Page 1 of 4

Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:23 pm
by American Dream
Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

Inside the web of conspiracy theorists, Russian operatives, Trump campaigners and Twitter bots who manufactured the 'news' that Hillary Clinton ran a pizza-restaurant child-sex ring

By Amanda Robb

Carmen Kat'z Facebook post likely set Pizzagate in motion. "Someone or some group possibly took this unwitting woman and made her the source that they need." says Watts.

The revelations overcame Edgar Maddison Welch like a hallucinatory fever. On December 1st, 2016, the father of two from Salisbury, North Carolina, a man whose pastimes included playing Pictionary with his family, tried to persuade two friends to join a rescue mission. Alex Jones, the Info-Wars host, was reporting that Hillary Clinton was sexually abusing children in satanic rituals a few hundred miles north, in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. Welch told his friends the "raid" on a "pedo ring" might require them to "sacrifice the lives of a few for the lives of many." A friend texted, "Sounds like we r freeing some oppressed pizza from the hands of an evil pizza joint." Welch was undeterred. Three days later, armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, a .38 handgun and a folding knife, he strolled into the restaurant and headed toward the back, where children were playing ping-pong. As waitstaff went table to table, whispering to customers to get out, Welch maneuvered into the restaurant's kitchen. He shot open a lock and found cooking supplies. He whipped open another door and found an employee bringing in fresh pizza dough. Welch did not find any captive children – Comet Ping Pong does not even have a basement – but he did prove, if there were any lingering doubts after the election, that fake news has real consequences.

Welch's arrest was the culmination of an election cycle dominated by fake news – and by attacks on the legitimate press. Several media outlets quickly traced the contours of what became known as Pizzagate: The claim that Hillary Clinton was a pedophile started in a Facebook post, spread to Twitter and then went viral with the help of far-right platforms like Breitbart and Info-Wars. But it was unclear whether Pizzagate was mass hysteria or the work of politicos with real resources and agendas. It took the better part of a year (and two teams of researchers) to sift through the digital trail. We found ordinary people, online activists, bots, foreign agents and domestic political operatives. Many of them were associates of the Trump campaign. Others had ties with Russia. Working together – though often unwittingly – they flourished in a new "post-truth" information ecosystem, a space where false claims are defended as absolute facts. What's different about Pizzagate, says Samuel Woolley, a leading expert in computational propaganda, is it was "retweeted and picked up by some of the most powerful faces of American politics."

The original Pizzagate Facebook post appeared on the evening of October 29th, 2016, a day after then-FBI Director James Comey announced that the bureau would be reopening its investigation into Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while secretary of state. Data from the server had been found on electronics belonging to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (the husband of Clinton's close aide Huma Abedin), who had been caught texting lewd messages to a 15-year-old. On Facebook, a user named Carmen Katz wrote, "My NYPD source said its much more vile and serious than classified material on Weiner's device. The email DETAIL the trips made by Weiner, Bill and Hillary on their pedophile billionaire friend's plane, the Lolita Express. Yup, Hillary has a well documented predilection for underage girls. . . . We're talking an international child enslavement and sex ring."

Katz's Facebook profile listed her residence as Joplin, Missouri. With a link to a story headlined "Breaking: Hillary Clinton strategy memo leaked: 'Steal yard signs,' " Katz posted, "You know how we handle yard sign theft or tampering in South Missouri? With a 3 prong garden hoe buried in the middle of the back." We found no record of anyone with the name Carmen Katz in the entire state. But searching through her online activity, we noticed another clue: Every time she posted petitions on, such as "Put Donald Trump's Face on Mount Rushmore," the last signer was invariably Cynthia Campbell of Joplin. Campbell used the same profile picture as "Carmen Katz" on Facebook – that is, the same snapshot of the same cat.

For more than 20 years, a 60-year-old attorney named Cynthia Campbell has practiced law out of her bungalow-style home in Joplin. In April, I began trying to contact her, asking if she was behind the initial Pizzagate post. Within days, the Carmen Katz Facebook account disappeared. I went to Campbell's house to try in person. A large NRA sticker adorned the screen door; on the porch was feline statuary and gardening equipment, including a three-pronged hoe. She didn't answer but later texted and called me. Campbell said yes, she set up the Facebook account, but it was hacked two or three years ago. She never explicitly denied posting the comment that started Pizzagate. Instead, she told me to disregard the NRA sticker – she just "supports hunting." She also claimed to be a rare Democrat in southwest Missouri. "You don't say much," she said. "You don't stick signs out."

Social-media accounts are routinely- hacked, but the next morning, when Campbell texted me 21 times, she sounded every bit like the user behind the original Carmen Katz post. "Stalking and harassing innocent people who have done nothing to you is wrong, evil and illegal," she wrote. "You should be helping people get their lives and health back going through such nightmares, not piling on, harassing them, making them feel unsafe and preyed upon." She threatened to report me to both the ACLU and Best Buy's Geek Squad.

"[P]eople like you don't give a shit that you destroy innocent humans' lives," she said. "Go back to your soul-sucking job. . . . You are fake news!"

In this Friday Dec. 9, 2016 file photo, flowers and notes left by well-wishers are displayed outside Comet Ping Pong, the pizza restaurant in Washington. There's at least a slice of good news for a pizza restaurant in the nation's capital that has been the target of fake news stories linking it to a child sex trafficking ring. In almost a week since an armed man arrived at Comet Ping Pong to investigate the conspiracy, neighbors and patrons have responded by bringing homemade signs, flowers and their pizza-purchasing power to the store.

Flowers and notes left by well-wishers outside of Comet Ping Pong.

It strains the imagination to think how Campbell – a cat lady in Missouri – had pieced together not only the story that Clinton was a sex-trafficking pedophile, but its details: NYPD officials, Weiner's laptop, Jeffrey Epstein's private jet. According to Clint Watts, a cyber and homeland-security expert at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Katz fits neatly into a well-worn blueprint for disinformation campaigns. For a story to gain traction, propagandists plant false information on anonymous chat boards, hoping real people will pick it up and add a "human touch" to acts of digital manipulation. "If you want to sow a conspiracy, you seed it someplace – 4chan or Reddit is a perfect vehicle," he says, and wait for someone like Katz to take the bait. "Someone or some group," Watts says, "possibly took this unwitting woman and made her the source that they need."

On a pair of anonymous message boards, we found several possible seeds of Pizzagate. On July 2nd, 2016, someone calling himself FBIAnon, who claimed to be a "high-level analyst and strategist" for the bureau, hosted an Ask Me Anything forum on 4chan. He claimed to be leaking government secrets – á la Edward Snowden – out of a love for country, but it wasn't always clear which country he meant. At various times, he wrote, "Russia is more a paragon of freedom and nationalism than any other country" and "We are the aggressors against Russia." FBIAnon's secrets were about the Department of Justice's inquiry into the Clinton Foundation, which federal prosecutors never formalized. "Dig deep," he wrote. "Bill and Hillary love foreign donors so much. They get paid in children as well as money."

"Does Hillary have sex with kidnapped girls?" a 4channer asked.

"Yes," FBIAnon answered.

Another possible germ of Pizzagate appeared online about 10 hours before Katz posted her story on Facebook. TheeRANT describes itself as a message board for "New York City cops speaking their minds." Virtually everyone on the site uses an identity-masking screen name. Favorite topics include police body cameras (bad) and George Soros (worse). On October 29th, 2016, someone calling himself "Fatoldman" posted that he had a "hot rumor" about the FBI investigation.

"[T]he feds were forced to reopen the hillary email case [because] apparently the NYPD sex crimes unit was involved in the weiner case," Fatoldman wrote. "On his laptop they saw emails. [T]hey notified the FBI. Feds were afraid that NYPD would go public so they had to reopen or be accused of a coverup."

Someone posted the news to a law enforcement Facebook group. From there, a user called Eagle Wings (@NIVIsa4031) posted it to Twitter. Eagle Wings' profile picture shows a smiling middle-aged woman above the description "USAF Vet believes Freedom Soars." Among her more influential followers are former deputy assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka and former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, who actually shared a separate Eagle- Wings tweet last year. Eagle Wings' enthusiastic following likely has something to do with membership in "Trumps WarRoom," a private group of online activists who share and amplify political messages. Participants told Politico's Shawn Musgrave that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of pro-Trump rooms coalesced during the campaign. "The members aren't stereotypical trolls," Musgrave tells me. "Most are baby boomers." A lot are women from the Midwest.

