Peter Schweizer

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  • Trump Just Blew A Hole In Breitbart’s Case For Editorial Independence

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President Donald Trump this morning urged supporters to watch a Fox News segment that was based on research overseen by White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon in his prior role as chief executive of the conservative group Government Accountability Institute (GAI).

    Last August, Bannon promoted the GAI report in an article he co-authored at Breitbart.com, which he was simultaneously running as chief executive. Breitbart is now fighting to gain permanent reporting credentials from the Senate Press Gallery in the face of criticism that the website lacks editorial independence because of its entwinement with GAI.

    This morning Trump tried to defuse criticism of his ties to Russia by encouraging his followers to “Watch @foxandfriends now on Podesta and Russia!”:

    During the segment in question, conservative activist Peter Schweizer detailed connections between former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and a Kremlin-backed bank.

    Schweizer is both president of GAI and a Breitbart senior editor-at-large, and he and Bannon promoted the Podesta allegations last year in their roles with both. Their story provides a case study in how top Breitbart editors use the website to promote the work of a conservative group that pays them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

    The Podesta claims were first raised in a July 31 GAI report titled “From Russia with Money: Hillary Clinton, the Russian Reset, and Cronyism,” which purported to detail unsavory connections between Clinton and her associates and Russia. On August 1, Bannon and Schweizer co-bylined a story breaking the news on Breitbart, and discussed it on the Bannon-hosted SiriusXM program Breitbart News Daily.

    “It’s gonna cause a firestorm because they’re going to have to answer the question, and Mr. Podesta’s gonna have to answer the question, why he failed to disclose this, and we’re going to drill down on what all this means,” Bannon commented at the time. “We’ve got a lot more of this coming.”

    The GAI report and Breitbart article were released amid a slew of news stories detailing the Trump campaign’s friendly stance toward the Kremlin, and just days after The New York Times reported that “American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have ‘high confidence’ that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee.”

    Sixteen days after the GAI report was released, Bannon took a leave of absence from Breitbart to become the Trump presidential campaign’s chief executive.

    Between its initial promotion of the GAI report and Election Day, Breitbart produced at least six more reports on GAI’s Podesta story. Meanwhile, the Bannon-headed Trump campaign issued a statement calling on Podesta to provide more information or step down.

    Following Clinton’s defeat, conservatives largely dropped the story. But after FBI Director James Comey announced during a March 20 congressional hearing that the bureau is investigating “whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election,” right-wing politicians and media outlets began casting about for angles they could take to mitigate that damaging narrative.

    The next day, fringe gadfly Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) called for a congressional investigation into Podesta, relying on information in the August GAI report. Over the past week, Breitbart has produced two reports on the allegations, both citing GAI’s August report as the original source of the claims. The story has apparently gained enough attention on the right to catch the eye of Fox & Friends producers, generating this morning’s Trump-promoted interview with Schweizer.

    The new revelation about Breitbart’s overlap with GAI comes at a bad time for the outlet.

    Yesterday, the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery announced that it would not approve Breitbart’s request for permanent Capitol Hill credentials, citing in part concerns that key editors on the masthead have received payments from GAI. This suggests that the website falls short of the Senate Press Gallery’s requirement that outlets be “editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government.” The committee has sought more information from the conservative outlet, with a deadline of April 14.

    Schweizer received $778,000 from GAI between 2012 and 2015 while simultaneously appearing on Breitbart’s masthead. And while serving as chief executive of both institutions, Bannon received $376,000 from GAI.

    As the Podesta reports show, top editors at Breitbart are getting paid by another organization and using their platform to produce and oversee reporting based on that organization’s work. This violation of the press gallery’s bylaws should lead to the rejection of Breitbart’s application.

  • Trump Tweets Congress Should Investigate Clintons After Hannity Promotes Uranium One Conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    President Donald Trump tweeted that Congress should investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton for a “deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia,” hours after Fox News host Sean Hannity promoted the story on his radio show.

    On the March 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity revived the long-debunked conservative claim from discredited Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allegedly sold “20 percent” of American uranium to the Russian government in exchange for Clinton Foundation donations. Hannity and guest Pat Buchanan argued that the “whole Uranium One fiasco” involved Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the former president “giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid.” Hannity also mentioned “John Podesta’s connections to the Russians” as something that is a “bigger crime” than Trump and Russia:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We already know a bigger crime, and what about John Podesta's connections to the Russians during the campaign, number one. Number two, look at this whole Uranium One fiasco, while Bill Clinton -- Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state, he's giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid. They get -- for the Clinton Foundation -- literally millions and millions of dollars sent to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary herself has to sign off on the Uranium One deal, where Russia literally controls 20 percent of American uranium?

