The Genius of the Few: The Collapse of Jerome Corsi’s ‘Deep State’ Narrative (Part 2)
By Will Banyan, Copyright © 28 February 2019
“Corsi is telling us to our faces that he’s a master of propaganda and disinformation, and you want to trust this man?”
Reddit post by u/C_L_I_C_K, r/Drain the Swamp, May 08, 2018
“Very sad to see Jerry Corsi lie about me on WJLA and Fox Business News. Seems when it comes to Roger Stone he’ll say whatever Mueller’s minions what him too. Unfortunately for him I have evidence and witnesses to prove his treachery.”
Roger Stone discussing his friend ‘Jerry’ Corsi, on Facebook, December 30, 2018
Among his many talents, Jerome Corsi claims unique knowledge and training in the art of disinformation. “I’ve been trained in public relations by Edward Bernays”, Corsi proudly told MSNBC’s Ari Belber last November, mentioning the so-called “father of public relations” and author of Propaganda (1928). He also made the same boast in an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity: “I was trained in public relations by Edward Bernays, the founder of [public relations], you know…” He also wrote in Infowars (May 17, 2017), that Bernays had trained him in the 1960s. In his new book, Silent No More, however, Corsi does not mention the training, but recounts that his father, as Director of Public Relations for the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen had hired Bernays.[*]
Although more information on when Bernays found time to personallytrain him is yet to be released, Corsi is nevertheless keen to display his deep knowledge of propaganda or disinformation techniques. Thus, in Killing the Deep State, Corsi provides readers with the following insights:
The first principle of all propaganda and disinformation involves the manipulation of public opinion by the creation of a lie – known in today’s terminology as a narrative or a meme – that is crafted to be sufficiently credible so a persistent campaign of repeating the lie can change public opinion, even if the narrative is totally untrue, concocted without any basis in fact, evidence, or reality (pp.146-147; emphasis added).
According to Corsi “Russian collusion” is a “disinformation meme being advanced by the Deep State and mainstream media…” (ibid, p.148). These allegations, he asserts, are “false” (p.161); there is “no evidence” (p.148) and “no proof” (p.180) of collusion. Much of the advice dispensed in Killing the Deep State is about how to counter this supposed “disinformation meme”, but it is also used to justify the deliberate disinformation that is Corsi’s counter-narrative. A narrative that avoids engaging with the core claims of the supposed “disinformation meme”, but instead promotes a tale of a villainous “Deep State” that is plotting to oust Trump with fictitious allegations, support radical leftists (Antifa), and cover-up the apparently more serious crimes of the Clintons.
Not surprisingly the information released over the past few months in the draft Statement of Offense, by Corsi himself (as he tries to save his own skin) and now in Mueller’s indictment of Roger Stone and response to Stone’s objection, has discredited Corsi’s disinformation-laden “Deep State” counter-narrative. In particular it has exposed how Corsi and Stone conspired to spread disinformation in a bid to conceal their roles linking Wikileaks to the Trump campaign. Corsi and Stone have also promoted new (and conflicting) cover stories to explain away their contacts with Wikileaks. This has not only exacerbated the personal conflict between Corsi and Stone, but has further undermined the carefully crafted conspiracy theory about a Deep State plot against Trump.
Shooting Stones in a Barrel
The first of the Corsi-Stone cover stories to be undermined concerned their attempts to explain away the significance of Stone’s now notorious Podesta tweet. On August 21, 2016, Stone issued the following tweet: “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.”[†]
The significance of this tweet did not become an issue until thousands of emails hacked from the personal gmail account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, were released by Wikileaks starting on October 7, 2016. Notably it was John Podesta himself, talking to reporters about a week later, who cited Stone’s tweet as evidence the Trump campaign had “advance knowledge” of Wikileaks actions:
… John Podesta pointed the finger at Trump adviser Roger Stone, who he said has been in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Podesta also raised as evidence an August tweet in which Stone said Podesta’s “time in the barrel” was coming. The tweet was sent shortly after WikiLeaks published scores of hacked emails from other Democratic officials.
“I think it’s a reasonable assumption, or at least a reasonable conclusion, that Mr. Stone and the Trump campaign had advance warning about what Assange was going to do,” Podesta told reporters aboard the Clinton campaign plane. Podesta acknowledged the evidence was “circumstantial” (Associated Press, Oct. 12, 2016).
Following Podesta’s lead, on October 14, 2016 a group of House Democrats issued a joint statement citing Stone’s tweet as evidence “the Trump campaign [was] not only aware of cyber attacks against Secretary Clinton’s campaign chairman, but was openly bragging about it as far back as August.” They called on the FBI to “fully investigate and explain to the American people what steps it is taking to disrupt this ongoing criminal activity.”