But Eagle Wings is not a typical political enthusiast, says Woolley, who directs research at the Institute for the Future's Digital Intelligence Lab. She tweets too often (more than 50,000 times since November 2015) to too many followers (120,000 as of November 2017). "Without a shadow of a doubt," he says, "Eagle Wings is a highly automated account [and] part of a bot network" – a centrally controlled group of social-media accounts. To explain how they work, Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, uses a shepherding analogy. "A message that someone or some organization wants to 'trend' is typically sent out by 'shepherd' accounts," he says, which often have large followings and are controlled by humans. The shepherds' messages are amplified by 'sheepdog' accounts, which are also run by humans but can be default-set "to boost the signal and harass critics." At times, the shepherds personally steer conversations, but they also deploy automation, using a kind of Twitter cruise control to retweet particular keywords and hashtags. Together, Nimmo says, the shepherds and sheepdogs guide a herd of bots, which "mindlessly repost content in the digital equivalent of sheep rushing in the same direction and bleating loudly."

Whether Katz repeated something a herd of bots was bleating, or repackaged tidbits found on other parts of the Internet, her Facebook post was the "human touch" that helped the fake news story go viral. The "tell," says Watts, was what happened next. Most of us post into Internet oblivion. But about 12 hours after Katz shared her story, a Twitter user named @DavidGoldbergNY tweeted a screenshot of her post, twice – adding, "I have been hearing the same thing from my NYPD buddies too. Next couple days will be -interesting!"

On Twitter, @DavidGoldbergNY described himself as a "Jew, Lawyer & New Yorker." The account went live around the time of the Republican National Convention, in July 2016, posting divisive tweets like "Attacking the 1 percent is attacking 43 percent of the Jewish community." The account's profile picture – a man with a nose Photoshopped to look very large and hooked – has been used online for more than a decade. Based on the limited threads that have been archived, Woolley says, @DavidGoldbergNY appears to have been, like Eagle Wings, "highly automated" and part of "an organized effort" – possibly a bot network – to spread disinformation. One of @DavidGoldbergNY's tweets about the Katz Facebook post was retweeted 6,369 times.

Continues at: ... al-w511904

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 7:34 pm
by MacCruiskeen
As you very well know, there is already a "Pizzagate" thread: What is #Pizzagate?

Stop taking dumps on this Discussion Board.

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:42 pm
by seemslikeadream

glad to see you didn't bump that bulllshit right-wing made up pizzagate should remain dead

Given his admitted culpability in a sex-crime, Weiner’s imprisonment would indeed seem a fitting last act in this saga — were it not for facts pointing to his original indictment having played a significant role in Donald Trump’s surprise presidential victory.

Because it did play a role, it’s important to understand whether the timing of that investigation was just a lucky coincidence for Trump — or something more insidious.

Anthony Weiner
Anthony Weiner. Photo credit: Coalition for Queens / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
In this nearly hour-long interview, WhoWhatWhy Editor-in-Chief Russ Baker takes veteran podcaster Peter B. Collins through the details of Anthony Weiner’s fall — and the effect it had on Hillary Clinton’s presidential race.

They go deep into the shadows where political traps are constructed.

Click HERE to Download Mp3

Full Text Transcript:

As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to resource constraints, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like, and we hope that you will excuse any errors that slipped through.