    PAT BUCHANAN: Well exactly, all of these things were revealed, but the question is who will investigate the investigators? I mean, I saw, I think it was in the Post this morning or one of the papers, they're said, "Look at these -- they're trying to divert the attention away from the Russia connection to the WikiLeaks and to the getting into the DNC and Podesta files to this other thing." But look, I’m not against doing that, going into the Russian connection, if it's fair, but after eight months of investigating and you’ve turned up -- you can't even say who talked to who?

    A few hours later, Trump, who has pushed the smear before, parroted Hannity’s comments on Twitter, asking, “Why isn't the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia.” Trump also said Congress should investigate the “Russian speech" and the "money to Bill,” as well as the “Podesta Russia Company.”

    This appears to be the latest public example of Trump responding to segments from Fox News figures. In January, Trump responded to a segment on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor about crime in Chicago, tweeting, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ … I will send in the Feds!” Trump has also responded directly to Fox & Friends at least half a dozen times in March. On March 17, Trump blamed Fox News as the reason for his false claim that former President Barack Obama used British intelligence agencies to spy on him. Even after causing an international incident by citing a Fox figure, Trump continues to follow their lead, this time by resurrecting the repeatedly debunked Uranium One smear.

  • Echoing Trump, Fox Casts Doubt On FBI's Probe Into Clinton's Emails

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News personalities are echoing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, which claimed that the FBI would not have been able to “review 650,000 emails in eight days” to cast doubt on the bureau’s probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. However, experts point out that the FBI is able to do so using technology such as “automated search and filtering tools.”

  • The FBI Was Basing A Potential Clinton Foundation Case On This Garbage Right-Wing Book

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The FBI was reportedly trying to build an investigation into the Clinton Foundation around claims made in a right-wing book riddled with errors written by a Republican activist with a history of bogus reporting. The author’s organization is headed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign chief executive and is funded by one of Trump’s top campaign supporters.

    The FBI in August was considering whether to expand investigations into both Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s “secretive business dealings in Ukraine” and Democratic presidential nominee “Hillary Clinton’s relationships with donors to her family foundation,” but, following longstanding precedent, decided not to proceed for fear of impacting the election, according to The New York Times. The paper further reported that the Clinton Foundation inquiry “had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book ‘Clinton Cash,’ according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case.”

    Clinton Cash: The Untold Story Of How And Why Foreign Governments And Businesses Helped Make Bill And Hillary Rich is a 2015 book authored by Peter Schweizer, a Republican activist and consultant who has worked for Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, and Breitbart News.

    Schweizer has a disreputable history of reporting marked by errors and retractions, with numerous reporters excoriating him for facts that "do not check out," sources that "do not exist," and a basic failure to practice "Journalism 101." Clinton Cash is similarly a trainwreck of bogus research that included more than 20 errors, fabrications, and distortions, according to a Media Matters review. On the campaign trail, Trump has pushed conspiracy theories from the book, leading reporters to note that the book has been “discredited” and features “lies” and claims that “fell apart under scrutiny.”

    Schweizer is also the president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a right-wing group that purports to investigate “government corruption.” Stephen Bannon, who is taking a leave of absence from his role as chief executive of Breitbart News to serve the same role with the Trump campaign, is also the executive chairman and co-founder of GAI. The group has been heavily funded by the Mercer Family Foundation, which is run by Rebekah Mercer.

    Mercer’s father, the hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, is one of the nation’s largest Republican donors and a major investor in Breitbart News, and the father and daughter were reportedly key to Bannon’s ascension to a leading role in the Trump campaign. Robert Mercer has also donated millions to a pro-Trump super PAC that Rebekah Mercer controls.

    UPDATE: Schweizer disclosed during an August Fox News appearance that "earlier this year at [the FBI's] request," he had met with "two people from the bureau to talk about some things related to the Clinton Foundation, specifically things that were in Clinton Cash." From the August 24 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

  • Mike Pence Runs With Conservative Media Lie About Clinton Foundation’s Charitable Spending

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence ran with the lie that the Clinton Foundation has only devoted 10 percent of its funds to charitable causes. Pence’s figure, which has been frequently used by conservative media figures throughout the campaign, is wildly inaccurate: fact-checkers have concluded that the charity devotes 80-90 percent of money to charitable causes, and charity watchdogs have given the foundation high ratings.

    During the October 4 debate, Pence claimed twice that “less than 10 cents on the dollar in the Clinton Foundation has gone to charitable causes.” Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine responded, “90 percent.” Debate moderator Elaine Quijano did not respond to the exchange.

    Pence’s statistic is false.

    PolitiFact wrote that the “Clinton Foundation spends between 80-90 percent on program services, which experts say is the standard in the industry to define charitable works. It spends the majority of its money directly on projects rather than through third-party grants.”