It is worth nothing that at this point Stone had not disputed his tweet referred only to John Podesta. Writing in Breitbart (Oct. 19, 2016), for example, Stone had poured scorn on the claim by former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell that he “knew in advance that Wikileaks would hack the very revealing e-mail of Hillary campaign chief John Podesta.” He then interpreted his own tweet as meaning: “I predicted that [John] Podesta’s business dealings would be exposed.” In a subsequent interview with Newsweek (Nov. 11, 2016), Stone also made no such distinctions about whom the tweet was about.
Then in his book The Making of the President 2016 (p.307), Stone corrected the obvious error in his tweet; removing the errant “the” so it read as “Trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel” (Figure 2) This was in a section that left no doubt the tweet’s subject was John Podesta as it made repeated references to him in the context of the tweet.
Only later, as investigations by the FBI, Special Counsel and Congress made it a problem, did Stone begin to change his story, insisting his tweet actually referred to the allegedly nefarious business activities of both Podesta brothers, not just John. In his testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) on September 26, 2017, for example, Stone asserted:
Note, that my Tweet of August 21, 2016, makes no mention, whatsoever, of Mr. Podesta’s email, but does accurately predict that the Podesta brothers’ business activities in Russia with the oligarchs around Putin, their uranium deal, their bank deal, and their Gazprom deal, would come under public scrutiny (Stone opening statement, pp.15-17; emphasis added).
Interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN in April last year, Stone again went with his revised version of what his tweet meant claiming that “My reference is to both brothers.”
STONE: Nowhere did I predict the — nowhere did I predict the hacking of John Podesta’s e-mails.
COOPER: And you are saying the evidence of that is because you said Podestas, plural?
STONE: Well, people call him or did call him the Donald, but no one has ever called John Podesta the Podesta. Correct [emphasis added].
As for the source of that information on the Podestas’ alleged nefarious dealings with the Russians, Stone’s explanation continued to evolve. When Stone first addressed allegations he had knew Wikileaks had Podesta’s hacked emails, he issued a flat denial:
I predicted that Podesta’s business dealings would be exposed. I didn’t hear it from Wikileaks, although Julian Assange and I share a common friend. I reported the story on my website. So let’s be clear. I had no advance notice of Wikileaks’ hacking of Podesta’s e-mails. I didn’t need it to know what Podesta has been up to (Breitbart, 19 Oct. 2016).
In The Making of the President 2016, published at the end of January 2017, Stone repeatedly dismissed as “false” claims from Podesta and others that he “knew the specific subject matter of the subsequent Wikileaks disclosures or that I had special knowledge of the timing of these disclosures…” (p.308) Instead he alone had made this discovery:
I knew from my own research that Podesta had been involved in money laundering for the Clinton Foundation and the Russian Mob. My tweet was a specific reference to an article I posted online on StoneColdTruth.com on October 13. It’s important to note that none of the information regarding Podesta’s activities in this article comes from Wikileaks in their subsequent releases. The two are not connected (ibid, pp.307-308; emphasis added)
In March 2017, however, as Trump Campaign’s links to Russia came under increased scrutiny, this story was subtly changed when Corsi published an article in Infowars (Mar. 23, 2017) offering an explanation for Stone’s suspicious tweet. Seemingly incensed by the adverse coverage of his dear friend, Corsi reassured readers that Stone’s “email” (a Freudian slip?) did no such thing:
Democrats have mistakenly used this email to “prove” Stone had advance knowledge Julian Assange of Wikileaks was about to release emails hacked from John Podesta, then the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
According to Corsi, the “truth” was more mundane. Stone’s tweet had in fact arisen from their plan to counter the supposedly unfair media exposure of the Russia ties of Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort. As Corsi explained:
My plan was to publicize the Government Accountability Institute’s report, “From Russia With Money,” that documented how Putin paid substantial sums of money to both Hillary Clinton and John Podesta.
According to Corsi, it was his research and conversations that were behind Stone’s tweet:
On Aug. 14, 2016, I began researching for Roger Stone a memo that I entitled “Podesta.”
I completed that memo on Aug. 31, 2016, and is embedded here in its entirety.
Between Aug. 14 and Aug. 31, 2016, Roger Stone and I had several detailed conversations about the Podesta research.
When Stone wrote his “suspicious” tweet on Aug. 21, 2016, he and I planned to publish a one-two punch, using the Government Accountability Institute report to expose Hillary and Podesta’s ties to Russia.
Some months later in his testimony before the HPSCI, Stone recycled Corsi’s explanation:
The Tweet is also based on a comprehensive, early August opposition research briefing provided to me by investigative journalist, Dr. Jerome Corsi, which I then asked him to memorialize in a memo that he sent me on August 31st, all of which was culled from public records. There was no need to have John Podesta’s email to learn that he and his presidential candidate were in bed with the clique around Putin [emphasis added].
