Wikileaks founder Julian Assange disappointed many of his fans last week when he failed to produce the promised “smoking gun” that would bring down the campaign of Hillary Clinton. That email dump did finally surface, in the form of emails from Clinton confidant John Podesta (hardly a smoking gun), but only after the video was released of Donald Trump talking about how he likes to sexually assault women, which severely muted its impact.
The anti-Hillary forces have been trying to make use of some of the material in the Wikileaks dump, which supposedly features excerpts of speeches she gave to Wall Street firms. But questions have also been raised about the legitimacy of the material, with some suggesting that the contents had been manipulated by Russian hackers.
Now, Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald has caught Trump using talking points from his Russian allies, and he is calling them out.
At a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump waved a paper in front of a crowd that he claimed was an email from Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, and gleefully read from it. The email, which he said contained “proof” that Clinton could have done something about Benghazi, was actually a quote from a story Eichenwald had written for Newsweek about the politicization of the event.
Sputnik News, a state-controlled Russian news service, supposedly combed the Wikileaks dump and came up with the email, which they then quoted from selectively. Sputnik even speculated this email was the “October surprise” that would bring down Clinton’s candidacy.
Eichenwald describes what happened:
The Russians were quoting two sentences from a 10,000-word piece I wrote for Newsweek, which Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta. There was no mistaking that Blumenthal was citing Newsweek—the magazine’s name and citations for photographs appeared throughout the attached article. The Russians had carefully selected the ‘of course’ paragraph, which mentions there were legitimate points of criticism regarding Clinton and Benghazi, all of which had been acknowledged in nine reports about the attack and by the former secretary of state herself. But that was hardly the point of the story, ‘Benghazi Biopsy: A Comprehensive Guide to One of America’s Worst Political Outrages.’ The piece is about the obscene politicization of the assault that killed four Americans, and the article slammed the Republican Benghazi committee, which was engaged in a political show trial disguised as a congressional investigation—the 10th inquiry into the tragedy.
He says that Blumenthal had emailed his piece to Podesta. Sputnik lifted two sentences out of it for their story. When they were caught in the lie, they took the story down. Eichenwald says that Sputnik was the only outlet, save for a Turkish site that linked to the story, that reported on it. But suddenly, there was Donald Trump, on the stump in Pennsylvania quoting directly from the email, which he touted as the “smoking gun” in the Benghazi incident, and falsely claiming Eichenwald’s words had come from Sidney Blumenthal – exactly like Sputnik had written.
Eichenwald explains why Americans should be concerned about this:
“This is not funny. It is terrifying. The Russians engage in a sloppy disinformation effort and, before the day is out, the Republican nominee for president is standing on a stage reciting the manufactured story as truth. How did this happen? Who in the Trump campaign was feeding him falsehoods straight from the Kremlin?”
It’s no secret which candidate is the choice of Putin and the Russian oligarchs in this election. Trump has repeatedly chosen to cozy up to them while denying he is doing so. And now he has been caught red-handed pushing Russian propaganda.
Here is what Trump told the crowd in Pennsylvania, via Newsweek:
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