Fake News: Times, Post Omit Facts in Trump Australian Dust-Up

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It all fits the media template.

President Trump, that reckless egomaniac, gets on the phone with the Prime Minister of Australia who leads a beloved American ally. Then Trump blows his top and hangs up over the subject of admitting refugees into the US.

Except, of course, in the telling the Washington Post and the New York Times managed in some mystifying, unfathomable way to leave out a set of two key facts. Facts that could be found with a stroke of the keyboard to Mr. Google.

Let’s start with the “facts” as presented, first by the Post, then by the Times.

Here is the Post headline: "This was the worst call by far’: Trump badgered, bragged and abruptly ended phone call with Australian leader." 

The Post starts their story starts this way:

“It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.”

For the Times the headline was this: "U.S.-Australia Rift Is Possible After Trump Ends Call With Prime Minister."

The Times story begins this way:

WASHINGTON — A phone call between President Trump and the Australian prime minister is threatening to develop into a diplomatic rift between two stalwart allies after the two men exchanged harsh words over refugee policy, and Mr. Trump abruptly ended the call.

The phone call last Saturday between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull turned contentious after the Australian leader pressed the president to honor an agreement to accept 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Late Wednesday night, Mr. Trump reiterated his anger over the agreement on Twitter. He called the agreement a “dumb deal” and blamed the Obama administration for accepting it but then said that he would “study” it. The tweet was posted after The Washington Post reported details of the phone call.”

The Times even ran an image of Trump’s tweet, as seen here:

So you get the story, right? The new President of the United States learns of a “dumb deal” on refugees made by the Obama administration with Australia and blows a gasket. All of this is news and Trump is, goes the implication, the first person to express outrage over this arrangement. 

Hmmm. What was left out of these stories? A very relevant something else.

Over here at the web site of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, he the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we learn something else. It seems that Senator Grassley and his House counterpart, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, have been aware of this deal for some time - and, like the new President, were distinctly unhappy about it. So unhappy were they that on November 22, 2016, the two wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and said this - complete text below with bold print supplied:

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Dear Secretaries Johnson and Kerry:

On November 11, a press report surfaced disclosing that the United States Government was finalizing a deal with Australia in which the United States would take refugees located on certain Pacific island nations that Australia has refused to admit.  Congress learned, through the media, that 1,800 migrants interdicted before reaching Australia’s shores, could be transferred from detention facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru to U.S. soil.  

Upon requesting confirmation of the news report, our staffs were briefed by officials from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.  Officials from your departments confirmed that an agreement between the U.S. and Australia has been signed by a representative of the State Department, that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would refer individuals for resettlement to the United States, and that interviews and operations would begin almost immediately.  

Your employees reported that 2,465 individuals currently reside in detention facilities in Papa New Guinea and Nauru.  When asked how many of the 2,465 individuals in the detention facilities the U.S. agreed to consider for resettlement in the U.S., the briefers said that number was classified.  

However, your employees confirmed that the individuals being detained and who will be eligible to seek resettlement are largely from the following countries:  
•    Iran
•    Stateless
•    Sri Lanka
•    Pakistan
•    Afghanistan
•    Somalia
•    Iraq
•    Sudan

This situation is concerning for many reasons.  First, your departments negotiated an international agreement regarding refugees without consulting or notifying Congress.  Such information was not disclosed to Congress during the annual refugee consultation that occurred on September 13, 2016, even though your staff confirmed that the agreement had, at the time, been negotiated “for months.” Second, the agreement and the number of refugees to be resettled has been deemed by your departments as classified, thus the American people are left in the dark as to the rationale for this agreement.  Third, the individuals who will be resettled are coming from countries of national security concern.  In fact, two of the countries are officially designated by the State Department to be State Sponsors of Terrorism.  Finally, it begs the question why Australia and other countries refuse to admit these individuals, what other countries are doing to help alleviate the situation, what kind of precedent this sets for future refugees interdicted at sea by Australian forces and prevented from entering Australia, and how a similar situation will be prevented in the future.    

