In a report that was recently published in the conservative online magazine The Federalist, Sean Davis, one of its co-founders and a contributing writer, continued the publication’s practice of deliberately distorting the factual record about the Trump-Russia scandal, a hallmark of its coverage since the story first broke several years ago.
“Obama Defense Official Evelyn Farkas Admitted She Lied on MSNBC About Having Evidence of Collusion,” the headline boldly declaimed, echoing other outlets in the right-wing media that have ramped up their efforts to discredit the years-long investigation, in recent days, by culling supposedly damaging information from newly-released transcripts of interviews conducted by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in June of 2017.
Following a threadbare discussion of the circumstances that lead to Farkas’s testimony on the Hill, the bulk of the piece is comprised of a lengthy quotation of an exchange between Farkas and Trey Gowdy, the former Republican Congressman from South Carolina who’s now a frequent commentator on Fox News and other conservative broadcast shows. Gowdy’s line of questioning focuses on comments that Farkas—one of several candidates now vying to replace longtime Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey when she retires from her seat at the end of this term—made during an appearance on the popular MSNBC show Morning Joe, in early March of 2017, while discussing the Trump-Russia scandal.
Gowdy concludes his line of questioning by getting Farkas to seemingly admit she “lied” when claiming, on air, that she was aware of evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives. Or at least that’s what Davis would have us believe.
“You didn’t know anything?” Gowdy, a former prosecutor, presses, referring to her statements.
“That’s correct,” Farkas responds.
Davis, fellow co-founder Ben Domenech, and the bevy of other young staff writers with The Federalist try pass themselves off as “nonpartisan” journalists who remove their party hats before entering the newsroom. In all actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Theses writers, by and large, are alums of organizations that form the backbone of the right-wing’s growing, tentacular cultural apparatus, including such notables as the conservative newspaper The Washington Examiner, the hawkish opinion journal American Spectator, and think tanks like the Claremont Institute.
In the case of Davis and Domenech, however, their bona fides in conservative political circle reflect a much longer history of service to the Republican cause. While the former once held high-level positions with GOP Senator Tom Coburn and Governor Rick Perry, the latter served as speechwriter to senior Texas Senator John Cornyn.
Continuing the party’s efforts to portray embattled President Trump as an innocent victim of the “deep state,” Davis’s reportage glosses over the broader context surrounding Farkas’s appearance, and cherry picks from her testimony, in manner more akin to a hack at a Russian troll farm than an impartial journalist.
To begin with, at the time Farkas appeared before the HSPCI, it was actually under the control of the Republican Party, and chaired by California Congressman Devin Nunes, a Trump toady who ended up recusing himself after it was discovered he had been secreting information to the White House in a bid to help the President evade Congressional oversight.
Under Nunes chairmanship, very little of the committee’s energies were expended investigating evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia. Rather, as a was stated in a January 2017 press release from the committee announcing the hearings, one of the mandates was to investigate “possible leaks of classified information related to the Intelligence Community’s assessments of these matters.”
Review of the exchange makes it patently clear this was what Gowdy and fellow GOP Congressman Francis Rooney, of Florida, were seeking out when questioning Farkas, who had left the Obama administration in October of 2015. In acknowledging she “didn’t know anything,” what the former defense official was saying to her GOP inquisitors was that her assessment that Trump and others had likely engaged in wrongdoing, which she made months earlier on Morning Joe, was not based on any classified information that had been illegally leaked to her.
Below is the portion of the exchange Davis left out.
Mr. Gowdy: And do you know who has done any of the leaking?
Ms. Farkas: No, I do not.
Mr. Gowdy: So when we hear the word, knew, we should really insert feel?
Ms. Farkas: Or infer.
Mr. Gowdy: Well, to infer means you have to have a factual basis from which to infer it. So what is the factual basis from which you have inferred that the Trump folks were dealing with the Russians?
Ms. Farkas: The media reports and the way that the Trump officials—I’m sorry—the way that the Russians behaved.
By that point in the scandal, Trump had fired FBI director James Comey, part of coverup that continues to this day, and Special Counsel Mueller was beginning an investigation that would eventually prove Farkas’s fears were well-founded.
Davis’s analysis omits this vital context, thereby committing the very lie that he levels at Farkas. A scholar of Eurasian affairs who earned a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and veteran government analyst with 20 years of experience in the intelligence field, she rightly found the reporting on the Trump-Russia scandal contained in reputable papers and other media outlets to be credible and disquieting. Muller’s report includes the following statement: “[T]he Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated—including some associated with the Trump Campaign—deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communication.” Once in office, the President would go on and try to pressure high-ranking executive branch officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Counsel Don McGahn, to scuttle the Special Counsel’s investigation.
When the target of an investigation attempts to undermine it—which is precisely what President Trump did—it’s usually because they’re trying to hid their wrongdoing. What other reasons could one have for stopping an investigation that’ll only end up proving your innocence?
With the shabby, second-rate journalism put out by Davis and his confederates, we can only hope no one but the know-nothing, true believers who dominate the ranks of the Republican Party will look to The Federalist for facts or analysis in the stormy days that lie ahead.
Evelyn Farkas is running in the Tuesday, June 23rd Democratic Primary for the NY-17 Congressional District seat which is currently held by Congresswoman Nita Lowey who is not running for re-election. Farkas who appeared on People Before Politics Radio, Sunday, May 3rd is up against David Buchwald, David Carlucci, Asha Castleberry-Hernandez, Allison Fine, Mondaire Jones, Catherine Parker, and Adam Schleifer (scheduled to appear on PBP Radio Sunday, May 24th) for the Democratic Nomination.