February 9, 2018

Just ten days ago, Julian Assange exchanged some Twitter direct messages with a fake Sean Hannity account where he promised some dirt on Senator Mark Warner.

“Have some good news about Warner,” he allegedly wrote to Dell Gilliam, a woman from Texas who set up a Twitter profile impersonating Mr Hannity after the Fox News host’s account was temporarily deactivated.

Mr Assange appeared to encourage Ms Gilliam, who named her new Twitter handle @SeanHannity__, to contact him over “other channels” to discuss Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interferencein the 2016 US election.

Last night, as the government was preparing for a shutdown thanks to at least one Senate Republican and the White House was dealing with the fallout from yet another wife-beater, Martha MacCallum led off her broadcast with some "dirt" about Mark Warner!

Surely it was a coincidence, right? The "dirt" MacCallum and Ed Henry had to share involved some text messages which magically landed at Fox "News" just in time to ignore the fact that Republicans can't govern this nation worth one damn.

MacCallum breathlessly announced, "Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who held numerous press conferences over the past year promising a fair and bipartisan investigation into President Trump's supposed ties to Russia, was apparently trying to gain access through the Russians to Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous anti-Trump dossier. Writing in part in these text messages that are just being revealed for the first time, 'we have so much to discuss. You need to be careful, but we can help our country.'"

Ed Henry made sure to give credit where it was due to the unknown "source" who passed along the texts, identifying them as "text messages that [he] got from a Republican source close to the committee."

Their handover, Henry claimed, "Is clearly an attempt by Republicans to say hang on a second, the top Democrat on this committee also had some questionable conversations about trying to keep some of this secret."

Almost immediately, Marco Rubio pushed back. That's right. Marco Rubio, let Fox "News" and everyone else on Twitter know that the Senate Intelligence Committee has known about these texts for months and they don't matter.

He's right. They don't, and Senator Richard Burr also confirmed that.

However, Fox News did something really awful in the process of distracting and confusing their viewers about the Russia investigation: They outed a confidential source.

The text messages were sent by D.C. lobbyist Adam Waldman, who has lobbied on behalf of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, according to reports. The gist of the texts were an effort on Warner's part to get a face-to-face meeting with Christopher Steele.

Waldman's links with Deripaska suggest there is also a relationship between Deripaska and Steele, something which is now in front of every Fox "News" viewer and right wing echo chamber inhabitant online as well.

Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel suggests the fact that Waldman's messages were the focus of the latest Fox non-scandal may relate back to the T-Mobile hack last year.

While the texts turned over to Congress date to February 14, the conversation pertaining to Steele started around March 22. That puts it not long after news of a massive hack involving T-Mobile, first reported March 16.


But who knows what Waldman (who apparently chats a lot with spies, mobbed up Russian oligarchs, and — as Mike Pompeo deemed Wikileaks — non-state hostile intelligence services) knows about cell phone security?

In any case, the day before that was reported publicly, Ron Wyden and Ted Lieu sent a letter to John Kelly (who, as a reminder, in spite of or because he ran DHS for a while, had his own cell phone compromised), stating in part,

We are also concerned that the government has not adequately considered the counterintelligence threat posed by SS7-enabled surveillance.[snip]What resources has DHS allocated to identifying and addressing SS7-related threats? Are these resources sufficient to protect U.S. government officials and the private sector.

If the government started considering such issues in March, they might have gotten around to discovering what kinds of problems were created by the T-Mobile hack in June, when Warner and Burr moved to get the texts for SSCI.

To summarize:

  1. Fox News ran a breaking news report using text messages apparently obtained through illegal channels
  2. The timing of their release dovetails with Julian Assange bragging to someone he thinks is Sean Hannity about having "dirt" on Mark Warner.
  3. The exposure of the participants in the exchange exposes a third-party intermediary who is connected to at least one Russian mobster. No one knows what his connection to Christopher Steele might have been, but no one questions his ties to Deripaska.
  4. Someone close to the Senate Intelligence Committee is a leaker, who might have a connection to Julian Assange. Who could it be, who could it be?

Even though Fox News has struck out now on three separate occasions, their lies and obfuscation have served a purpose, nevertheless. They establish a counternarrative for True Believers to hold onto in the dark days of the Russia investigation to come.

Ezra Klein:

If you want to believe that the Nunes memo, the FBI texts, or the Warner texts show an anti-Trump witch hunt on the part of the FBI, and if you’re following politicians and media organizations that want you to believe that, it’s easy enough to believe it. The argument has internal logic, it sounds plausible, it fits what you’re hearing, it aligns with whom you trust, and you’re seeing what looks like documentary evidence.

And if you want to burn a source, publish the texts without redacting names, like Ed Henry did!

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.