We appreciate the offer to provide a classified briefing on the matter, but we also firmly believe the American people should be fully aware of the specific details of this agreement and why it was done in secret.  We ask that you immediately make the agreement available to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and we ask for your cooperation to better understanding every aspect of this resettlement agreement.

So concerned were Grassley and Goodlatte about this deal with Australia - and unsatisfied with the response to their first letter - that they wrote a second letter to Kerry and Johnson on December 6th. 

That second letter said, in part, this, bold print supplied:

Dear Secretaries Johnson and Kerry:

We write to follow up on our November 22, 2016 letter regarding the agreement between the United States and Australia for the United States to consider for admission as refugees, potentially over 2,400 migrants currently detained in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, whom Australia has refused to admit.  These migrants are nationals of countries like Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and Sudan, as well as others.  As you know, your agencies have deemed the agreement classified.  This is despite the fact that classification of an agreement regarding individuals to be considered for admission by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is unprecedented.

We appreciate your making staff available to provide us with the document in a classified setting and to brief us regarding the circumstances surrounding the agreement.  It is now absolutely apparent to us that there was no reason for the agreement to be classified from the outset, and that it should not continue to be classified.  To that end, we request that you declassify the document outlining the agreement so that the American people can read it.

The American people have a right to be fully aware of the actions of their government regarding foreign nationals who may be admitted to the United States.  American taxpayers not only foot the bill for the majority of the refugee resettlement in the United States, but they bear any consequences regarding the security implications of those admitted to the U.S.

Please respond by December 13, 2016, with your decision as to whether or not you will declassify the U.S.-Australia refugee agreement document….

Now. Go back and take a look at the Post and Times coverage of the Trump call to the Australian Prime Minister. There is no reference - none, zero, nada - to the fact that two senior members of Congress, chairmen of important committees both - were not only aware of this deal but, like Trump, were very, very upset with it. So upset they demanded the declassification of the deal and that the details be made public immediately for the American people to know. 

The Post story also says this of the President:

“He repeatedly misstated the number of refugees called for in the agreement as 2,000 rather than 1,250….”

Yet in their letter Grassley and Goodlatte say something else - that the number of migrants is “potentially over 2,400 migrants..”

The Times version similarly made no reference to the fact that the Judiciary Committee chairmen in both House and Senate were very disturbed about the Australian deal and had been demanding for weeks - since November 22nd - that the details be declassified and presented to the American public.

Notable? Now that the Trump administration is in office, on February 2nd Senator Grassley picked up where he left off, now writing the just-sworn in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and saying this:

After a classified briefing about the agreement that was provided to Senate and House Judiciary Committee staff in December of 2016, it became apparent that there was no reason for the agreement to be classified, and I and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte subsequently called for its declassification.  The Department of Homeland Security defers to the Department of State on declassification of the agreement and, for its part, the State Department has yet to commit to declassification.  Therefore, I renew my request with your Department to declassify this agreement so that the American people can read it.  As I said before, the American people have a right to be fully aware of the actions of their government regarding foreign nationals who may be admitted to the United States.  American taxpayers not only foot the bill for the majority of the refugee resettlement in the United States, but they bear any consequences regarding the security implications of those admitted to our country.

Headlines in the Post and the Times about this new request? Of course not. 

So why ignore this major piece of information on this story in the first place? Easy answer. The media template - repeatedly used by the Post and the Times - is that Trump is out of control. The proverbial bull who carries his own china shop around with him. In this case the idea is to present the President as an out-of-control-idiot who has picked a fight with our good ole allies the Aussies when nobody would ever dream of doing such an outrageous thing. Leaving out of their reporting entirely the very relevant fact that Trump’s outrage was shared months ago by two very senior members of the United States House and Senate. Members who have been so furious about this deal since first discovering it last fall that they have written not once but twice to the Obama Secretaries of State and DHS demanding the details be declassified for the American people to see.

In other words? What we behold here at the Post and Times in this highly misleading narrative of the Australian story is not news but, yes indeed, “fake news.” 

Shocker, no? No.