Peter Collins: Investigative Journalist Russ Baker returns to the Peter B. Collins podcast today. He’s unearthed some interesting details about the Anthony Weiner scandal. The first rule of cheating is don’t get caught. That’s Lee Shot Williams. Goes way back for the Peter B. Collins tax deductible music archives and if Lee Shot’s still around, he ought to do an update to turn it into a cyber sexting kind of song.
Russ Baker is the Founder and Editor in Chief over at They do great independent investigative reporting and I find Russ’s work extremely credible. He and a colleague, Matthew Harvey, have dug into the details behind the most recent Anthony Weiner sexting scandal with an underage girl that led to the FBI’s investigation of the laptop that he shared with his ex-wife, Huma Abedin, and we know how that really had an impact in the late stages of the presidential campaign last year. Russ, as always, good to talk with you.
Russ Baker: As always, good to talk to you.
Peter Collins: I guess we can say that Harvey Weinstein has bumped Anthony Weiner off America’s number one perv list. Anthony Weiner, despite a lot of negative feelings that people have about him, he deserves to have his case fully evaluated, and investigated, and the corporate media hasn’t done that. They basically took at face value that somehow he connected with this 15-year-old girl and that they were busy sexting and that this, as I referenced, led to the late stage FBI investigation of that laptop computer. You have I think some very interesting information here that we’re going to talk about today and this is not your first foray into investigating this latest Weiner conviction, is it?
Russ Baker: It is not. We became interested in this early on, because it’s the kind of work we do. One of my critiques of the media, and I would include both the mainstream corporate media and the so-called alternative media, is that they all seem to be so shallow in their curiosity, and so lacking in energy when it comes to going a little further on these stories. You know of course the classic Latin expression, “Cui bono?” Who benefits? Over time at WhoWhatWhy and then earlier with my book, Family of Secrets, which we’ve talked about, I’ve looked into things and found that there was more to the story and there often is. When things happen to powerful people and they suddenly get their comeuppance, or they are taken down, I always want to know is there anymore to the story? Sometimes it’s just what it appears to be and sometimes it isn’t.
On we’ve done stories about people who, like Anthony Weiner, were politicians, they were seen as having bright futures, they tended to be charismatic. Most of them were liberal or progressive Democrats. Many of them were taking on powerful corporate and financial interests, taking on the national security state. People like Gary Hart, who might well have become President of the United States. John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, and I could go on. There have been quite a few of these people who were taken down in these sex scandals and a lot of people when they hear this, they become very irritated. For some reason, Peter, it pushes some buttons in their brain and they immediately become angry at me for even talking about this, because they’re so angry at these people for their “behavior,” that nothing else matters.
What I’m saying is, forget the behavior, and forget about what you think what they did, and if they should or shouldn’t, and how old somebody should be or shouldn’t be if you’re going to sext with them, or should you never sext with anyone, or should you send pictures, or only above the waist, or whatever. You forget all of that stuff and you only look at the Anthony Weiner thing in terms of its impact. Basically, according to some pollsters, according to, I think, quite a few analysts, according to Hillary Clinton, and I think according to a lot of us, something happened late in the 2016 presidential campaign that took a woman who was not only the front-runner, but was basically preordained to be the next President of the United States, nobody doubted it. Everybody was quite certain of it. It was almost like proforma and then she-
Peter Collins: Well, hold on Russ.
Russ Baker: Yeah.
Peter Collins: Just one thing, I want to separate myself from that comment, because I’m one of the few lefties in the media who predicted that Trump was going to win and I did so on August 1st of last year before any October surprise, or the pussy grab tape surfaced. I just want to note that not everybody believed that Hillary was a shoe-in and that there were problems with her campaign, and her candidacy, and also a lot of people who were going to vote for Trump who wouldn’t share that with a pollster. I just want to note that while you’re correct about the vast majority of people who offer their opinions in public, I’d like to make sure the people remember that I wasn’t one of them.
Russ Baker: Okay, thank you. There were points at which I said that I thought Trump could have much more support than was … I’m sure I could go and find those clips and so forth. I’m talking about something very particular here, which is she was way ahead in the polls. All of the official indices and the conventional wisdom was that she was going to win. Now, I’m not saying that these other factors didn’t play a role in Trump winning. What I’m saying is that very late in the election cycle, in late October just before the election, suddenly something bad happened to Hillary Clinton. This is not in dispute. Something bad happened to her. The FBI Director, James Comey, basically revealed that she was again under investigation regarding her computer server.
This is after all that “Sturm und Drang” about that, back and forth, and back and forth, was a huge problem for her. She finally got past it and now she was, according to all these indices, way ahead. Suddenly, very late in the game, so late that those kinds of things tend to be seen as very hard to recover from, there was this new development. The development was that suddenly there was a cloud over her again. That cloud happened because Comey’s people had inspected a computer owned by basically Anthony Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, who was Hillary’s body person, the closest aide who was constantly with her. They had looked at this computer and they discovered some of Hillary Clinton’s emails on there.
That’s why they made this announcement that they’ve discovered these emails on this other machine and this is what put this cloud over Hillary that had at least some kind of unknown, but presumably not insignificant impact in at least making people who were on the fence, these are usually close elections, on the fence say, “Oh my God, these people who say she’s a criminal, you can’t trust her,” here’s yet another indication. That’s the backdrop. That is the backdrop to today’s conversation that this thing found on Anthony Weiner’s computer had some unknown, but potentially significant impact in the election. That’s it. That’s the backdrop.
Peter Collins: Russ, it’s fair to say that Anthony Weiner had burned himself repeatedly with his online exploits with women. You quote Sydney Leathers, one of his contacts, in your article. He was an unsympathetic figure by his own undoing and he … I can imagine people who wanted to see Hillary defeated and Trump elected were sitting there saying, “Well, what can we do? What kind of trap can we lay?” A honey trap for Anthony Weiner seems to be an idea that wouldn’t be hard to generate.
Russ Baker: Yeah. Now, the missing piece of course is this computer, because you could get Anthony Weiner in a scandal, but it wouldn’t necessarily harm Hillary Clinton even though Weiner … People would basically feel sorry for Weiner’s wife, because it wasn’t Weiner who had any connection with Hillary, it was his wife. That wouldn’t be enough. The computer is the missing piece here and it’s the critical link, because if you work backwards, you’ve got Comey makes his statement, Clinton receives this potentially mortal wound. Why did Comey make his statement? Ostensibly, because he … Well, this gets very complicated, but he said that he was in a difficult position but he didn’t want to be accused of trying to influence the election by holding back material, so he erred on the side of influencing the election by announcing it.
Peter Collins: Yeah, yeah.
Russ Baker: What he did was he announced this, or he told Congress, and then it was made public. The reason that he could even make this announcement is because he was notified by people at much lower levels of the FBI that they had seized this computer and found these files. Now, the question then is, why did they seize that computer? The reason they seized the computer is because they received a complaint that an adult and an underage girl had been exchanging obscene, I don’t know the correct term, but let’s say obscene materials across state lines, so this was a national issue of the sort that the FBI could handle. Now, how did the FBI know about this? Then you go back. Okay, FBI and the New York Police Department get involved, but how do they know about it?
They know about it because an article appeared in the Daily Mail, the famous and delectably sleazy British-owned tabloid that is the largest news site I believe in at least the English-speaking world, including the United States. Huge numbers of people read it, because it’s so salacious. They are a politically identified, conservative identified, friendly with Trump, etc., etc. They published this story that Anthony Weiner had been doing this stuff with this underage girl and that then led to some kind of complaint somehow. Something that’s very unusual, was the FBI moved with incredible speed to seize that laptop. Now, there were no allegations of any kind of physical contact. The two people never met. There were no allegations of any kind of violence, or any imminent danger to this 15-year-old.
The FBI, I must say, it’s not that they never move fast. They certainly move fast when there’s supposedly a bomb about to go off or something else. Typically, most people if you’ve ever called the FBI to tip them off about something, they usually don’t even respond, or it could take a really long time. There are many, many stories out there of people who came to them with rather grave and urgent things and either were received with skepticism or neutrality and there was no follow-up. Of course, if we look at the Kennedy assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald, it’s just replete with examples and has been ever since and long before. Slow movement on the part of the FBI. Yet, in this case a tabloid publication published an article about a virtual relationship between two people and pounced with great speed.
Peter, we were interested in that. Why did they pounce with great speed? Well, this wasn’t Comey who told them to do it. He didn’t even, as far as I know, know about this. It was the New York Office of the FBI. Now, I know a few things about the New York Office of the FBI, including the fact that it’s very close with Rudy Giuliani, an important surrogate of Donald Trump, and it was very close with Donald Trump. As we report separately on WhoWhatWhy in another article about Trump Tower, the FBI had had a very important cooperator or informant in the building, Felix Sater, who was basically a business partner with Donald Trump. They were in there receiving constant reports.
They were close with that whole organization and these are the people who went and grabbed this very interesting material, I assume knowing perfectly well who Anthony Weiner was, knowing that his wife was probably Hillary Clinton’s closest and frankly most controversial aid. A lot had been written, a lot of speculation about her. Anybody who was a strategist would have known, I think, and logically … By the way, Hillary Clinton doesn’t like to read email online and-
Peter Collins: Right.
Russ Baker: Many people know this and they know that she expects her aids to print things out. Who was her closest aid? Huma Abedin. Anybody who knew anything or studied her behavior would know that Hillary, once they were interested in studying Hillary’s server and that whole scandal, they would’ve thought, “Well, you know what? Where is this stuff?” Because remember the Republicans, Donald Trump asked the Russians to hack to get Hillary’s emails and all this. They all wanted Hillary’s emails. It wouldn’t have been complicated for somebody to realize that, “Well, Hillary would’ve been telling Huma, ‘You get these emails and you print them out for me.'”
