In today’s world, the news is too often covered as a play by play reporting of what is happening. What is missing is the myriad of investigative journalists that used to peruse the newsrooms where they would gather tons of facts and then piece by piece, they would lay out the entire story as in the Watergate saga. This process can take months.
Now we have the republican President Donald Trump’s Russiagate which portends to be even more complicated than the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. We know for sure that Russia effectively interfered with the 2016 US presidential election process to do damage to the democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. The FBI has recently shared that its agents are also inquiring as to whether there was any coordination going on between the president’s team and Russian operatives to effect the outcome of the election.
There have been some theories developed where journalistic sleuths have gathered facts, already detailed in various credible sources to create a plausible story of what may have happened, overall. These attempts are not to be confused with a fact based case.
The best collection of data about Russiagate is by Seth Abramson where he pieces everything together via twitter. His tale germinates at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington DC, around April 2016, where the Russian strategy had its start with the very same players that we have come to know like Jeff Sessions, Devin Nunes, the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and others.
On 4/5/17, Charles Firth of News.com.au has penned a synopsis of Mr. Abramson’ work, “What really happened at the Mayflower Hotel?”
A THEORY about Donald Trump emerged on Twitter last week that could have huge ramifications.
You might not have heard of the Mayflower Hotel scandal, but it goes to the heart of Trump’s unseemly relationship with Russia.
The weird thing about the scandal is that all the major facts have already been reported by established journalists in respected media outlets, yet none of them have laid out a narrative that explains how the facts fit together. Until now.
During the week, lawyer and journalist Seth Abramson released a so-called ‘megathread’ on Twitter, which pieced together an incredible tale, pointing to a cocktail party at the Mayflower Hotel last year as the place where the agreement for Russia to assist Trump in the elections all began.
“On 27th April last year — the night that he made his first major foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel — Donald Trump held a secret cocktail party at that very same hotel where he met with the ambassadors of Russia, Italy and Singapore.”
“Why are Russia, Italy and Singapore significant?”
“Well, remember the dossier of dirt on Trump that Buzzfeed released at the end of last year? It was written in the months after that April 27th meeting, and it alleged there was a deal that Trump would drop the sanctions against Russia and let them sell 19 percent of oil company Rosneft, and that Trump would benefit from this transaction.”
The thing is that in early December, shortly after Trump had won the election, 19.5 percent of Rosneft was sold to unknown buyers, in a complicated three-nation deal. Who were the countries party to the deal? Russia, Italy and Singapore.”
“While the details of the deal are secret, the dossier implied that if Trump was elected, and let the deal slide through, he would receive a “brokerage fee” for helping make it happen. If that fee was the extra 0.5 percent on the transaction, that means that”
“Trump may have pocketed $200-$250 million out of the transaction.”
Thus, the allegation at the centre of the Mayflower Hotel Scandal is that on that night a deal was struck: The Russians would assist Trump in getting elected, and in return, Trump would drop sanctions against Russia, allowing the Rosneft deal to go through, and to sweeten the deal, Trump would receive 0.5 percent “brokerage fee”.
All of the information that Abramson has used to compile this narrative has been reported in traditional media outlets with household names: The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post. But none of them have quite pulled the threads together. Instead, this has been left to “citizen journalists” on Twitter.
I interviewed Abramson during the week. He calls what he’s doing “Curatorial Journalism”.
He says that traditional media has been so behind the game on some of these bigger stories because traditional media companies have over-invested in punditry, and under-invested in proper investigative journalism, that can pull the strings together.
But Abramson is not surprised. He says the modern commercial newsroom is not cut out to deal with the sheer volume of information available. “Today there’s simply too much information being produced for it to be coherently consumed by any one person. So a curator is needed to assist investigative reporters in being heard.”
“I’m sifting through a large amount of data and exposing and narrating novel relations between existing content.”
He says that it’s fascinating to piece together a story, and that sometimes outsiders, who aren’t on the “Washington dinner-party” circuit are in a better position to do it. “Seeing how a news story barely noticed at the time it was published sheds light on another story published in a different venue and possibly even a different nation.”
For example, Trump’s Attorney-General Jeff Sessions was at the party that night. He has admitted to meeting the Russian Ambassador twice during the election campaign, but still has not acknowledged meeting him a third time at the Mayflower Hotel, suggesting that the Mayflower Hotel meeting is particularly sensitive.
And guess who else was there that night? Devin Nunes, the increasingly discredited Republican Congressman, who is currently supposed to be running the House Investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.
As for Abramson, he says that as a Jew and a lawyer, he is invested in this story, and that’s what gives his journalism an edge. “The best citizen journalists are those committed to the topics they’re investigating: it makes you work harder, sweat the details more, and be conscientious about how your research is presented.”
And although he’s grateful that Twitter has enabled this new, important form of journalism, he also acknowledges that it’s also a very clunky way to do it. “I’m thankful to Twitter for giving me an opportunity to share my writing, but in so many respects it’s a terrible medium.”
Here is a link to Seth Abramson’s work via twitter: Abramson’s Megathread.