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Trump, Russia, and the Washington Post: Reader Beware

August 14’s Washington Post print edition featured news articles, op-eds, an editorial, and three letters to the editor all attacking Donald Trump. And the paper’s other bête noire, Vladimir Putin, was featured in the front-page lead story as well as in an op-ed. On the preceding Friday, Putin had been attacked in an editorial for allegedly seeking to start a war in Ukraine.

Trump is running for president and certainly has dropped enough verbal bombs to justify many of the attacks against him. But there is a certain danger inherent in the media’s slanting its coverage to such an extent as to be making the news rather than just reporting it. And when it comes to Russia, the way the stories are reported becomes critically important, as there is a real risk that media hostility toward Putin [1], even if deployed as a way to get at Trump, could produce a conflict no one actually wants—just as the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers’ yellow journalism, rife with [2] “melodrama, romance, and hyperbole,” more or less brought about the Spanish-American War.

As a case in point, examine the aforementioned front-page story [3], entitled “Russia’s Tactics Roil Europe” in the print edition and “Alleged Russian involvement in DNC hack gives U.S. a taste of Kremlin meddling” online. It is credited to Michael Birnbaum, the Post’s correspondent in Brussels.

In its lead-in, the article claims that “Russia has tried hard in recent years to tug Europe to its side, bankrolling the continent’s extremist political parties, working to fuel a backlash against migrants and using its vast energy resources as a cudgel.” It goes on to relate that “Obama administration officials say that the Kremlin may now be engaging in similar trickery in the U.S. presidential campaign in an effort to boost Russia-friendly Republican nominee Donald Trump.”


The evidence cited regarding Trump and Putin evidently comes from unnamed members of President Obama’s team, which has pulled out all the stops to defeat the GOP candidate, including denouncing Trump as unfit to be president. Part of the anti-Trump drive orchestrated by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton has been to associate the candidate with Russia at every turn, implying that he is somehow disloyal or worse for seeking to establish friendly relations with Putin.

The article goes on to rely heavily on unnamed sources. “Officials and analysts say” or variations of the expression appear frequently, and when a source is cited by name, it is normally someone who is demonstrably anti-Russian. Peter Kreko, director of the Budapest-based Political Capital Institute, finds “deepening ties” between the Kremlin and some European political parties. But even he concedes that Russia is exploiting unrest rather than creating it, that Russia’s influence is waning, and that its power to influence developments is clearly limited. The article cites a vote last spring in which French mainstream parties agreed to eliminate sanctions on Russia (imposed over Ukraine), yet the Post provides no evidence that Moscow had a hand in the producing the outcome. In any event, the European Union actually extended sanctions a month later, suggesting that if the Russians were interfering, they were not very good at it.

Another named source, Andrew Foxall, claims that a clever Russia “use[s] different approaches at different times and in different countries” to “achieve its goals,” which he doesn’t bother to define. Foxall is director of the Russia Studies Center at the Henry Jackson Society in London, named after former U.S. Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a noted Cold War hawk. The society is considered to be neoconservative in orientation, a point Birnbaum fails to note.

A further attempt to subvert European institutions cited by Birnbaum relates to the French anti-EU National Front’s having obtained a $10.4 million loan from a Moscow-based bank after “being shunned by mainstream lenders.” He also notes that right-wing parties in Greece and Germany are alleged to have suspicious ties with Russia because they have attended conferences in Moscow or have party-to-party relationships with Putin’s ruling United Russia. The article also claims, without providing any details, that “Russia has courted politicians from Germany to Hungary to Slovakia to France.”

Reverting to its anonymous sources, the article asserts that Eastern European “leaders suspect the Kremlin of funding environmental groups that opposed measures that would make their countries less dependent on Russian energy.” In most of the world, supporting environmental groups would be considered commendable.

Birnbaum throws in plenty of what must be his own analysis that Putin is building support for his “vision” of the world, seeking to “preserve his domestic power by favoring authoritarian leaders over democratically elected ones,” yet he provides no evidence that this is necessarily the case. Putin is, most would agree, highly pragmatic.

