Rachel Maddow: Someone is shopping fake documents showing collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia

Worth your time if you can spare it to watch the whole thing, but if not, pick up the clip below at around 9:40 when she’s explaining how nearly invisible dots left on a printed document can identify which printer produced it. Remember a few weeks ago when the feds busted Reality Winner for allegedly sending a top-secret NSA report on Russian hacking to The Intercept? The Intercept made the mistake of publishing the actual document she sent them, making it easy for the feds to scrutinize the dots on it and figure out in short order who had accessed the printer it came from. Lo and behold, shortly after Winner was arrested, Maddow received a different top-secret document showing a similar pattern of dots. Did Winner send her something too — something much more explosive than what The Intercept got? Or … did some sinister hoaxster photoshop parts of the now publicly available Intercept document into their own document to make it appear more authentic?

The experts Maddow consulted concluded her document is a fake, not just because of the dots but because a member of Trump’s campaign was named in it. If you’ve followed the Devin Nunes/Susan Rice “unmasking” saga, you know that’s a red flag: U.S. citizens aren’t supposed to be named in intelligence reports. They’re described as “American Person #1” or something along those lines and then, if some higher-up in the government wants to know that person’s identity, the NSA or FBI can choose to unmask them by revealing it to the official who inquired. Whoever created the Maddow document made the amateurish error of naming someone in the report despite otherwise going to some lengths, including evidently lifting material from the Intercept document, to make their forgery seem as real as possible. Why? Maddow’s theory, which seems plausible, is that someone is trying to discredit the Russiagate story by discrediting the media’s reporting on it. Get them to publish a momentous forgery and then, after they do, reveal it to be a fake and no one will believe that outlet or any Russia-related bombshells ever again. The hoaxster is cooking up “fake news” in hopes that the media will choke to death on it.

An alternate possibility: The document was created by a Trump-hater and fed to MSNBC in hopes that they’d publish it uncritically and it would rock the White House. The obvious problem with that, though, is that the truth would come out once intel experts looked at it and the NSA confirmed that no such top-secret report existed. The false-flag theory to discredit the media makes more sense than a “destroy Trump” theory to discredit the administration.

Two questions, then. One, obviously: Whodunnit? Two: Has the hoaxster already succeeded in fooling any other outlets? Maddow reminds her viewers that CNN just had a major Russiagate scoop involving Anthony Scaramucci blow up in its face. Maybe CNN got hoodwinked. I’d remind you as well that James Comey’s decision to speak out on the Clinton investigation last year was partly a reaction to an apparently forged email that was part of the DNC hack purporting to have come from Debbie Wasserman Schultz and alleging that Loretta Lynch would see to it that Hillary wasn’t charged. The chief suspect in that forgery was Russian hackers given the email’s provenance. (Russian hackers are also the chief suspect in the fake news report that somehow made its way into Qatari state media amid the crisis with Saudi Arabia.) The Russians would have an obvious motive to discredit American media’s Russiagate reporting by feeding them fake documents and then exposing them as fakes afterward. But if the Russians are behind this, how to explain the amateurish mistake of including the Trump campaign staffer’s name in the fake NSA report? And why would they have needed to photoshop any part of the Intercept document in order to create a convincing forgery?

The other obvious possibility is that a pro-Trump American did it to trick the media. I’m sure in Maddow’s heart of hearts she hopes/suspects someone connected to Trump himself is to blame, as that would make this scoop momentous, but it’d be the height of foolishness for someone linked to the president to risk a major scandal involving planting natsec disinformation to benefit him politically to try to quash Russiagate reporting. It’s too risky considering that the Russia stuff may end up going nowhere anyway and the fact that many anti-Trumpers would conclude that the document is real no matter what evidence was produced to show that it was forged. More likely, if this is what it appears to be — a hoax to see if the liberal media would bite — it’s some MSM-hater/Trump supporter who freelanced the forgery knowing that they’d have a momentous scoop of their own if the press fell for it. It’s a bit like a Project-Veritas-style sting, really. Although given the stakes, involving a major news network falsely reporting evidence of collusion between the president’s campaign and a foreign power, that’d be one ballsy sting.