Which would mean that they would be on one of Huma’s machines and they would’ve known because there had been prior stories that they had these machines that they shared and they would’ve known that if some of Clinton’s emails were in Huma’s possession, they were also in Anthony’s possession. Ergo, if you could find an excuse to look at Anthony’s machine, you would find Hillary’s emails. You work back from that and you realize, “How would you get people to look at Anthony’s machine? You get Anthony in the middle of something that needs to be investigated. What could you get Anthony in the middle of? Why, Anthony Weiner has a problem.” There is where the story begins.
Peter Collins: I want to mention that I’ve had a few interactions with Anthony Weiner while he was a member of Congress. I interviewed him several times and I was producing a radio show for the Nurse’s Union, he appeared at a rally and we had some interesting conversations. My impression of him is that he’s a very intense and tense guy and when he’s on your side, you like him. He’s a mercurial guy, very self-absorbed, and so my personal impressions of him are pretty consistent with what I think people’s perceptions are of him as he displayed them in public. I think because of the serial nature of his online sexual exploration, if you will, that this was an easy noose to hang on his skinny little neck.
Russ Baker: It was. I think the key point here is you had these developments that all work very nicely to move this thing along. If it were a kind of a set-up, it wasn’t that complicated to script this. Cause Hillary Clinton and her biggest liability to back into the news by focusing people again on her honesty and on those records. You do it by figuring out somewhere where those records are and finding a way to grab them. The way was that Anthony Weiner was involved and then you lure him. All of that just makes sense and you don’t have to like Hillary Clinton, or despise Hillary Clinton. It has nothing to do with that, but any, I think, reasonable thinker can see how something like this might have been conceived. Might, I say.
Peter Collins: Introduce us to one of the figures in your article, Chuck C. Johnson.
Russ Baker: Oh well, he’s a real character. He’s kind of a charismatic guy. I spoke to him. I actually kind of liked him on the phone, but it’s hard to like a guy who I guess is a Holocaust denier. He’s an interesting character. He’s kind of made a name for himself. I don’t know what you call him, he’s kind of an alt-right activist, or operative. He’s a free agent. If you go onto and put his name in, you can read an earlier article on Weiner where we go into Johnson at some length. I spoke to him and he told me that he had made quite a bit of money and he spends his own money, but he also has these websites where he goes to alt-right types and he basically says, “We can nail somebody for something, or embarrass them, but people got to put money up.” Then people sort of send money in, or click, or whatever and they raise money.
He said he’s done very, very well. He’s also spent a lot. He’s very well connected into the Trump orbit and he was telling me about all the people he helped get jobs in the Trump administration. He does exaggerate, but he also has a lot of contacts. He loves … He’s very open about it. He kind of loves dirty tricks. He thinks they’re terrific. This isn’t me accusing him of something. I mean, he’s spoken very openly about this. As I said, he can be quite ferocious. He’s come after a lot of people. At least with me, he in general answered my questions. I didn’t always find that the answers were complete or satisfactory, but we did at least, up until he stopped communicating with me, he did answer questions and we were able to determine from him, according to his own account, that he played some kind of role in becoming aware of the Anthony Weiner sexting with this young girl and helped essentially to sort of pass that story along so it ended up getting the kind of publicity that it did.
Peter Collins: We should note that in your article and in this conversation we cannot name the girl or her father, because their names have not been published in order to protect her identity as a minor. You also make the point that the Daily Mail published its article opportunistically the day before her 16th birthday so that she could be described as a 15-year-old, which is below the age of consent in most states. That made this even a little more salacious and had that heavier tabloid impact. Now, talk about her father and the way he participated in this paid interview with the Daily Mail and bagged $30,000 in cash before they had contacted any authorities. Oh, like the local police, to say, “Hey, this former Congressman from New York is conducting an inappropriate sexting relationship with my daughter.”
Russ Baker: Yeah. Well, and we really should go back to the beginning. Now, we don’t really know what the beginning is and we did a lot of reporting and a lot of it is still not entirely conclusive, but what we believe from many interviews and quite a bit of research, what we believe is that this girl who is quite precocious, by the way, in some respects. I’ve seen her in action and she’s advanced for her years in many respects. She contacted Anthony Weiner and he didn’t know who she was and she basically told him that she was a fan of his. You can imagine that he was already sort of “in Siberia” and it’s nice to hear from people who still like you. Our general impression and this is … I can’t go into all the details here, but our general impression is that he … There was no sexual come-on and that it was really just social media contact. Somebody saying, “I find you interesting.”
At some point, we think that she mentioned doing a class project or paper about him. I’ve been the recipient of people contacting me who are high school students saying, “They’re doing a paper and want to interview me.” I know that these things happen and they can be perfectly benign and some might argue that it’s rude not to answer a high school student who ought to be encouraged if they’re interested in civics, let’s say, or journalism. So he responded and he started talking to her. At some point, and I have to stress by the way, that the US government in their prosecution of this thing have been very circumspect and we’ve actually seen surprisingly little evidence of the worst things we are told that Weiner did or said. This is very important, because we don’t actually see those things.
Some people argued, “Well, they must be true, because Weiner plead guilty.” To which I reply, “Do you know anything about plea deals?” If you face a really long sentence and they offer you something, you cannot bargain and say, “Well, but I didn’t do that part of it and I won’t allow you to say I did.” They want the strongest possible statement and you either sign it, or no deal. We don’t know what actually happened. We don’t even know whether he disputes some of that, but basically the impression we have generally is that they began talking, and then he asked her about herself, and then at some point I guess, although it’s still not even certain when or if that happened or how it happened, although we’re told it happened, she revealed that she was 15.
In any case, they were talking and it gradually got a sort of, let’s say, a flirtatious nature, and at some point it went beyond that, we are told. The most graphic things that he supposedly said, we’ve not actually seen most of it. We’ve seen a little bit of what is presented to us in certain cooperative publications as being things that he typed. We have not been able to verify he did. It’s quite possible that he did. It’s very inappropriate. It’s very wrong and I in no way want to condone any of that. I’m just trying to be as accurate as possible here in describing this.
Peter Collins: Russ, one of the things you point out in the article is that at some point she said that she was a fan of Anthony Weiner. At the age of 15, she would’ve only been 10 years old when he flamed out and left the Congress. That is a claim that is hard to corroborate or to find just credible on its face.
Russ Baker: Well, that’s right. We found that very, very interesting. Later on, and that’s also in our most recent article, we were told by somebody who knows her, who heard this directly, that she made … In explaining why she did this and kept this thing going on with him for so long, she said that she intended … We heard various accounts. She intended to write a book, which was going to be a guide for how to have an affair with, or I maybe even used the word entrap, a married man. She also told somebody that she wanted to be the next Monica Lewinsky. If she was 10 when Weiner was a big deal, she was a lot younger, practically not even in existence when Lewinsky happened.
Peter Collins: Right.
Russ Baker: Now of course, a precocious 15-year-old on the internet typing things in like, “Sex, or sex scandal,” might have come across any of these things. I don’t think it would make her a fan of Anthony Weiner.
Peter Collins: Right, yeah. Now, what about the role of her father? You describe him as facilitating this while it was going on. Now, any dad with a teenage daughter, especially one who is a well-developed hottie, if I can change your language a little bit, would be very protective and if he became aware that his daughter was sexting with this older and disgraced individual, the first move of an honorable father would be to shut it down and to report it to authorities.
Russ Baker: Correct. We don’t know an exact timetable on this of when he became aware. We don’t know if he became aware toward the end, or after it had ended. We definitely know he became aware of it long before the authorities were notified, because he was only too glad to sit down with the Daily Mail, as you say, and make a deal with them, and pocket this money without any attempt to take the criminal action extensively to protect others. He certainly did that. I don’t remember all the details of our research. We had a few people working on this story over the course of a long time, many, many months. I’m sorry to say, I don’t remember exactly what we know about indications of when he became involved or aware of it. It could’ve been at any point and there are even some who think that he may have known about this from the get-go.
Peter Collins: Now, she also made contact with Sydney Leathers and people will remember that unusual name as one of the online contacts that Weiner had in … Was it in the original or the case that blew up around the time he was running for Mayor?
Russ Baker: I’m blanking out. I think it was the second one of these multiple ones.
Peter Collins: Yeah, I think so too.
Russ Baker: The thing is that she again is a complicated and somewhat contrary figure, because she expresses indignation about all these things. Yet, she also has sort of made a career for herself out of being something of a provocateur, and she also has these relationships with Chuck C. Johnson, the alt-right guy, and with some of these tabloids, and then she gets very angry. I remember the New Yorker wrote something about her, and then she kind of went ballistic on the writer and said that it’d been off the record, and then she sends these sort of nasty emails to all kinds of people, including us.
She’s a piece of work, but we gave her, her due and we quoted her accurately. Yeah, so she played a role in this. They tell contrary stories about exactly who did what, but one version of it is that she became aware of this girl. The girl contacted her I believe, and then she said, “Well, this is horrible. This has to be stopped,” and that she then somehow brought it to the attention of, I guess, Chuck, who then brought it to the attention of the Daily Mail. There are different versions of this, but these are these kind of, let’s call them, repeat players in these kinds of sagas.
Peter Collins: Now, what you just said there is interesting and suggests two scenarios. One is that when the girl contacted Sydney Leathers and she shared that with Chuck C. Johnson, he had an ah-ha moment and said, “Well, this is something we can exploit. This is the October surprise we’ve been looking for.” It’s also possible that this was further along when Leathers became aware of it and that this happened without the intervention and enabling of Chuck C. Johnson. Which scenario would you argue for based on what you know, Russ?
Russ Baker: Well, I think you bring up an important point, which is that this kind of thing can happen a lot of different ways. Any figure, and this is not accusing anyone or suggesting anything, but any of those figures, the two we mentioned or any others, could’ve been more involved than they’re willing to say, or it could’ve been just very casual. Now, Chuck did tell me that he had been looking for things, scandals, to cause problems for Hillary Clinton.
