was in the Obama administration." Likewise, an April 23 Times news article stated that the Foundation recently "limited donations from foreign governments," but that the new policy "stops short of Mrs. Clinton's agreement with the Obama administration, which prohibited all foreign government donations while she served as the nation's top diplomat."
In fact, the 2008 memorandum of understanding entered into by the Clinton Foundation and then-President-Elect Barack Obama did not ban foreign government donations. Instead, it stated that if Hillary Clinton were confirmed as secretary of state, the Foundation would "continue to perform" its activities "on behalf of existing foreign country contributors and in fulfillment of existing and on-going commitments."
The Clinton Foundation's board agreed earlier this month to return to a similar policy given Clinton's run for president. They will "permit donations from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K. -- countries that support or have supported Clinton Foundation programs on health, poverty and climate change," according to the Wall Street Journal.
From the April 23 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes
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From the April 23 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Media outlets are poking holes in the allegations of Clinton Cash, an anti-Hillary Clinton book authored by a Republican activist and strategist whose history of reporting is marked by errors and retractions. Reporters who reviewed portions of the book have undermined Schweizer's claims that foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation influenced Hillary Clinton's decision-making as secretary of state with regard to the Russian purchase of a mining company and a trade agreement, asserting that Schweizer offers "little evidence" for his claims and overlooks key facts.
James Carville is a guest contributor to Media Matters.
On March 12, I posted on Media Matters to discuss what I called the Clinton Rule. The Clinton Rule is as follows: There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Well this week we got the ultimate proof of the Clinton Rule when The New York Times got its hands on a copy of Clinton Cash, a forthcoming book which purportedly claims that the State Department received favors from foreign entities that donated to The Clinton Foundation. Now, I wasn't the least bit surprised that the conservative media echo chamber immediately reverberated with cries of the "very damning" "bombshell," of a book that "could threaten [Hillary's] campaign." And I say purportedly because almost no one has read the book yet.
Here's the thing that did surprise me:
Never have we seen a more instant classic for followers of the Clinton Rule than with this latest tome. The book isn't even slated to be released for several weeks and yet The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Fox News are in cahoots with the author -- reporting on what might be inside. I'll run you through the playbook.
Let's start with the facts. The star of this latest instance of the Clinton Rule is the author, Peter Schweizer. He's a discredited fringe conservative activist and former political aide to the likes of George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Bobby Jindal. That's a trifecta that pays a high dollar for pushing right wing conspiracies. Schweizer has worked for such "reputable" publications as Breitbart.com -- the same Breitbart.com that once called gun safety advocate Gabby Giffords a "human shield" for the gun safety movement. His right wing bona fides don't end there. Schweizer is even listed as a contributor to one of former Fox News host Glenn Beck's books.
Speaking of Schweizer's work -- back in 1998 he took on the "gay subculture" that was "blossoming" at Walt Disney World. In Disney: The Mouse Betrayed -- which is not listed on Schweizer's website with his other works -- he attacked the "gay activism" at the theme park, with special attention for the annual Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom. "There is a lot of openly displayed affection during the event -- holding hands, kissing, and the like," Schweizer wrote. God forbid.
Here's the deal, Peter Schweizer's new book out May 5 is likely to have serious problems -- one embarrassing error has reportedly already been found. As Media Matters noted this week, Schweizer has been called out at least ten times by journalists and independent fact checkers for getting his facts wrong in his previous articles and books. His past work has been called "incorrect," "bogus," and "a fatal shortcoming in journalism 101." In short, he's a SERIAL MISINFORMER.
Yet, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Fox News have all made exclusive agreements with Schweizer for early access to pursue "the story lines found in the book." I'm not shocked that Fox News took the shady deal here since Harper Collins, which is publishing Schweizer's book, is also owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and is the sister company of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox. But I'm hard pressed to find any reason why The New York Times and The Washington Post would do the same except for the Clinton Rule.
The rule where every piece of nonsense the press can grab onto about the Clintons gets headline after headline.
But here's the thing, friends. The last time I remember a major media outlet hyping a right wing book this much was when CBS' 60 Minutes got duped by a guy whose tall tale included him scaling a 12 foot wall on the side of the diplomatic compound in Benghazi and dispatching a terrorist with his rifle butt. We all know how that ended: a book pulled from publication, a 60 Minutes report retracted, and a "journalistic review" which ended with a CBS reporter and producer taking a leave of absence.
All I'm saying here folks is this: The bottom line is that mainstream media must be up for the challenge. To all the reporters wanting to push the limits and take an advance look into the claims of a guy whose history of reporting is marked by errors and retractions, I say it's time to break the Clinton Rule. But in this case, I'm afraid the smarter bet is that we are going to see the same playbook over and over again.
