RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week 
March 31 to April 6 





Featured Investigation:
Why Last Year's Trump-Russia Pulitzer Was No Prize 

Last April the New York Times and Washington Post were awarded journalism’s highest honor – the Pulitzer Prize – for their reporting on possible treasonous collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. A year later, their rough first draft of history appears headed for the dustbin following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s finding that there was no collusion and Attorney General William Barr’s move to investigate spying on the Trump campaign. 

Tom Kuntz – the founding editor of RealClearInvestigations, who prepared Pulitzer entries while working as an editor at the Times for 28 years – examined the journalistic sins of omission and commission that led those two papers to get the biggest story of our time so wrong. Specifically, he details how “anonymous sources were used with insufficient skepticism and a lack of caveats in the service of a credulous and disingenuous journalism of innuendo.” 

Kuntz reports: 

  • In the main, the 20, mostly multi-bylined articles are sourced to unnamed “current and former officials,” “people with knowledge” or similar formulations. 
  • The articles provide readers with almost no information to allow them to assess the credibility or motives of the sources driving a highly political and partisan narrative. 
  • Apart from White House denials, the articles do not provide voices both inside and outside the government who dissented from the dark and ultimately misguided interpretations that were offered. 
  • The articles betray no interest in pursuing lines of inquiry that were not damning to Donald Trump. For example, in reporting that a Trump campaign aide was told the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton – i.e., her missing emails -- the Times was interested only in the collusion angle and not whether Clinton’s use of an unsecured email server as Secretary of State had compromised national security; made her vulnerable to blackmail by foreign powers; or raised questions about her exoneration by FBI Director James Comey. 

Kuntz writes that the paper’s reliance on anonymous sources makes it hard for the Post and Times to acknowledge failures of their coverage as the collusion narrative was debunked. “Now, without betraying sources they have promised to protect, unless the sources release them from their pacts of confidentiality,” Kuntz writes, “the Times and Post will be hard-pressed to explain how and why they misrepresented a story of historic import.” 

Kuntz adds: “The journalistic failures these articles reflect would be problematic even if Mueller had made a case for collusion. His findings just make them all the more obvious.” 

Read Full Article 

The Trump Investigations: Top Articles 

Attorney General Barr: Intel Agencies Spied on Trump Campaign, USA Today
Top FBI Lawyer: Rosenstein Discussed Removing Trump, The Federalist
How Did Justice Dept. Get the Trump-Russia Probe So Wrong? Bob Kerrey 
Nunes to Make 8 Criminal Referrals on Trump-Russia, Washington Examiner 
Scrutiny, Suspicion as Mueller Report Undergoes Redaction, Washington Post 

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series 

FBI Man's Testimony Points to Wrongdoing Well Beyond Spying 
We know right where Attorney General William Barr can start the investigation he announced this week on the government’s efforts to spy on the Trump campaign: with the testimony that Bill Priestap, the former director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, provided to to Congress in a closed-door interview last summer. Priestap, who managed the bureau’s inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information and the probe into whether Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election, contains extensive indications of wrongdoing. 

As Eric Felten reports for RealClearInvestigations, Priestap’s testimony strongly suggests that the FBI and DoJ targeted Trump with information it made no effort to verify. It paints a portrait of the Obama-era bureau as one that was unconcerned with political interference in investigations and was willing to enlist the help of close foreign allies to bring down its target. And, perhaps presaging a defense to Barr’s claim that American officials had spied on the Trump campaign, the testimony showcases the euphemisms that can be used to disguise “spying.” 

'Cover-Up' Discussions Revealed in FBI Clinton Email Documents  
Judicial Watch 
It’s not just the seemingly empty results of the Mueller investigation that are putting the FBI under new scrutiny: Judicial Watch has pried loose 422 pages of FBI documents which, its says, included evidence of “cover-up” discussions concerning Hillary Clinton’s emails. The emails show discussions related to the Clinton email system within Platte River Networks – a vendor that managed the Clinton email system. Judicial Watch also found infighting over the possibly compromised Clinton email communications. 

Democratic Staffer Allegedly Helped Steal Massive Amounts of Data 
Daily Caller 
Another former aide to Senator Maggie Hassan may have been involved in former IT staffer Jackson Cosko’s massive data theft that was used to intimidate Republican senators during the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, the Daily Caller reports. On April 5 Cosko pled guilty to stealing tens of thousands of documents from the New Hampshire lawmaker's office, including the credit card information and Social Security numbers of Senate employees. Now sources that Samanatha G. DeForest-Davis, who was a staff assistant to Hassan, helped Cosko. While DeForest-Davis has not been charged with a crime, this article reports that a case naming her has been opened. 

NY Cop Could Imperil Entire Harvey Weinstein Case 
Hollywood Reporter 
The case against disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein could be undermined from an unlikely source: the police. New York Detective Nicholas DiGaudio, despite being known among sexual assault victims as a notably sensitive interrogator, may have helped Weinstein by withholding evidence. This allegedly includes telling a friend of one Weinstein’s accusers to keep quiet about exculpatory information. DiGaudio allegedly told another women to delete anything she didn’t want prosecutors to see on her cellphone before handing it over to authorities. 

The Booming Business for Smuggling Families to the U.S. 
The Guardian 
At first blush the economics of human smuggling make no sense: A coyote might charge a single man upwards of $12,000 to take him from Guatemala to the United States. But if that same man is travelling with his daughter the price will be around $5,200 for the pair. What gives? Two things. First, this article reports, Mexican officials and crime gangs demand lower bribes to allow families to cross through country illegally. Second, families just walk up to border agents in the United States and ask for asylum. By law they cannot be separated and must be released. Single men are far more likely to be held until their hearings so they usually opt to sneak into the country – which requires more work, and thereby exacts a higher fee, from the smugglers. 

In Yemen, Corruption Worsened Cholera Outbreak 
Associated Press/Pulitzer Center 
Why would the United Nations cover up for Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen? The official U.N. story is that it was unable to distribute cholera vaccines to Yemen until May 2018 because of the difficulties in distributing vaccines during an armed conflict. The real reason, this article reports, was that the Houthi rebels who control northern Yemen refused to allow the vaccines to be delivered. The outbreak that ultimately produced more than 1 million suspected cholera cases.

DHS Worried Anti-Cop Black Activists Might Join ISIS 
The Intercept 
As protests rose around the country beginning in 2014 in response to the shootings of unarmed black men, federal and local law enforcement expressed concern that the mostly black activists might join with Islamic fundamentalist groups promoting violence abroad. Although this concern proved completely unfounded, Obama administration officials with the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence “exaggerated the significance of isolated social media activity” in part because of a propensity to base their open-source “intelligence-gathering on the conspiracy theories of conservative news outlets.” 

Nikolas Cruz's Love Letters From Jail 
South Florida Sun Sentinel 
In childlike scrawl with stick figure drawings, Parkland, Florida, shooter Nikolas Cruz has been writing love letters from jail to a young woman in Britain. He never mentions shooting 34 people in cold blood — killing 17 of them — at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School. He does look toward the future: He proposes marriage, muses about having children, and says he wants to name his sons after guns. But, facing the death penalty, he also seems resigned to a different fate: “I wish life for me could have been different but it’s not. And a part of me is wishing it ends. End with the death [penalty], letting someone inject me with longlast [sic] sleep. Its [sic] kind of what I want but I’m unsure of myself so I’m just letting people save me from myself, saving me from something that I can never return from.” 

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