But while Europe provides the backdrop, the real thrust of the article is domestic. Birnbaum uses his largely unsubstantiated claim that Russia is covertly interfering in European politics to speculate that the “propensity to cause mischief in other nations’ political systems may be behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems, officials say.” Unnamed “officials” go on to elaborate that it remains “unclear whether the hacking was performed as part of routine foreign espionage or whether the DNC was specifically targeted to sway the election.” The article does not bother to note, presumably because it would weaken the argument, that even the Obama administration, which hacks the communications of friend and foe alike, has balked at blaming the cyber-intrusion on the Russian government—so the assumption that there was any kind of political objective behind it is little more than speculation.

So an article loaded with innuendo has appeared on the front page of a major U.S. newspaper, located in Washington, DC, stating that Russia is engaged in widespread subversion in Europe and is trying to do the same on behalf of Donald Trump in the United States. But the evidence presented in the story does not support what is being suggested, and spreading tales about foreign-government misbehavior can have unintended consequences. It is particularly shortsighted and even dangerous in this case, as a stable relationship with a nuclear-armed and militarily very capable Moscow should rightly be regarded as critical.

It is almost as if some journalists believe that deliberately damaging relations with Russia is a price worth paying to embarrass and defeat Trump. If that is so, they are delusional.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "Trump, Russia, and the Washington Post: Reader Beware"

#1 Comment By Myles On August 24, 2016 @ 2:43 am

Hyping the Russian threat is good for business, isn’t it? It’s good for the Pentagon, good for the neocons, good for lazy op-ed writers and good for freeloading bums like the governments of Latvia and Estonia.

I’m not sure it’s good for the American people or global order, but when did they matter?

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On August 24, 2016 @ 3:44 am

Phil, I’ve come to the conclusion that what now amounts to an inversion of the old Soviet nomenklatura, our own homegrown and inbred elites, has indeed become radically and perhaps terminally delusional. America’s irresponsible and unaccountable leadership class is Breaking Bad.

#3 Comment By John S On August 24, 2016 @ 5:25 am

There is more than mere innuendo backing up the claims of Russian meddling in the US election and European politics. There is the issue of the Kremlin’s man, Paul Manafort. There is the watering down of the Republican platform regarding aid to Ukraine. There is the issue of Wikileaks, which is clearly a front for the FSB. And there is Mike Morell, who describes Trump in his memorable op-ed as an “unwitting agent” of Russia. Putin is the one damaging US relations with Russia, not anti-Trump journalists.

#4 Comment By Jim J On August 24, 2016 @ 7:39 am

Interesting how the Russians are being made to appear as though there is a ‘cabal’ led by Putin… all the while, these “journalists” are part of a ‘cabal’ trying to foment WWX with Russia and anyone else. Courious.

#5 Comment By connecticut farmer On August 24, 2016 @ 8:34 am

The author writes that “a stable relationship with a nuclear-armed and militarily very capable Moscow should rightly be regarded as critical.”

Gee, ya think? Guess this hasn’t yet dawned upon HRC who, not long ago, compared the Ukraine to The Sudetenland and Putin to Hitler. When one considers all the problems with which this country is faced–not the least of which being the threat of domestic terror– the last thing we need is a military confrontation with Russia.

#6 Comment By Chris Chuba On August 24, 2016 @ 9:08 am

No U.S. Intelligence Agency has come out and said that the Russians were responsible for the DNC hack. This is currently an allegation yet the news outlets are treating this as fact.

Manafort worked for a Ukrainian politician in Ukraine prior to Maidan yet news outlets reduce this to him having ‘ties to Russia’.
These things could be true but until they are proven they should not be routinely reported as factual statements.

When it comes to Trump, the MSM is reporting suspicion as fact but being dutifully skeptical regarding the Clinton Foundation pay to play allegations and going ballistic over Republican claims that her private email server was illegal or a security threat (cue army of fact checkers).

What happened to the press that existed during the 70’s, the one that was around during the Vietnam war and Watergate. Do they only exist for Republicans, is it raw partisanship?

