Mainstream media personalities have celebrated the peaceful transition of power as President Biden was sworn into office on Wednesday, often condemning President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the process – but only four years ago MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s victory days into his administration.
While any conservative pundit to seek answers to alleged voter irregularities would be swiftly vilified, Maddow, MSNBC’s biggest ratings star, began pushing the conspiracy theory that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia almost immediately.
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“Over the closing months of our presidential election and right up through the blame duck period before the new president was sworn in, we — the American people, we had dropped on us a series of news bombs about Russia influencing our election, right? There was the unconfirmed dossier of dirt on Donald Trump that the Russian government had allegedly collected and was allegedly using against him to get him to do their bidding,” Maddow said during the opening segment of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Jan. 26, 2017, less than a week after Trump’s inauguration.
“That unconfirmed super inflammatory dossier of information was reportedly collected by a well-respected former MI6 British intelligence operative. It was published online last month whereupon that former British intelligence operative promptly disappeared,” Maddow continued. “He took himself off the grid. His business partner said he did it for his own safety.”
Maddow went on to dedicate much of the next two years hyperventilating over whether or not Trump colluded with Russia. However, Special Counsel Robert Mueller eventually concluded in 2019 that a Trump campaign-Russia conspiracy didn’t exist, contradicting MSNBC’s daily narrative. She posited other conspiracy theories during that time as well, such as that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was a plant by Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned “unconfirmed dossier of dirt on Donald Trump that the Russian government had allegedly collected” that Maddow referred to turned out to be labeled “unsubstantiated and unreliable” despite being promoted by the MSNBC host from the onset of Trump’s presidency.
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Last year, the FBI declassified a spreadsheet that the bureau used in trying to review allegations put forth in the infamous, salacious and unverified anti-Trump dossier authored by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, which further revealed that the bureau had little corroboration of the claims.
Set up like a spreadsheet, the document shows information put forth by Steele in the left-hand column, and “Corroboration/Analyst Notes” in the right-hand column.
For example, Steele put forth an allegation that Trump had stayed in the “Presidential Suite” of the Moscow Ritz-Carlton, but the spreadsheet notes that “there is no confirmation that Trump stayed here,” and that “there is no ‘Presidential Suite’ currently listed on the Ritz Carlton website.’”
Multiple allegation entries were submitted without any corroboration or analyst notes in the left-hand corner. However, some of the analyst notes revealed the allegations were put forth by Steele’s “primary sub-source.”
Fox News previously reported that Steele’s primary “source” was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 for suspected contact with Russian intelligence officers.
A source familiar with the document told Fox News at the time that “the FBI is the preeminent law enforcement agency in the world, and this is what they were doing? There is nothing there.”
The document revealed that the FBI relied heavily on news reports – which sources call an overreliance on public reporting, which they said then became “circular.”
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Steele authored and compiled information for the dossier on behalf of Fusion GPS – the firm that was hired to conduct opposition research funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign through law firm Perkins Coie.
The dossier contains claims about alleged ties between Trump and Russia that served as the basis for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants obtained against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Meanwhile, Fox News reported last summer that the primary source of Steele’s election reporting was not a current or former Russian official, but a non-Russian based contract employee of Steele’s firm. Fox News also reported in July that the information the source provided Steele that served as the basis of the dossier was “second- and third-hand information and rumors at best.”
The committee had released a declassified summary of a three-day interview with the source. The source, according to the committee, told the FBI in interviews in January and March of 2017 that the information contained in the anti-Trump dossier was unreliable.
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The document revealed that the dossier was “unsubstantiated and unreliable,” according to sources who reviewed it, and showed that the FBI was on notice of the dossier’s credibility problems, yet continued to seek further FISA warrants renewals for Page.
The document also revealed that Steele’s primary sub-source “disagreed with and was surprised by” how information he gave Steele was then conveyed by Steele in the dossier.
Fox News’ Brooke SIngman and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.