Clinton Foundation Smear Story

Want a window into how state-linked domestic propaganda is going to work?

Two days ago, a smear story about the Clinton Global Initiative showed up simultaneously in The New York Observer (owned by Jared Kushner) and Breitbart News (Steve Bannon’s thing)…and in no real newspapers. The story goes, essentially, “The Clinton Global Initiative is shutting down because nobody’s giving it money anymore! That proves it was always influence peddling.”

It’s ludicrous. The Clintons announced in September that they were shutting down the Global Initiative at the end of 2016, regardless of who won the election. At the time, they thought Hillary was going to win, as did most of us, and this would have allowed them to comply with the Emoluments Clause. However, they committed (in September) to shutting it down even if she didn’t win, because by the time of the November election, the logistical and legal process of shutting down the Initiative would already be two months underway, and hard-to-impossible to reverse. The resources and the staff were moving on to other things. (You can relate this to your personal life if you’ve ever done something like moved house or transferred schools.) Now, as we near inauguration day, it’s wrapping up on schedule.

Repackaged “hot takes” of the Kushner/Bannon smear are now popping up in the expected places, because it’s easier and cheaper for blogs and opinion columns and talk shows to lazily react to what “everybody’s saying” instead of doing independent reporting.

In the National Review, correspondent Jim Geraghty offered the following representative brain fart: “After dramatically increasing its yearly donation in 2014 and 2015, the government of Norway chose to reduce its donation by 87 percent after the election. Why would foreign governments suddenly lose interest in the charitable work the Clinton Foundation purported to do? They wouldn’t, unless the Clinton Foundation and CGI had existed to give foreign governments and businessmen a way to curry favor with a future president from the beginning.”

Norway stopped giving money to the Global Initiative because it NO LONGER EXISTS. I am not in the habit of giving money to initiatives that don’t exist. I can’t imagine the government of Norway differs from me substantially on this point.

Meanwhile, other initatives run by the Clinton Foundation are still going strong and doing fine. The wheels didn’t fall off. This one project is shutting down.

And no, this doesn’t excuse Trump’s conflicts of interest AT ALL.

P.S. if I wanted to bribe somebody in the executive branch, I’d probably spend that money in a more targeted way than spreading it out over 435 million people in more than 180 countries.

If you want to check my accounting of the distribution path for this story, all you have to do is search for recent mentions of the Clinton Global Initiative and look at date stamps. But if we want to get into more speculative territory…the reason I noticed this as it was happening is that the initial New York Observer story briefly showed up on a couple days ago in the “top stories” section and I said “Wait a sec” and looked for whether anybody else was reporting the same thing (which at the time no – except Breitbart).

That suggests to me that Trump flunkies did some algorithm maniuplation and botnet stuff that pushed the Observer story onto my dash, in a section that’s normally reserved for more sober reporting by organizations like Reuters, CNN, and the NYT. I have NEVER seen a New York Observer story in there, until now.

An alternate less sinister explanation is that it’s not Trump people, but Google people making a tweak that’s not working well, the evidence for which would be that an Onion article showed up in my news feed today, also for the first time (although not in Top Stories – down in Entertainment)