    FactCheck.org similarly found that the claim that the Clinton Foundation only spends a small portion of its money on charitable works is “simply wrong.” It wrote that “One independent philanthropy watchdog did an analysis of Clinton Foundation funding and concluded that about 89 percent of its funding went to charity.”

    Pence’s 10 percent statistic was popularized by author Peter Schweizer, who wrote the error-riddled book Clinton Cash. Trump and his campaign have repeatedly touted Schweizer’s work.

    Claims that the Clinton Foundation gave a small percentage of its funds to charitable works have been echoed throughout the conservative media. For instance:

    • Rush Limbaugh claimed that "85 percent of every dollar donated to the Clinton Foundation ended up either with the Clintons or with their staff to pay for travel, salaries, and benefits. Fifteen cents of every dollar actually went to some charitable beneficiary."

    • Fox Business host Gerri Willis claimed only 6 percent of the foundation's 2013 revenue "went to help people."

    • Fox News co-host Eric Bolling said that "only 10 cents on the dollar went to charitable uses, causes."

    • Fox News host Jeanine Pirro said of the Clinton Foundation: “It is not a charitable foundation. No charitable foundation has only 10 percent that goes to a charity.”

    Further undermining Pence’s claims, two leading foundation watchdogs -- Charity Navigator and CharityWatch -- have given the Clinton Foundation high marks.

    CharityWatch President Daniel Borochoff told CNN of the Clinton Foundation: “They have good governance and accountability. They have great financial efficiency. They have valuable, important programs that help a lot of people in the world. Pull the politics out. Regardless of what you think about Hillary, the Clinton Foundation is an excellent charity.”

  • Clinton-Obsessed Judicial Watch Hosts Discredited Conspiracy Theorists To Push New Misinformation

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Conservative anti-Clinton group Judicial Watch announced a “special panel presentation” promising a “scandal update” on the Clinton Foundation and the emails of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Judicial Watch, itself a hub for baseless smears against the Clintons, invited to the panel two discredited Clinton conspiracy theorists known for making claims based on “bogus” data.

  • Days After Breitbart Exec. Becomes Head Of His Campaign, Trump Calls For Clinton Foundation Special Prosecutor

    Trump’s Call For Special Prosecutor Premised On Baseless Lies Promoted By Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Donald Trump called for a special prosecutor to conduct an “expedited investigation” into the Clinton Foundation, just days after former Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon was named chief executive of Trump’s campaign. Bannon helped spread the baseless smears hyped in the discredited Clinton Cash book that Trump is now lifting his attacks from.

    Trump said during an August 22 campaign rally that “an expedited investigation by a Special Prosecutor” into the Clinton Foundation -- specifically into claims of “coordination between the pay-for-play State Department and the corrupt Clinton Foundation” -- is required because the FBI and Department of Justice “certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate Hillary Clinton’s crimes.”

    Trump’s demand for a special prosecutor comes less than a week after Trump hired former Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon as the campaign’s chief executive. Bannon -- who ran Breitbart as a propaganda arm of the Trump campaign -- has long led a smear campaign against Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation with discredited and false attacks.

    After Breitbart editor-at-large Peter Schweizer wrote the error-filled Clinton Cash -- which made a series of baseless allegations of corruption and quid pro quo by the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton -- Bannon wrote and produced the accompanying documentary film. Bannon is also the executive chairman and co-founder of the Government Accountability Institute, which Schweizer is president of.

    Among the discredited attacks that Trump has adopted from Bannon and Schweizer’s smear campaign include claims that Clinton “signed off” on a Russian uranium deal that led to “millions of dollars in donations” to the Clinton Foundation. That conspiracy has been widely discredited, and Schweizer himself admitted he had no "direct evidence" proving Clinton intervened on the issue.

    Trump also echoed Bannon and Schweizer’s evidence-free claim that an Iranian telecommunications company escaped sanctions from Clinton while secretary of state because it paid Bill Clinton for a speech.

    It is no surprise that Trump is infusing Bannon’s shoddy anti-Clinton attacks with his own campaign, given the close-knit relationship Trump has had with Breitbart during his campaign.

  • GOP Lawmakers Latch Onto Fox’s Unsubstantiated Claims About A Clinton Foundation Investigation

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    GOP lawmakers reportedly circulated a letter requesting several federal agencies investigate the Clinton Foundation, parroting “unresolved media reports” to allege that the nonprofit was a “lawless ‘pay to play’ enterprise.” This latest move echoes months of unsubstantiated assertions from Fox News that the foundation was already under investigation for supposed abuses during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

  • The Discredited Books At The Heart Of Trump's Speech

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Donald Trump cited claims from two discredited anti-Clinton books -- Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash and Gary Byrne’s Crisis of Character -- in his June 22 speech attacking Hillary Clinton. Clinton Cash is filled with errors and sloppy research, while Crisis of Character has been strongly denounced by Secret Service veterans as implausible.