There were already problems with this version of events that some analysts had noted before Corsi released the draft Statement of Offense, such as the fact that Stone did not tweet about Podesta again until after the Wikileaks release; and that Stone and Corsi did not release their research pieces on Podesta’s nefarious Russia ties until after Wikileaks had released the Podesta emails relating to this, indeed as ThinkProgress noted Stone’s article “heavily relies on the Podesta Wikileaks dumps to make his case.”
Now, though, this cover story has completely unravelled with the release of the August 2, 2016 email from Corsi, which referred explicitly to “Podesta” and not “the Podestas” (see Figure 3), Moreover, Corsi confirmed in interviews with the Daily Caller and the NBC he had told Stone in an email that Wikileaks had John Podesta’s emails (although Corsi puts his own particular spin on how he knew this). Stone, however, initially disputed that Corsi had told him this, as was subsequently reported in the Daily Caller (Nov. 23, 2018):
One person Corsi says he believed he told is Stone. But Stone, who met Corsi in 2015, vehemently denies speaking to Corsi about Podesta emails.
“Absolutely, positively not,” Stone told TheDCNF.
At same time Stone did not deny receiving the email and even provided the Daily Caller with a complete version of it.
Perhaps more damaging were Corsi’s comments to Wall Street Journal and his apparent confession in Silent No More, where he claimed he and Stone conspired to develop a “cover story” to explain away the problematic Podesta tweet. In his interview with the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 28, 2018), Corsi offered this explanation:
[Corsi] said in an interview Tuesday that Mr. Stone called him on Aug. 30, 2016—nine days after the tweet—and asked Mr. Corsi for help in creating an “alternative explanation” for it.
Shortly after that conversation, Mr. Corsi said he began writing a memo for Mr. Stone about Mr. Podesta’s business dealings. In the following months, both Mr. Stone and Mr. Corsi said the memo was the inspiration for his tweet, even though it was in fact written afterward, Mr. Corsi said.
“What I construct, and what I testified to the grand jury, was I believed I was creating a cover story for Roger, because Roger wanted to explain this tweet,” Mr. Corsi said. “By the way, the special counsel knew this. They can virtually tell my keystrokes on that computer.”
In Silent No More, Corsi revealed that on August 30, 2016, Stone had requested help from Corsi to develop a cover story for his Podesta tweet:
…Stone told me he was getting heat for his tweet and needed some cover. Writing cover stories is standard operating procedure for consultants in political campaigns, with the goal of providing alternative explanations to mask what could be politically damaging narratives or uncomfortable but costly facts [emphasis added].
Corsi recalled that he had “an excellent cover story for Stone’s unfortunate tweet” in the form of research had been doing into Podesta and Clinton links to the Russians. According to Corsi’s recollection (apparently provided to Mueller):
I suggested Stone could use me as an excuse, claiming my research on Podesta and Russia was the basis for Stone’s prediction that Podesta would soon be in the pickle barrel. I knew this was a cover-story, in effect not true, since I recalled telling Stone earlier in August that Assange had Podesta emails that he planned to drop as the “October Surprise” calculated by Assange to deliver a knock-out blow to Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations [emphasis added]
In addition, “At Roger’s request”, Corsi wrote an article to explain how Stone “got his information for his Twitter post on August 21, 2016.” This article, published in Infowars in March 2017 (Figure 4), “allowed us once again to rollout the cover-story.”
The implications of this admission were obvious to a number of observers. NBC’s Ari Melber put it to Corsi that he had had “agreed to help Roger [Stone] mislead Congress about how he found out about Podesta…”; they had deliberately put forward “false information”, a “lie” to a Congressional Committee. A chastened Corsi, citing his beloved Bernays, insisted it was merely “repositioning”, but acknowledged that when questioned by the SCO before the grand jury he had “openly admitted to them in their terms it was a lie.” Speaking to Armstrong Williams on WJLA, Corsi also admitted that his Podesta memo was a “public relations fabrication”; “Yes, it was a lie”, Corsi told WJLA.
And the “creation of a lie”, Dr Corsi reminds us in Killing the Deep State, is central to any campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion. In short, Corsi admits to engaging in disinformation, even though he dare not call it that.
An Ill-Gotten Camel Gathers No Gain
The various documents from the Special Counsel, coupled with Corsi’s deliberate partial admissions (otherwise known as “limited hangouts” where a party leaks or releases portions of information damaging to itself in a bid to control the narrative), also expose some other carefully crafted lies embedded in Killing the Deep State.