He was very open about that, that he … I think he had a fund for that, that he was promoting that, and that he told me at one point that he had said to Leathers, “If you get wind of any things that can embarrass Hillary Clinton, please be in touch.” Then I believe he had said at one point that he had paid her, paid Leathers for this. She then disputed it. I believe he told us that he had … He told me, he and I, it was a recorded phone conversation. Then she I think called him and recorded him saying, “No, I never told him that.” Then, so who can figure this stuff out? There aren’t enough hours in the day.
Peter Collins: Well, and there were other allies of Trump who were chumming the waters looking for dirt and blood, and one of them was this guy Peter Smith, and he had a history of being an oppo-researcher for Republicans. He admitted that he had offered money and even dangled it to Russian hackers, or any hackers who might be able to get the 30,000 allegedly missing emails, the ones that were deleted because we were told that they didn’t relate to her official business at the State Department. Peter Smith died suddenly. There doesn’t seem to be anything nefarious about it. At the same time, he had gone public with his attempts to find dirt to defeat Hillary. There could’ve been a parallel operation that, again, Johnson got wind of and took advantage of, but it’s possible that he didn’t get this ball rolling in the first place.
Russ Baker: Keep in mind, Peter, this is part of this larger tableau, which includes that meeting that everybody now covers and talks about at Trump Tower where you’ve got Donald Jr. and that whole room full of people looking for dirt on Hillary Clinton. May I say by the way, that we may like it, we may not like it, and maybe there was a time in politics when they didn’t throw dirt, but you go back to the Grover Cleveland election with James Blaine and there was some pretty salacious stuff thrown up and back about illegitimate kids. That was 100 and however many years ago. This is what they do. Opposition research is not illegal and promoting this stuff and … I’m not sure whether even if this girl knew that she was deliberately entrapping Anthony Weiner for some purposes, or to make some money, I suppose that maybe there’s a criminal statute there. Probably, I guess, extortion or something.
The fact that she’s underage, you’d have to prove there were adults involved and so forth. All these other people, this would have to be evaluated by somebody who’s a legal expert, and I am not. This stuff goes on all the time, and to think that this is preposterous, and some people complain about these stories we’ve done and saying, “Well, it’s preposterous. This was just this girl, and this terrible Weiner guy, and yeah, it harmed Hillary Clinton, but it was just a coincidence and that’s the end of the story.” I don’t think that’s necessarily true and I think it’s not realistic to fail to consider what you’re talking about, which is the role of these sorts of gambits in campaigns.
Peter Collins: Russ, the other piece here that we should mention is that there was a concerted effort throughout the campaign to promote a story that I found baseless, and I did dig into it, I couldn’t find any credible affirmation or confirmation of it. That’s the so-called Pizza-gate scandal, where the emails of John Podesta’s that were released showed these unusual exchanges where it was always talking about pizza, and that was believed to be code for underage children who were to be sexually exploited. There was an effort to tie that to Hillary Clinton. We can see that there were many efforts to damage the Clinton candidacy with these kinds of sexually charged allegations and theories. I’d like to hear your comment on Pizza-gate, but it’s possible that the same people who were promoting that whole ark, may have had a role in the set-up of Anthony Weiner.
Russ Baker: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s important to remember that many people, maybe most people, don’t follow policy discussions very closely, don’t find policy, even though it impacts us, very interesting. Gossip is always preferable. It’s the difference between broccoli and ice cream and everybody wants the ice cream, even though it may not be nutritious. The Pizza-gate and all this stuff is basically adults behaving like children, frankly. We all love to read the gossip pages, or most of us, because it is fun and it’s escapism. An awful lot of voters actually make up their minds based on these kinds of superficial things.
I heard more voters say things like … particularly Trump voters, saying things, or people who didn’t like Obama, they would say things like, “I don’t like his wife, or she’s too this, or I don’t like the way he speaks.” You would very rarely hear a kind of a detailed analysis of what was wrong with his actual programs, and in fact when I would press them they didn’t know, but they sure knew about anything floating around. Stuff like Pizza-gate, any good strategist understands that this will capture people’s attention and it will be determinative in many cases of who they vote for.
Peter Collins: Yeah, and because there is a history of credible allegations of political figures involved in orgies, and sex parties with underage boys and girls. We just look at Dennis Hastert. Okay, a proven pedophile who was continuing that kind of behavior while he was the Speaker of the House and that whole episode was covered up. He was allowed to essentially plea to some structured financial transactions that violated a section of the Patriot Act that Dennis Hastert had helped pass back in 2001. It does feed the imaginations of people and the suspicions that are fueled by the failure to really expose true crime and it enables these kinds of concocted stories to really gain traction.
Russ Baker: That’s right. By the way, I just want to say this is almost unique to the United States. There are very few other countries where these sorts of stories and themes would take off, because they are a little more, I would say, realistic than we are about human nature, about the complexities and the gray areas of life, about the broad ranges of kinds of people, and who they’re attracted to, and everything else. We do have that image of Bob and Susie Cream Cheese and their 2.2 children, and they go to church every Sunday, and they root for the home team.
Our politicians always present themselves as really very kind of bland people who have all the tastes of all the ordinary folk and … Remember with the pork rinds and all this stuff. This is a common theme. We’ve allowed ourselves to be kind of victimized by this, and of course the media plays into this, creating an utterly impossible standard for any of these people. It sets up this environment where almost anything then can quickly become sort of titillating and can kind of drive the conversation.
Peter Collins: Yeah. Russ, this week Anthony Weiner reported to a federal lockup in Massachusetts. It’s a prison hospital. He has a 21- month sentence to serve and you described that he will be given actual therapy. Do you know what the programs are and can he breeze in and out the way Harvey Weinstein has reported to treat his sex therapy program?
Russ Baker: Well, I don’t know the details and I’m not sure if he’s going to be in that medical facility for a limited time or a longer time. I haven’t seen that explained and I haven’t looked into it. He’s supposed to be in intensive multiple times a week sessions. I don’t know if these are group sessions, or individual counseling where they’re going to try to deal with his compulsions. As you pointed out, and I met him once too, I found him the same way you did. I found him utterly self-absorbed, tense, not really interested in other people very much.
Yet, he had a certain kind of an energy and a kind of a charisma. At the same time, I want to say clearly a very bright guy. Ironically, given how self-involved he is and all these issues he has, politically in terms of his causes and the issues that he championed, he was very much a populist, and a fighter for the underdog, and willing to take on powerful institutions. I think that was one of the reasons that even after his first scandal, he came back and he was a leading contender to be the mayor of New York City.
Peter Collins: Yeah. Now, Russ as we wrap up I want to ask once again, because you have done incredible work over the last few years, exposing the FBI. The way it always insists on investigating itself when any wrongdoing or an agent-involved shooting occurs. I respect that you are an honest critic of the FBI. As you look at the way Comey handled this, and he certainly got a lot of well-deserved criticism, do you think that he was forced by rogue elements inside his own agency to deal with this in the way that he did at risk of being exposed, either before the election or after, if he had not taken the controversial steps that he did?
Russ Baker: I don’t know the answer to that, so I would only be speculating and I’m very careful about speculation. I will say this, if you look at the timing of when the FBI people told him about this, which was much later than after it happened and after they seized machines. I believe it was weeks later. In other words, they waited until fairly close to the election to spring it on him and I think if they had given him a few weeks to think about it or look into it, this might have played out differently. He had to make a snap judgment. I find that suspicious. Those places, they call it the deep state, there are all these levels to those organizations, and there are all these lifers, and they have their own cliques and cabals in there. He was not as FBI lifer, he was an outsider.
I think he was potentially victimized by elements within the bureau that themselves may have been in contact with or working with outside elements. I think that’s quite possible. All you have to do is look at the fact that Comey was seen as a villain by people on the Democratic side during that period, and then seen as a hero later before and when Trump fired him, to kind of come to the conclusion that this is a man who, whatever you want to say about him, was sort of struggling with some tough choices and there were an awful lot of different calculations to be made, probably none of which were optimal.
Peter Collins: Yeah. Well, I’ve been a critic of Comey’s from the time that he was appointed, but I found it fascinating, and I would just amend your description there with this, that he was a rogue for allowing the original email investigation to go forward. He was a hero to Democrats and Hillary supporters in July when he announced that they wouldn’t be prosecuting and that’s a very unusual move as … I rarely agree with Jeff Sessions on anything, but in the pre-textual memo that was written to fire Jim Comey, they did make the case that he basically elbowed out the Attorney General because of her tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton I guess, and he made this public statement that Hillary would not be prosecuted. He spent the next four months as a hero to Democrats and a villain to the Republicans.
Then he switched roles with his initial announcement that there would be a new investigation into the Weiner laptop. Then it was reversed again when he said, “Nothing there, never mind, move on,” right before the election. As you point out, Comey then became a hero to Democrats once again when he was fired by Donald Trump. To me, he’s never been a hero. He is a guy who operated inside the norms of the FBI and his status to me is something that I’ve always been skeptical about.
Russ Baker: Yeah. Of course, some people believe that he was in over his head in general, and of course an outfit like that run by one man, J. Edgar Hoover, for so many decades. I don’t know that it ever really recovered. It probably, like the CIA and some of these other outfits, needs a top to bottom rethink, and cleaning out, and it would take some extraordinary widely trusted individual to do that. He certainly is not that. Yeah, it’s hard to know what to make of all of this. It’s been a kind of a seesaw, hasn’t it?
Peter Collins: Yeah.
Russ Baker: I’m glad you brought out those extra twists.
Peter Collins: All right.
Russ Baker: It is trajectory.
Peter Collins: Russ, anything else you’d like to mention about this investigation you’ve published at
Russ Baker: We intend to continue looking at this and other stories. We always love to hear from people who have insight, or information, and you can always contact us by the site. Of course also, keep an eye out for our work on this and on the JFK records release we’ve been working on by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Peter Collins: All right. Russ Baker from Always great to visit with you. Thanks for joining me today.
Russ Baker: Thank you, Peter.
Peter Collins: Thanks for listening to this in-depth interview with Journalist Russ Baker. I appreciate your feedback. Email ... t-mustard/