Again, let me repeat what the Clinton Rule is: There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for the Clintons. After the latest antics on the part of The New York Times I am forced to add to the Clinton Rule. At The New York Times when it comes to the Clintons, there are no rules.
From the April 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Sean Hannity falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton's campaign admitted to paying female staffers less than male staffers while she was a senator, when in fact the opposite was true. Clinton's campaign reported that she paid men and women equally.
On the April 22 edition of his radio show, Hannity said that the Clinton campaign had "confirmed the accuracy" of a report from the conservative Free Beacon that Clinton had paid female staffers less than male staffers in her senate office:
HANNITY: There is another story I wanted to bring up about Hillary, and her campaign confirmed the accuracy of which to the Washington Free Beacon -- an analysis that showed that women working in Clinton's senate office were paid 72 cents for each dollar paid to men. The campaign told FactCheck.org that it does not dispute the accuracy of the report, which analyzed the office's publicly available disbursement forms from fiscal years 2002 to 2008, and found that men working for Clinton had a median salary of $15,708 higher than women.
In fact, the campaign told FactCheck.org that the Free Beacon analysis had been based on "incomplete" information and provided data showing that Clinton paid women equally. From the FactCheck.org article:
"The Free Beacon based their analysis off an incomplete, and therefore inaccurate set of numbers," said Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign. "The fact is, Hillary paid full-time men and women equally."
The FactCheck.org article states that the campaign supplied Clinton's senate staff employment records, which show that female staffers' median salaries were "virtually identical" to the male staffers' salaries. Those records also indicated that Clinton hired twice the number of women as men.
The article explains that the Free Beacon used a different data set to arrive at its conclusion that women were paid less - and quoted American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman Ornstein, who said he "believes the Clinton campaign methodology provides a more accurate measure of her record on pay equity."
From the April 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Discredited Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a conservative group with close ties to a billionaire family funding Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential run. GAI has also received substantial support from groups backed by Charles and David Koch.
Schweizer's upcoming anti-Clinton book has garnered widespread media attention, despite the author's long history of criticism from reporters for blatant errors, retractions, and reliance on sources that "do not exist."
Schweizer's GAI, which was behind one of the "bogus" reports Schweizer has been excoriated for, bills itself as a nonprofit devoted to investigating "cronyism and government corruption" and protecting "free markets."
But as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow explained on her show, "[W]hen you take a closer look at Mr. Schweizer's organization and who is backing him, it is a who's who of big right-wing funders, including one of the guys behind the right-wing media site Breitbart.com, for which Mr. Schweizer has previously written -- also the billionaire family that is currently bankrolling Ted Cruz's presidential run."
Indeed, as Crooks and Liars also noted, IRS tax forms reveal GAI is funded by some of the top donors on the right, including the billionaire Mercer family.
Robert Mercer was described by Bloomberg News as the "ultimate behind-the-scenes kingmaker" during the 2014 midterm elections. His daughter, Rebekah Mercer, runs the Mercer Family Foundation, which "has also supported a slew of conservative causes."
According to IRS filings, the Mercer Foundation donated $1 million to GAI in 2013 alone. (Rebekah Mercer was listed on the GAI's board of directors in its 2013 tax documents, but is not currently listed among board members on the group's website.)
Rebekah Mercer has close ties to potential Clinton opponent Ted Cruz. The same day Cruz announced his bid for the presidency, Mercer reportedly threw him a cocktail party at her New York City apartment to launch his fundraising tour.
Schweizer's GAI has also benefited from substantial donations from other Koch-linked groups. Donors Trust, described by Mother Jones as the "dark-money ATM of the right," gave $1,500,000 to GAI in 2013. Donors Trust provides individuals and organizations a way to hide their donations to various right-leaning causes and media outlets, and as Mother Jones noted, they are a key funnel for Koch funds.
Donors Trust has also heavily funded the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, which itself has donated substantial sums to GAI, including $2 million in 2012.
As Media Matters has noted, Schweizer gave a February 2014 address to the Charles Koch Institute. He also spoke at an undergraduate Koch Leadership program at Regent University, and according to documents originally obtained by The Nation, he spoke at the Koch's brothers "secret billionaire summit" in June 2014. At the conference, attendees reportedly "discussed strategy on campaign finance, climate change, healthcare, higher education and opportunities for taking control of the Senate." Schweizer previously served as a speechwriter for the Bush White House, as an adviser to Sarah Palin, and as a headliner for multiple Republican Party fundraisers.
From the April 21 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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From the April 20 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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