- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 7, 2018

By again skipping the White House Correspondents Association dinner this year, President Trump will not have to honor an award-winning story he and Republicans believe was part of a set up.

The WHCA awarded four CNN journalists with the Merriman Smith Award, broadcast division, principally for Jan. 10-12 stories that said then-President-elect Donald Trump was officially briefed on what came to be known as an unverified, Democratic Party-funded Russian dossier.

Written by ex-spy British Christopher Steele, who sought to wreck the Trump presidency, the dossier makes a number of felony charges against Mr. Trump and associates that remain publicly unsubstantiated today. The dossier included the dirty tale of Mr. Trump and prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013. Mr. Trump denies all.

On Jan. 6, the chiefs of intelligence––Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, National Security Agency chief Adm. Michael Rogers and FBI Director James Comey––came to Trump Tower to brief Mr. Trump on their Russia election interference report.

Mr. Comey took the president-elect aside to tell him about the dossier circulating around Washington. He described it to Mr. Trump as “salacious and unverified.”

On Jan. 10, BuzzFeed posted the entire 35 pages online.

Two days later, CNN reported that Mr. Trump was briefed on dossier charges that Russia had compromising information on the new president. Thus, the dossier, which a number of reporters knew about but did not report because they could not prove it, became a legitimate news story.

No where in hearing the breaking-news did the public learn the dossier actually came from someone on the payroll of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign, or that one of the CNN reporters had close ties to his paymaster.

Today, Republicans believe Mr. Clapper, who retired and was hired by CNN as an analyst, leaked the story. Mr. Clapper, and Mr. Brennan, who was hired by MSNBC, have emerged as strident critics of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Clapper has likened Mr. Trump to an intelligence asset of Vladimir Putin. Mr. Brennan said he believes Mr. Putin has blackmail-quality dirt on Mr. Trump, but offered no proof. These are the dossier’s same-type charges.

The two’s performances have spurred conservatives to allege they are part of a “deep state” of Barack Obama loyalists dedicated to destroying the Trump presidency.

Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the committee’s final report on Trump-Russia last month. The Republican majority concluded there was no election collusion.

One report item, “Finding #44,” questioned Mr. Clapper’s truthfulness:

“Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, now a CNN national security analyst, provided inconsistent testimony to the committee about his contacts with the media, including CNN.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, flatly states that the committee confirmed that Mr. Clapper leaked the Jan. 12 story to CNN.

“The second thing they told us is something that we suspected, now they’ve confirmed, which is that Clapper actually was the guy leaking information,” Mr. Jordan told Fox News.

“Specifically leaking information I believe, from that January 6th meeting where they briefed President Trump, then President-elect Trump on the dossier. Someone at CNN got information. We think it was Mr. Clapper who gave it to them. And then a few days later BuzzFeed prints the entire dossier.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, also believes Mr. Trump may have been set up on Jan. 6, 2017.

Mr. Grassley sent a February 18 letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz asking him to investigate a number of dossier issues, including the Trump Tower briefing.

Mr. Grassley wrote, “In congressional testimony, Mr. Comey claimed that the FBI briefed then President-Elect Trump about the Steele dossier because the FBI had received word that the media was about to report on the dossier. However, subsequent media reporting made clear that the media generally had found the dossier’s unverified allegations unreportable, and CNN only broke the story on the dossier because Mr. Comey briefed the President-Elect about it. Thus, there is a question as to whether the FBI included the dossier in the briefing, and possibly leaked that it had done so, in order to provide the media a pretext to report on the dossier.”

For his part, Mr. Clapper denies he was the leaker. “I didn’t have any contact with the media until after I left government,” he said on CNN.

Mr. Trump often refers to CNN as “fake news.” The network has emerged as consistently anti-Trump in its coverage.

On one recent ratings report, CNN had only one program in the top 25 cable news shows and it ranked 24th.

The Merriman Smith Award went to CNN’s Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein.

Mr. Perez and Mr. Sciutto generally present a positive picture of Mr. Steele and the dossier’s credibility.

While at the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Perez co-authored stories with Glenn Simpson, who left the paper to found the investigative firm Fusion GPS. Mr. Simpson hired Mr. Steele with Democratic Party money to write the anti-Trump dossier.

Mr. Perez socializes with other Fusion investigators with whom he worked at the WSJ, the Daily Caller reported, posting photographs.

Mr. Simpson worked furiously during the election to convince reporters to write about the dossier, but only two obliged ————Yahoo News and Mother Jones magazine.

The WHCA judges said:

“These four journalists and a number of other CNN reporters broke the story that the intelligence community had briefed President Barack Obama and then-President elect Donald Trump that Russia had compromising information about Trump. The CNN team later reported that then-FBI Director James Comey personally briefed Trump about the dossier. Thanks to this CNN investigation, “the dossier” is now part of the lexicon. The depth of reporting demonstrated in these remarkable and important pieces, and the constant updates as new information continued to be uncovered showed breaking news reporting at its best.”

A day after BuzzFeed posted the dossier, Mr. Trump held a news conference and denounced the allegations as lies from his opponents ————though the exact Democratic Party origins would not be known for months.

“I saw the information,” he said. “I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know, because you reported it and so did many of the other people. It was a group of opponents that got together — sick people — and they put that crap together.”

Mr. Comey likely did not tell this to the president: at the time he briefed Mr. Trump the FBI was using the dossier to obtain wiretaps on a former campaign volunteer, Carter Page.

While he described the dossier as “salacious and unverified” to Mr. Trump, the FBI went on to cite the dossier to win a series of court-approved surveillance warrants on Mr. Page.

A Washington Times analysis found 10 specific charges of collusion by Mr. Steele, none of which have been confirmed publicly as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation.

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