I somehow feel that the MSM today is less competent and/or more corrupt.

#7 Comment By Daniel (not Larison ) On August 24, 2016 @ 9:18 am

I wonder how many left-leaning journalists and papers used to downplay Soviet influence on other nation’s politics, and ridicule those who warned of the threat. It’s almost like they have no objectivity or something.

#8 Comment By Clint On August 24, 2016 @ 9:42 am

But there is a certain danger inherent in the media’s slanting its coverage to such an extent as to be making the news rather than just reporting it.

The mainstream media’s ethics and agenda appear to becoming akin to The Soviets’ Pravda and Tass.

#9 Comment By Alan Vanneman On August 24, 2016 @ 10:12 am

Excellent piece!

#10 Comment By Scott Miller On August 24, 2016 @ 10:14 am

It is almost as if some bloggers believe that deliberately promoting surrender to Russia is a price worth paying to get Putin trolls to donate to the site.


#11 Comment By collin On August 24, 2016 @ 10:22 am

Yes, the MSM is “Run For the Hills” against Putin and Russia but let us not sugarcoat these actions.

1) Don’t minimize the hacking stuff and there are a lot of private global citizens at risk here. Nothing like Wikileaks releasing names of gay people in Saudia Arabia. This could get very ugly quickly.

2) Putin has been aggressive in Ukraine and is doing serious damage to them the last several years. He took Crimea and supporting Civil War only after Ukraine signed a trade deal with Europe.

The good part of Putin’s aggressive moves is almost all of backfire against him.

#12 Comment By LouisM On August 24, 2016 @ 10:29 am

The influence that Russia has over the EU and US and Canada is miniscule compared to the influence over them. Why do you think Russia (and China) need to control its media so heavily…its to control subversives, anarchists, revolutionaries, etc.

Here too, the same problem exists in the US, Canada and the EU. State run media controlling the narrative and content. In the US, there are only 6 media conglomerates that control 95% of the content for the entire viewing audience in the US. You call that free press. What narrative do the owners of the top6 media conglomerates push:
-Marxist, communism, socialism
-husband and wife against each other, show fathers and marriage in a negative light. Purge the father from his children and always delegitimize his role
-pit children and parents against each other with abuse, individualism, gender and sexual orientation, etc
-pit men and women against each other with feminism
-pit main street and wall street against each other
-pit private sector and govt against each other
-pit americans and immigrants against each other
-pit all faiths against each other, take down (demean, delegitimize) the largest and the strongest (Christians) while protecting the aggressor atheists, seculars, jews and muslims.

Basically sew dissention and anarchy everywhere until collapse is imminent. The enemies are not foreign (except Islam). The enemies are within and nowhere have the enemies been more clearly delineated than in the leftists protests against Trump

#13 Comment By Johann On August 24, 2016 @ 10:45 am

The Ukraine government has been flip-flopping between the Russiaphiles and Russiaphobes since its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union. Both camps have been corrupt, lending new meaning to the phrase “the old bums out, the new bums in”. But this time, our government is clearly complicit in the overthrow by coup of the latest Russiaphile government. And our government is also complicit in the new corrupt government. For example, shortly after the Maiden coup, Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was named to the board of the largest Ukrainian oil company.

#14 Comment By mrscracker On August 24, 2016 @ 11:22 am

The Wash Post is ridiculous. I look at the articles every few days & its just embarrassingly biased & theatrical. Not even a pretense of being balanced.
I wonder what foreign readers must think of us when they read it? Or, if they read it.

#15 Comment By Rossbach On August 24, 2016 @ 11:35 am

The MSM is now little more than the propaganda arm of the Beltway establishment. Consequently, public confidence in the veracity of the MSM is at an all-time low. This is understandable; when you lie to people, they stop believing what you say.