New Revelations on the Sex Scandal That Helped Trump Win

Anthony Weiner
Photo credit: Coalition for Queens / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Today, Anthony Weiner enters a federal prison hospital in Massachusetts to begin serving a 21-month sentence for his online relationship with an underage girl. He’ll be in an intensive counseling and treatment program.

On its face, the final act of Weiner’s protracted and ugly fall seems straightforward — a sordid tale of a self-destructive middle-aged politician’s exploitative cyber-relationship with a minor. And, make no mistake, that is much of the story.

But close scrutiny reveals far more to it than meets the eye.

Given his admitted culpability in a sex-crime, Weiner’s imprisonment would indeed seem a fitting last act in this saga — were it not for facts pointing to his original indictment having played a significant role in Donald Trump’s surprise presidential victory.

Because it did play a role, it’s important to understand whether the timing of that investigation was just a lucky coincidence for Trump — or something more insidious.

A thorough WhoWhatWhy investigation seems to suggest the latter. Our work has turned up a fascinating cast of characters, some with political connections, who were closely connected to a sequence of events that began with a teenage girl in North Carolina sending fan messages to Congressman Weiner, and ended in one of the biggest electoral upsets in American history. (We will only refer to her as “the girl” since she is still under 18 and the victim of a sex crime.)

When WhoWhatWhy went to the girl’s hometown to connect some dots, we encountered a wall of silence. Doors were slammed in our faces and people with knowledge of what happened threatened to call the police or take legal action if we persisted in our inquiries.

While that made our work more difficult, it did not stop us from assembling enough pieces to this puzzle to arrive at some telling initial conclusions.

These include the fact that the girl’s actions were shaped by adults besides Weiner himself, including her own father and a Trump surrogate. Did they manipulate a teen into her peculiar aspiration to be, as she told at least two people, “the next Monica Lewinsky?”

And was this intended not only to compromise an easily-snared Weiner, but also to achieve a historic coup: preventing the pre-ordained election of America’s first woman president, Hillary Clinton?

Background and New Doubts
Readers may recall how the revelation of Weiner’s interactions with a minor resulted in the federal seizure of a laptop containing some of then-candidate Clinton’s emails. That, in turn, led then-FBI Director James Comey to reopen his investigation into the Clinton email scandal less than two weeks before Election Day — and to send a letter to Congress making this fact known.

This may have been just the boost Donald Trump needed to put him over the top.

Although we apparently got a key identification wrong, WhoWhatWhy appears to have been vindicated in its early — and essentially lone — effort to raise questions about the roots, growth and impact of this singularly consequential tabloid moment.

Back in May, we first reported that the “sexting” episode resulting in Weiner’s arrest may have been driven in part by a deliberate effort to harm Clinton. We detailed the role of Trump sympathizers in making sure the story took hold and gained maximum attention, while also looking at ties to the law enforcement agencies that acted with surprising speed and vigor — a response which led to the discovery of Clinton’s emails on the computer used by Weiner and his wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

One of these Trump allies was the notorious right-wing provocateur Chuck C. Johnson, who rated high enough in the new president’s firmament to snag a coveted invite to his super-secretive victory party. Multiple sources have informed WhoWhatWhy that Johnson and the girl communicated during the time she was sexting with Weiner. While the details of their conversations are murky, the very fact that the girl and Johnson communicated seems highly significant.

Johnson is especially close to deep-pocketed fellow “right-wing populist” Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary army formerly called Blackwater.

As we mentioned in our previous story on Weiner, Johnson paid an undisclosed amount of money to surface the Weiner sexting story, and — he bragged to WhoWhatWhy — he brought women to the final debate press conference who had leveled charges of sexual assault at Bill Clinton. “I was the one who arranged the whole thing,” Johnson said. “From top to bottom.” (Johnson told WhoWhatWhy that he spent a whopping total of one million dollars of his own money on opposition research against Hillary Clinton.)

One important fact that has not been appreciated until now is the timing of the damaging article in that pro-Trump publication. It ran on September 21, 2016 — just one day before the girl’s 16th birthday. This made it possible for to release it when it served to benefit Trump the most in the polls: while still referring to the girl as being 15, which is below North Carolina’s (and most states’) age of consent.
Recently, the New York Times lent significant — if typically subtle and easily overlooked — credence to WhoWhatWhy’s early hypothesis that there was more to the story than Weiner’s illicit and disturbing conduct.

Up until then, Weiner’s attorney, Arlo Devlin-Brown, himself had expressed no doubts at all about the media-consensus account of what happened — which painted the story as nothing more than a deviant Weiner taking advantage of a teenage girl.

That changed on September 13. In a story mainly about Weiner’s remorse and struggle to avoid jail time, the paper quoted from a memo put together by Devlin-Brown — selecting comments that implicitly raised flags about the motivation behind the girl’s contacting Weiner in the first place.

This is significant because, until then, the news media had given no consideration to larger forces being in play.

In addition, the Times offered a reversal of an earlier narrative the girl herself had advanced in an interview with BuzzFeed, in which she had claimed to be mortified to have inadvertently damaged Clinton’s chances of being elected.

She also told investigators that she hoped “somehow to influence the U.S. presidential election, in addition to securing personal profit.”

The next day, the Times ran a piece which amplified Devlin-Brown’s questions about the girl’s motives and cyber-messaging behaviors. In it, the defense counsel’s memo was quoted in detail, describing the girl’s highly sexualized attempts to get “Anthony to act out” — beginning with her initial messages to him, which offered to “prove she had a vagina” — as well as her “selectively taking screenshots of her phone to document the exchanges before they disappeared.”

Most tantalizingly, Devlin-Brown — who had declined multiple requests for interviews from WhoWhatWhy during the course of our earlier investigation — asked the court to provide evidence “relating to political motivations by the victim or her father to damage [Clinton],” and “disclosures made to the Trump campaign or its surrogates” before the exclusive publication of the Weiner allegations on the mass-circulation, conservative tabloid news site

One important fact that has not been appreciated until now is the timing of the damaging article in that pro-Trump publication. It ran on September 21, 2016 — just one day before the girl’s 16th birthday. This made it possible for to release it when it served to benefit Trump the most in the polls: while still referring to the girl as being 15, which is below North Carolina’s (and most states’) age of consent. reached out to the 15-year-old girl’s family earlier this month after receiving information about her relationship with Weiner.

Moreover, in light of how the sexting relationship would come to be portrayed by the media, and most importantly the FBI, the girl and her father offered a puzzling rationale as to why they approached not law enforcement but a right-wing tabloid known for paying sources.

Although the girl said she did not want to press charges because she believes her relationship with Weiner was consensual, she and her father agreed to sit down for an interview out of concern that Weiner may be sexting with other underage girls.

While the girl’s depiction of her cyber-relationship with Weiner as “consensual” can easily be chalked up to teen naivete, her father facilitating (and taking part in) a paid interview before alerting authorities seems less innocent.

His actions, though atypical, might not be so mysterious. Sources inside the family complain that, strapped for cash, he began dipping liberally into his daughter’s $30,000 interview fee as soon as the check cleared.

Further evidence that the girl’s priorities may have been shaped by her father’s need for money comes from Sydney Leathers, a cyber-paramour of Weiner’s, who derailed his 2013 mayoral run and was contacted by the girl during May of 2016. “I told her to go to the police, she didn’t want to go to the police,” Leathers told WhoWhatWhy.

WhoWhatWhy Digs Deeper
Coverage of Weiner’s online relationship with the 15-year-old girl has been unrelenting and focused solely on Weiner. Not only was the episode lurid (and therefore prime fodder for a voyeuristic public), but it represented the final debasement in Weiner’s long-running, much-chronicled pattern of self-destructive behavior.

