Maybe next time we take a breather when we see ‘Russia’ in a headline
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed published a report revealing the FBI is looking into more than 60 wire transfers totaling $380,000 that were made from Kremlin-backed banks to Russian embassy Citibank accounts between August 3 and September 20, 2016. The transactions were flagged by Citibank, and two months ago came under the suspicion of the FBI, mainly because of a potentially astonishing memo attached to each of the transfers: “to finance election campaign of 2016.”
In the never-ending purgatory that is the public’s and media’s infatuation with the it-now-seems-pretty-safe-to-say-probable-but-who’s-to-say-how-successful Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, this wouldn’t be the first instance of an evidence trail so brazen it’s practically idiotic. Literally look at anything Donald Trump Jr. tweets. “To finance election campaign of 2016″ certainly seems to be of a kind with every other stupid detail revealed about the suspected Russian effort and the seemingly lackluster attempt to cover it up. Remember “FW- Russia – Clinton – private and confidential“?
Except that, of course, the United States wasn’t the only country on the planet that had an election in the fall of 2016. As BuzzFeed notes, an astounding seven paragraphs below the lede:
Seven nations had federal elections during the span when the funds were sent — including the Duma, Russia’s lower house of Parliament, on Sept. 18, 2016. Russian embassies and diplomatic compounds opened polling stations for voters living abroad.
While one of the payments — dated August 3 and in the amount of $30,000 — was sent to the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., according to BuzzFeed, the payments were directed to nearly 60 different embassies across the world, all of which would have been operating polling stations for voters abroad. If the $380,000 was split up evenly, that would amount to less than $7,000 per embassy. While its feasible — I guess — that Russia had operatives in places like Afghanistan and Nigeria working on undermining the U.S. election, the evidence presented seems to suggest these payments weren’t for funding spy operations, but overtime hours for embassy workers counting ballots.
This is not to say that the FBI shouldn’t be looking into payments from Russian banks to Russian embassies labeled “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Of course it should! That’s the sort of due diligence we should expect from those investigating the mess that is our current reality. And BuzzFeed has every right to publish that the FBI is doing so. But next time when a media outlet comes across a detail that potentially undermines their sensationalist headline, it should consider putting that shit above the fold.