#16 Comment By Kurt Gayle On August 24, 2016 @ 12:07 pm

Philip correctly points out that “…the Obama administration, which hacks the communications of friend and foe alike, has balked at blaming the cyber-intrusion on the Russian government…”

Specifically, the US Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, said in an inteview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto (Aspen Security Forum, July 28, 2016):

MR. SCIUTTO: The perfect nexus of national security and politics with the hack of DNC e-mails and the alleged participation of Russia. So, my colleagues and I at CNN, but also at other outlets have been told by and you see in the reports by a number of officials who have pointed their finger without much hesitation at Russia…I just wonder does the intelligence community share that certainty?

MR. CLAPPER: Well, I will just say that I don’t think we are quite ready yet to make a call on attribution. I mean, we all know there’re just a few usual suspects out there, but in terms of the process that we try to stick to, I don’t think we are ready to make a public call on that yet.

MR. SCIUTTO: And is that because you haven’t made a decision to publicly name and shame or because there’s still some uncertainty?

MR. CLAPPER: Little both, little both.

MR. SCIUTTO: Good. Do you think that we in the media, but also some officials who have been speaking to us in the media have gotten ahead of the certainty on this?

MR. CLAPPER: Yes, I guess, yes.


MR. CLAPPER: I did and frankly taken aback a bit by somewhat the, you know, hyperventilation over this. I mean, you know, I am shocked somebody did some hacking, that has never happened before.


#17 Comment By Chris Chuba On August 24, 2016 @ 12:10 pm

John S you are just repeating the innuendo.

Manafort never worked for the Russians, he worked for a Ukrainian.

There was no ‘watering down’ of the Republican platform because giving lethal military aid has never been part of the Republican platform.

You are just repeating Morell’s specious allegation against Trump, how is this evidence.

Regarding who first started poisoning the waters between the U.S. and Russia it was us in Georgia. We got involved in their political process in 2003 and then trained the military that attacked the independent state of Ossetia killing Russian peacekeepers and then called the Russian response an invasion backing Saakashvili’s version of events. Their partial occupation lasted about 1 week. After this they realized that we seemed to have a fascination in stirring things up on their border. That we consider the entire world our sphere of influence.

As Condi Rice said, ‘Russia’s interest ends where their border ends.’

#18 Comment By Kurt Gayle On August 24, 2016 @ 2:13 pm

The real story, of course, is not WHO hacked the DNC emails, but THE CONTENT of the emails, because the emails show that top officials of the DNC conspired and actively worked to subvert the primary campaign of Hillary Clinton’s main challenger, Bernie Sanders.

And yet within 24 hours of the release of the emails the US mainstream media abandoned the content story of the emails for the diversionary, faux narrative put out by the Clinton campaign.

Within 24 hours the mainstream media began to publicize 24/7 the incredible, completely-unsubstantiated Clinton campaign narrative that – because Donald Trump favors good US relations with Russia in order to solve problems in eastern Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere – therefore the allegedly Russian hackers were somehow trying to interfere in the November election in order to put Trump in the White House.

Previously I had thought that the darkest hours of modern American journalism were those leading up to the Iraq War. But it’s clear to me now that the US media’s beating the drums of war in 2002 and 2003 were just a warm-up to the massive, full-bore US mainstream media assault on the Trump campaign – a perversion of US journalistic standards that is without precedent in my 72 years.

#19 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 24, 2016 @ 3:56 pm

“As Condi Rice said, ‘Russia’s interest ends where their border ends.’”

Or strategic naval bases exists.

#20 Comment By JoaoAlfaiate On August 24, 2016 @ 7:57 pm

When is the WP going to decry Israeli influence over US policy and politics?

#21 Comment By Anton from Russia On August 25, 2016 @ 4:35 am

I absolutely agree with the author.
This political campaign for the elections of the President of the United States the dirtiest in recent years.
And the number of spitting dirt on Russia is enormous. The closer elections are, the more arrogant and unprincipled articles appear in the American media.
It is evidence of the decline of the American elite, if a presidential campaign uses the bogey of a country that is not even with them on the same continent. And the interests of ordinary Americans is not interesting to anyone?

Yes. We in Russia would like a partnership with the US, so what? Yes, we welcome any American leader who says “Nuclear war with Russia is not required, we can build partnerships.
Why the hate speech? It has already led to the coup in Ukraine, the civil war, and the numerous U.S. military exercises on the border of Russia.
None of the last war the United States did not benefit the United States itself.