Beginning in 2011, separate, highly publicized sexting incidents with women in their 20s torpedoed first his congressional career and then, after he had partially recovered, a formidable, populist-oriented bid to become mayor of New York City.

But Weiner’s well-known lack of self control had put him in the crosshairs of Republican apparatchiks looking to further embarrass him, his wife Huma Abedin and, by extension, her boss Hillary Clinton. This, combined with the far-reaching effects of the Weiner criminal investigation, should have spurred journalists to dig further.

Since our last report on the scandal, WhoWhatWhy has conducted lengthy interviews with two close family members who possess direct knowledge of Weiner’s accuser’s actions and private statements. (One of these sources read our piece without recognizing the misidentification, contacting us only to supplement the record, but was instrumental in correcting a reporting error in which we focused on another, slightly older, girl who attended the same school.)

The sources each maintain that the girl’s father — her main custodian during the period she and Weiner were carrying on a cyber-fling — encouraged her efforts to communicate with the 53-year-old politician. Perhaps taking her cue from her father, who we were told struggled financially due to a serious gambling problem, the girl herself spoke repeatedly about wanting to profit financially from her cyber-affair with Weiner.

“She talks constantly of ‘[financial] restitution,’” says one of the sources, who also notes she has embraced our society’s unfortunate equation of fame and infamy.

“I want to be the next Monica Lewinsky,” the girl told family members separately, referring to the White House intern whose sexual relations with Bill Clinton in the late 1990s nearly took down his presidency.

That the girl wanted to damage Hillary Clinton — a disclosure that has not received wide attention — is not totally new, having first been noted in passing in a wide-ranging May 2017 New Yorker piece about Comey’s firing. In a private Facebook message, which in turn scolded and warned Weiner for his behaviors, Leathers wrote in part, “She’s talking about potentially messing with Hillary’s campaign.” (Leathers went on to receive a payout from for helping to arrange the interview with the girl.)

The girl has not been shy about accepting selected high-profile opportunities to put out her message — a message that never deviates from the theme that she was a naive innocent with benign motives when she contacted the radioactive politician. This September 13, she appeared on the tabloid show Inside Edition, with her image unobscured for the first time, and repeated that line:

“I just sent him a nice message: ‘Hello, I’m a huge fan,’ she recalled, but said that after he sent her some shirtless photos of himself, she “realized it was going downhill.” She adds, “I was disgusted. … That’s part of the reason I came forward.”

This is a slight variation of the account she first gave to back in September. The new interview raises two vexing questions that the previous interviewer failed to touch upon. How did a 15-year-old girl become a “huge fan” of a congressman from a faraway state, who resigned in disgrace when she was 10 years old? Indeed, how many people of any age would consider themselves “a huge fan” of Weiner in his years of disgrace? And if the girl was so disgusted with Weiner from the get-go, why did she carry on communicating with him for six more months?

Besides her father’s reported financial motives (he declined to speak to WhoWhatWhy) and her own desire for notoriety, another partial answer to the riddle may lie in the influence of Leathers — a constant, somewhat contradictory, media presence throughout the entire scandal.

First contacted by the girl in May, 2016, Leathers’ initial reactions included asking her own therapist to notify North Carolina Child Protective Services about what she was told (nothing came of it); she also, as related above, warned Weiner about the girl’s motives and profited from setting up her interview. Most recently, she told the Post that, for her, the news that Weiner would do time was “a birthday gift.”

In a telephone interview with WhoWhatWhy after our second Weiner piece, Leathers wondered, albeit in a limited way, how she might have served as a model for the troubled girl’s behavior. The girl had spoken with at least one other media personality about Weiner around May, gossip blogger Nik Richie. He was the person Leathers tipped off in 2013 about her own cyber-sex with Weiner, allowing his website The Dirty to break the story.

“I don’t know if she was just trying to do what I did or whatever, but she went to Nik and he approached me,” Leathers said.

After the girl and her father sold her story for $30,000 to, the ramifications of Weiner’s dalliance quickly went far beyond those intimately involved. By late October, 2016, it had spiralled into a renewed investigation of Clinton’s State Department emails.

The investigation was quickly pronounced over, but by that time it was two days before the election — and Trump had re-gained much needed momentum, according to opinion polls. In a September 13, 2017, piece devoted to Weiner’s sentencing, the Times reminded us that back in May “Clinton attributed her loss in part” to the last-minute FBI investigation. And Clinton re-asserts that point in her new book.

To be sure, Clinton has displayed a face-saving tendency to pin much of the blame for her surprise loss on other people and external factors, generating widespread criticism. But the May claim is indeed supported by polling data.

Hillary Rodham, Huma Abedin
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Brussels, Belgium December 4, 2009 with Huma Abedin on far right.
Photo credit: U.S. Department of State / Flickr

In May of this year, WhoWhatWhy published an 8,000-word investigation which posited that the former FBI director’s bombshell October 28, 2016 announcement was far from being just lucky happenstance for Trump. Instead, according to our analysis of the available facts, Comey may have been manipulated by a well-oiled pro-Trump media machine. Trump forces were able to use Weiner’s improper sexting relationship to animate their base and breathe life into a recycled right-wing scenario placing the Clintons in a web of criminality.

Moreover, confident predictions by Trump surrogates such as Rudy Giuliani and Erik Prince that Clinton would be defeated by an “October Surprise” that the Trump team had up their sleeve indicate an awareness of something big to come. Both Giuliani and Prince have deep ties to the NYPD and the FBI, raising the question of whether their confidence came from back-channel cooperation between these surrogates and friends in law enforcement.

Another campaign surrogate with solid premonitions was Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara. On October 21, she and husband Eric visited GOP headquarters in Gaston County, North Carolina — where Weiner’s sexting victim lived. Three days later, Lara Trump appeared on Fox and Friends and predicted a late-breaking “October Surprise.” That surprise, of course, was not the Weiner scandal itself — but that FBI Director Comey would within a few days time open a new Clinton investigation because of Weiner.

Three days before the election, Chuck Johnson’s aforementioned friend Erik Prince gave an interview on Breitbart Radio, telling the host that he had learned what was hidden on Weiner and Abedin’s shared laptop from well-placed sources in the NYPD. He said it included smoking-gun evidence of “money laundering” and of a Clinton “sex island” with “under-age sex slaves,” adding further that Abedin ​was​ “an agent of influence very sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.​”​ None of these assertions held up, but for the next four days they would spread like wildfire on ​right-wing​ news sites, re-igniting the fake news “pizza-gate” scare and renewing cries of “lock her up.”

Whether the girl and/or her father played a role, wittingly or otherwise, in a larger political operation remains unclear. One thing is certain, however: the “October Surprise” and the boost it gave Trump would have been impossible without them.

Getting to the bottom of this complicated but historically important tale has not been easy. We have had both successes and failures in following the myriad strands.

Anthony Weiner
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Coalition for Queens / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) and Twitter

Our initial report on this matter concentrated on inconsistencies in how the mainstream media reported the story. It also drew attention to indications that the accounts of the victim and her father could not be taken at face value. And it probed their motivations in seeking to publicize the Weiner matter in the manner they did at the time they did.

The victim’s identity was not then known, but a source provided us with what he felt — and what appeared to be — a match. That resulted in our next article on the topic. As it turned out, that identification was of a second person from the same town and school who — as her own mother indicated to us — may also have played some role in the interactions with Weiner, possibly as part of a “group project.” This conflation resulted in our erroneously stating (we have since taken down that second article) that the victim had falsely claimed to be underage when she was not, and that the father had a criminal record. Those facts applied to the other girl.

Amid all these complications and intimations of intrigue, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture: A man closely tied to the frontrunner in the presidential race, a man with known moral failings, was targeted — very likely for political gain. If that was the plan, it succeeded. And the country is living with the consequences.

We believe, however, given the potentially disastrous nature of the Trump presidency, that the Weiner matter is not just some obscure and sleazy footnote to the 2016 campaign — but a piece of the hidden backstory of America’s current trajectory. We will continue to investigate. And we are happy to hear from anyone who can shine additional light. ... me-emerge/

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:47 pm
by American Dream

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:04 pm
by liminalOyster
It would be painfully easy even expected to walk away from the Reveal piece believing Jeffrey Epstein being connected to the Clintons is an absurd conspiracy theory.

