NEW YORK — On her newly launched NBC program Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News anchor featured an exclusive interview with Vladimir Putin in which she espoused multiple conspiracy theories in her questions to the Russian leader.
Here are four wild conspiracies contained in Kelly’s queries, presented below in the order in which the questions were asked:
1 – Kelly stated inaccurately that 17 intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
She said, “President Putin, you have repeatedly and passionately denied that Russia was behind the interference with our American presidential election. But as you know, the consensus view in the United States is that you did. That’s what the 17 intelligence agencies concluded.”
The major anti-Trump talking point that 17 federal intelligence agencies concluded Russia interfered in the election has been around since at least last October, when Hillary Clinton stated the following at the third presidential debate: “We have 17, 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber-attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin. And they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.”
However, James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, twice affirmed in his May testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that the intelligence community’s assessments regarding alleged Russian interference were not the product of all 17 agencies but only three – the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
The U.S. intelligence community report is titled, “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution.”
The report itself makes clear it is a product of three intelligence agencies and not 17.
The opening states: “This report includes an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA), which draws on intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.”
2 – Kelly repeated unsubstantiated, anonymously sourced news media claims that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner discussed the establishment of a secret back-channel with the Russians.
“Among those under scrutiny is the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner,” Kelly told the audience. “At a meeting with Russia’s Ambassador last December, he reportedly tried to establish a secret communications channel with the Russian government.”
“This is a proposal, a proposal by Mr. Kushner,” Kelly then stated to Putin, in what seemed to be more of a declaration than a question. Indeed, a transcript provided by NBC has the sentence ending with a period and not a question mark.
On May 26, one day before Trump returned from his first international trip, the Washington Post dropped an anonymously sourced story that Kushner and Russia’s Washington envoy discussed the possibility of establishing a “secret and secure communications channel” between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.
The Post cited alleged communications from Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak to Moscow reportedly intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials.
Kelly didn’t point out that Russian diplomats are known to deliberately place misinformation in communications they believe are being monitored, a tidbit noted in the Post article, allowing for the possibility that Kushner never actually asked for a back channel.
Kelly further failed to mention that her previous employer, Fox News, quoted a source saying it was the Russians – and not Kushner – who broached the concept of creating a secure line for back channel communications.
Staunch Trump critic Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), stated of the Post article on Kushner: “I don’t trust this story as far as I can throw it.”
3 & 4 – Kelly lumped two conspiracy theories into one question to Putin:
There have been questions in America about Donald Trump’s finances. He hasn’t released his tax returns. There have been questions about this secret Russian dossier, which he says is fake, but which purports to have blackmail information in it generated by the Russians. There have been questions about the communications between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, all of which has Americans asking, “Do you have something damaging on our president?”
Regarding Trump’s finances and the conspiracy theory that the Russians possess blackmail information on Trump, then-FBI Director James B. Comey put those charges to rest during an exchange at last month’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FBI oversight.
Comey confirmed that the basis for the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia’s Putin allegedly wanted Trump in office was not because the billionaire was, as Sen. Al Franken claimed without citing any evidence, “ensnared in” Russia’s “web of patronage.”
Instead, the FBI chief provided two primary reasons for Russia allegedly favoring Trump over Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.
One reason, according to Comey, was that Putin “hated” Clinton and would have favored any Republican opponent. The second reason, Comey explained, was that Putin made an assessment that it would be easier to make a deal with a businessman than someone from the political class.
Not satisfied with Comey’s response, Franken further probed whether the intelligence community believed Russia wanted Trump in office because of Trump’s business interests, claiming that Trump “had already been ensnared in their web of patronage.”
OK, well, I’m curious about just how closely Russia followed the Kremlin playbook when it meld (ph) in our democracy, specifically whether the Russians had a preference for President Trump because he had already been ensnared in their web of patronage — web of patronage is a quote from the report. Is it possible that in the Russians’ views — view Trump’s business interests would make him more amenable to cooperating with them, quote, more disposed to deal with Russia as the I.C. report says?
Comey replied, “That was not the basis for the I.C.’s assessment.”
Perhaps tellingly, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last month, former CIA Director John Brennan refused to answer a question in an unclassified setting about whether the Russians possess damaging information on Hillary Clinton that was not revealed during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Secondly, Kelly promoted the controversial, partially debunked 35-page dossier on Trump compiled by a former British intelligence officer.
When she stated that the dossier “purports to have blackmail information in it generated by the Russians,” Kelly seems to be referring to the dossier’s wild and unproven claims that the Russians had information on Trump and sordid sexual acts, including the mocked claim that Trump hired prostitutes and had them urinate on a hotel room bed.
Kelly misleadingly frames the dossier thusly: “There have been questions about this secret Russian dossier, which he says is fake.” She is indicating that it is Trump who primarily deems the dossier to be fake.
The document was authored by former intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who was reportedly paid by Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans to investigate Trump, raising questions about his partiality. Last month, Steele conceded in court documents that part of his work still needed to be verified.
Citing current and former government officials, the New Yorker reported the dossier prompted skepticism in the intelligence community, with the publication quoting one member as saying it was a “nutty” piece of evidence to submit to a U.S. president.
Steele’s work has been questioned by former acting CIA director Morell, who currently works at the Hillary Clinton-tied Beacon Global Strategies LLC. Beacon was founded by Phillippe Reines, who served as Communications Adviser to Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state. From 2009-2013, Reines also served in Clinton’s State Department as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Strategic Communications. Reines is the managing director of Beacon.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
With research by Joshua Klein.