The first of these relates to Corsi’s statement that: “…it has never been proven that…the Russians themselves hacked the DNC, nor has it been proven that Wikileaks was working with the Russians” (KDS, p.42). Elsewhere Corsi disputes the identity of Guccifer 2.0:
Despite desperate efforts to prove that Guccifer 2.0 was Russian, Guccifer 2.0’s identity has remained undisclosed. The Democrats never succeeded in proving either that Guccifer 2.0 was Russian or that Guccifer 2.0 was responsible for stealing the DNC and Podesta emails that Wikileaks published (KDS, p.90).
Instead Corsi promotes the theory that the DNC was not hacked, noting that Julian Assange had “repeatedly suggested that the emails were leaked by Seth Rich”, a DNC employee and “Bernie Sanders supporter” who was murdered in Washington DC on July 10, 2016. He asks us to take at face value Assange’s denials that “the Russians ‘or any state party’ supplied Wikileaks with the DNC and/or Podesta emails” (KDS, p.92).
Corsi conveniently ignores Assange’s earlier statement, a week after Seth Rich’s death, that “[p]erhaps one day the source or sources will step forward…” Or that in that the same time period Roger Stone twice suggested that Russia was behind the hacking. Nor does he refer to Stone’s Breitbart article of August 5, 2016, attributing the “hack” to Guccifer 2.0 but backtracking on Russia as the culprit. As Stone wrote: “It doesn’t seem to be the Russians that hacked the DNC, but instead a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0.” Or that Assange’s implied endorsement of the Seth Rich theory on August 9, 2016 just happened to be on the same day Stone promoted the idea that Rich was another Clinton victim.
In yet another backtrack, Stone would go on to draw a more explicit connection in his book, citing “multiple sources” had come forward to confirm the data had been “leaked” and supplied to Wikileaks by a “disgruntled” DNC staff member. “I believe that person to be Seth Rich”, wrote Stone, “who shortly thereafter took five slugs to the back” (The Making of the President, p.130). While Corsi would promote the idea at length on Infowars in numerous articles (see for example here, here, here, here, here and here).
And yet in his email to Stone of Aug. 2, 2016, Corsi makes a clear reference to “hackers” not the supposed DNC leakers: “That appears to the game hackers are about now.” This revelation that Corsi and Stone considered it a self-evident truth the DNC was hacked, prompted many observers to come to the obvious conclusion their Seth Rich conspiracy-mongering was the ultimate act of bad faith (see Figure 5). It “shows the clear-eyed and cruel ways the two right-wing pundits propagated falsehoods for political gain”, wrote Molly Olmstead (Slate). According to Will Sommers at the Daily Beast, this revelation only proved that “Corsi was lying” when he promoted his Seth Rich theories on Infowars, “despite knowing that hackers had been behind the email theft.”
The second piece of disinformation relates to the seemingly remarkable coincidence where the release of the Podesta emails occurred on the same day as the release of the Access Hollywood video. In Killing the Deep State, Corsi writes:
Wikileaks began publishing the Podesta emails on October 7, 2016, almost simultaneously with the Washington Post publishing the Access Hollywood video of Trump making lewd comments to Billy Bush—a coincidence that that Trump accusers argued was further proof of Trump’s collusion with Russia and Wikileaks (KDS, p.91).
And yet, in Silent No More, Corsi has admitted the suspicions of “Trump accusers” that this was no mere “confidence” were correct. Corsi now claims that Stone had advance knowledge about the Access Hollywood tape and wanted to coordinate with Wikileaks on the release of Podesta emails. More importantly, according Corsi, the Special Counsel had evidence of this. As he relates in Silent No More, one of Mueller’s prosecutors, Aaron Zelinsky, had told Corsi’s lawyer David Gray:
…. that Stone had told me in advance about the Billy Bush video and asked me to get word to Assange to hold the release of the first batch of the Podesta emails until after the Washington Post had published the damaging Billy Bush ‘hot mic’ recording. That is exactly what happened.
Finally Zelinksy revealed that after October 7, 2016, the prosecutors had evidence of an email exchange between Stone and me, in which Stone expressed pleasure that Assange had released the Podesta emails as instructed, and in which I replied that Stone and I “should be given credit.”
Although in Silent No More, Corsi is cagey about how this message may have been passed on to Wikileaks (Vox’s Andrew Prokop speculates, based on the timeline of calls on October 7, 2016 provided in Silent No More, that Corsi’s call to Total Banking Solutions might be the key). There was no mention of this exchange either Corsi’s draft Statement of Offense or in the various court documents submitted by the SCO regarding Stone. In revealing this information Corsi, we can presume, was trying to get ahead of any future indictments against him. Such is the modus operandi of this proud “disinformation” expert, this propagandist…
To be concluded in Part 3
[†] The corrected wording – substituting “be” for “the” – is consistent with the version of the tweet’s words as reproduced by Roger Stone in his book, The Making of the President 2016 at p.307.