The wine Russian and Putin, only that we want normal relations with the United States.

#22 Comment By Johnny F. Ive On August 25, 2016 @ 8:49 am

Some journalist are paid to create war propaganda. Bombs aren’t going to sale themselves to the tax payers. Gorbachev asked Colin Powell, “what do you do when the devil dies, general?” You resuscitate him the best you can! Trump is threatening their livelihoods.

The good thing about Washington Post propaganda is that they limit the amount you get to see behind a subscription firewall so you have to buy into their stupidity to see more.

#23 Comment By Boris M Garsky On August 25, 2016 @ 10:23 am

It appears that any country which we do not control, which does not cede its’ resources to us, is our enemy. The IMC needs perpetual enemies to feed its’ bank accounts. The neocons, predominately Jewish, have an historic antipathy, hatred, for Russia as they have for Germany. However, Germany is under the thumb of the Rothschilds. America is presently experiencing the Jewish takeover and is being used as the tool to effect the Jewish takeover of Russia, hence, Russia has become Americas’ public enemy number 1.China will be their next target. Presently, they are focused on Russia. Russia has never posed a threat to America, other than wanting to retain its’ own sovereignty, and does not now. In proper perspective, it is the neocons who are the foremost threat to American values and stability. Embracing Russia as a partner would only strengthen us and this is what the neocons fear most.

#24 Comment By Mark Thomason On August 25, 2016 @ 10:52 am

No doubt they would have more influence if they could. That is what countries do. The US is always pushing for more influence in other countries. In fact, many in the US foreign policy Establishment of DC are pushing for regime change in Russia.

They can’t. They probably try, but their success is limited. How do we know? Because if they had more influence, we would not see what we do now, sanctions and confrontation with them.

#25 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 25, 2016 @ 10:56 am

“It is almost as if some bloggers believe that deliberately promoting surrender to Russia is a price worth paying to get Putin trolls to donate to the site.”

Ah, my bank account is overflowing with Russian rubles.

Between the Saudis and the Russians I’m not sure whose gold I prefer.

Nothing to do all day but undermine the country of my birth for foreign silver, ahhhhh.

Ohh wait,

that’s not me, I thought I worked for the Clinton Foundation. Bad dream.

just to be clear, l’est there be any confusion — sarcasm

#26 Comment By TellTheTruth-2 On August 25, 2016 @ 12:23 pm

NATO = The North Atlantic Terrorist Organization … Russia is NOT the threat to world peace, the US Ziocon war mongers are and we must stop them.

#27 Comment By c matt On August 25, 2016 @ 3:37 pm

At this point, I trust Pravda over the US MSM.

#28 Comment By Helen Marshall On August 25, 2016 @ 7:53 pm

Collin, Putin “took Crimea?” Apparently the only time a vote is considered legitimate is if the outcome is what the US considers OK.

Interesting that Brzezinksi, the author of the Empire strategy, has now shifted to call for rapproachement with Russia:


#29 Comment By John S On August 26, 2016 @ 5:23 am

@Chris Chuba

If you aren’t aware that Yanukovich was a Russian stooge, then there’s no hope for you.

Re: lethal aid to Ukraine, I think you’re splitting hairs here. Were it not for the Trump campaign, lethal aid would today be a part of the Republican platform.

Re: Morell, if you read his op-ed, you can’t call his allegations specious. Plenty of substance there.

Re: Georgia, the supposed independence of South Ossetia was recognized only by Russia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Not good enough in my book!

I note you are quiet about Wikileaks. I might also add the defector Snowden to the equation, who, evidence suggests is actually a cover for a true mole in the NSA.

There’s plenty here for journalists to dig into. I’m embarrassed that Mr. Giraldi uses his platform to shame journalists away from investigating.

#30 Comment By jk On August 26, 2016 @ 6:35 pm

“U.S. Defense Contractors Tell Investors Russian Threat Is Great for Business”

When in doubt, always look to the MIC as the center of gravity in promoting any conflict.