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:54 pm
by American Dream
Such is not a good argument for drinking the Koolaid, however.

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:20 pm
by MacCruiskeen
liminalOyster » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:04 pm wrote:It would be painfully easy even expected to walk away from the Reveal piece believing Jeffrey Epstein being connected to the Clintons is an absurd conspiracy theory.

Which is precisely why "American Dream" keeps posting this kind of shit. His agenda is blatantly obvious. If you doubt this, just observe the abysmal quality of his "responses": slimily evasive one-liners, every single time -- creepily affectless, studiedly ambiguous and otherwise almost completely content-free. Here's his "response" to you, verbatim and uncut:

American Dream » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:54 pm wrote:Such is not a good argument for drinking the Koolaid, however.

See? It's entirely typical. Exactly whom, here, is he accusing of "drinking the Koolaid"? Of course he won't say, not least because he cannot.

There was absolutely no good or honest reason for him start a new "Pizzagate" thread. None. It's fly-tipping, in plain sight. And it's flamebait. I don't know why this thread wasn't locked immediately. He just takes these dumps all over this Discussion Board and then flatly refuses to take responsibility for his own droppings. He never condescends to actually discuss his own posts. And, for some reason, he is still allowed to get away with it, here in General Discussion.

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
Military's 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda

Thursday 17 March 2011 13.19 GMT ... l-networks

It's not science-fiction and it's not fantasy, but it is undeniably spooky.

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:36 pm
by MacCruiskeen
By the way, I was handed a 24-hour suspension three days ago. I still have not the faintest idea for what. Nor do I know if anyone else was suspended, and if so, for how long. All I know is that that silent, instant, unexplained suspension took place immediately after I had posted this:

MacCruiskeen » Thu Nov 16, 2017 6:34 pm wrote:As you very well know, there is already a "Pizzagate" thread: What is #Pizzagate?

Stop taking dumps on this Discussion Board.

... which was neither untrue nor unjustified nor unfair nor insulting. Did "American Dream" complain that he had been bullied? Your guess is as good as mine.

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:42 pm
by American Dream
Seb Gorka Paid $40K by Pizzagate Group


Former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka was paid $40,000 late last year by a political group founded by right-wing conspiracy theorists. Newly filed Federal Election Commission records show that the MAGA Coalition paid Gorka’s company, the Threat Knowledge Group, in monthly installments of $20,000 to advise the group after being let go from his White House position. The first two installments came in September and October. A third the following month was refunded a few days later, around the time that Gorka left the group. He signed on initially despite the MAGA Coalition’s founders’ dabbling in conspiracy theories surrounding the 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, and a theory known as “Pizzagate,” which holds that Hillary Clinton and other high-level Democrats ran a child sex trafficking ring out of the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. Gorka is now a Fox News contributor and also recently signed on with The Rebel, a controversial Canadian news network. —Lachlan Markay ... gate-group

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:32 pm
by Jerky
Mac, what is it, exactly, that you think Epstein is guilty of?

Some people here seem to think he's some kind of modern day Gilles de Rais. He's barely even a modern day Polanski.

We aren't talking about a baby-fucking monster here. Epstein mostly had sex with escorts. Then he asked one of his escorts to find him "younger looking girls", and a 14 year old was brought to him. She stripped and gave Epstein a massage, then she went to the police. Bing-bang-boom.

Sleazy, skeevy, and gross, yes. But this is hardly the stuff of the late, lamented Guru's finger-sniffing Pizzagate/Hoaxstead fantasies. Basically, Epstein's vast fortune (a far greater perversion and danger to the social order than his sexual peccadillos are, if we're being honest) allowed him to live out Judge Roy Moore's fantasy life!

So he was chummy with Clinton. And? He was also chummy with Trump, and pretty much everyone he wanted to be chummy with. He's a fucking billionaire.


Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:03 pm
by Rory
Well played, sah. Well played.


Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:05 pm
by cptmarginal
I agree that the previous thread was more than adequate, but that's the case with plenty of stuff. Just look at the forgotten Red Ice Radio thread that I was posting actively in that has now been superseded. Ultimately it matters not one bit. If creating a new thread is indeed trolling, and I'm not saying it isn't, then the best response is to take it at face value and not to insist on suspicions about ulterior motives. It does make for delicious irony, though.

Jerky wrote:Mac, what is it, exactly, that you think Epstein is guilty of?

Some people here seem to think he's some kind of modern day Gilles de Rais. He's barely even a modern day Polanski.

We aren't talking about a baby-fucking monster here. Epstein mostly had sex with escorts. Then he asked one of his escorts to find him "younger looking girls", and a 14 year old was brought to him. She stripped and gave Epstein a massage, then she went to the police. Bing-bang-boom.

Sleazy, skeevy, and gross, yes. But this is hardly the stuff of the late, lamented Guru's finger-sniffing Pizzagate/Hoaxstead fantasies. Basically, Epstein's vast fortune (a far greater perversion and danger to the social order than his sexual peccadillos are, if we're being honest) allowed him to live out Judge Roy Moore's fantasy life!

So he was chummy with Clinton. And? He was also chummy with Trump, and pretty much everyone he wanted to be chummy with. He's a fucking billionaire.


If you are actually being serious with this post, allow me to say that I have not yet fallen for any sort of bizarre nonsense like Pizzagate - yet I still insist that the Epstein situation, as we the public know it, actually matters quite a lot. I say "we the public" because to my mind there is every indication of a pattern of victimization going on for decades. People that are fucking billionaires, as you say, hire powerful private security firms to control access to their private lives and public exposure of their "peccadilloes" so of course we know only a small amount of information. You know, exactly like what Jimmy Savile explained to Louis Theroux about how he is granted access to the social events of British royal family members via a pass that he had been issued by a security firm. But even of that small amount of information, every sign points to something explosive. The most well-known accuser worked at Mar-a-Lago; another met Epstein there, where he had free unlimited access. It certainly was not just one girl; he used more than just escort services (having your spooky partner procure girls for you is more convenient, when she's not busy at a Clinton wedding) and he actually stalked one girl that he did take advantage of at her family home - and was apparently known in the community for that sort of behavior. You say "Epstein mostly had sex with escorts." but I'd wager that assertion was just pulled out of nowhere, and also misses the point by a hilarious margin if just taken at face value as true. The fact that we even have these strange indications of guilt and connection to power (including royalty) coming out of a case where the defendant had a private wing of the prison built just for him after being found guilty, and still didn't stay there says a lot to me about how much this matters. Not to mention the appointment of Acosta.

Anyway, what happens in the Virgin Islands stays in the Virgin Islands, right? Just like it has always been.

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 7:06 pm
by PufPuf93
Pizzagate is a farce and probably was crafted and directed by a select few who had unexpected success in how far the op penetrated the public consciousness.

Epstein activities were real and he was convicted but paid no where near the price of a rank and file sexual predator.

Epstein's island and sexcapade flights illustrates just how small the world of great privilege is and how the privileged have more in common than the masses. The privileged men regularly do things that in mass have great impact but skirt punishment and play at the edge of legality and plausible deniability. Powerful men have always participated in edgy sex were women and often children or adolescents are victims. Women who gain from their association with the privileged male predators remain silent. Civilizations have been more or less accepting of this situation but the technological age had brought the situation more into awareness of the masses (whereby in the past the predation was silently accepted as a fact of life) and there was not media nor necessarily the mixed agenda to remind the masses constantly or even make an issue.

The thing to note about Epstein and his island and sexcapade flights is that this is a junction of Trump and Bill Clinton. But no big deal. Pizzagate.

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 7:25 pm
by Belligerent Savant

Nah, he's just a well-connected billionaire who fucked hookers... amirite, Jerky?

Bunch of playa-haters in here.

Re: Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal

PostPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2018 10:14 pm
by Elvis
If you think Epstein getting one "massage" is "Bing-bang-boom" that's it, folks—you haven't done your homework on Epstein.

cptmarginal wrote:(having your spooky partner procure girls for you is more convenient, when she's not busy at a Clinton wedding)

Thanks, Cpt.

Epstein's procurer girlfriend was in the front fucking row at Chelsea's wedding.

PufPuf93 wrote:But no big deal. Pizzagate.