The claims came from Claude Taylor, a former staffer in the administration of President Bill Clinton, and Louise Mensch, a former member of Parliament in the United Kingdom. The two "co-writers" are popular on Twitter as fervent opponents of Trump, and they've gained a reputation for breaking stories about outrageous and unlawful actions purportedly undertaken by the president and those close to him.
Perhaps their most famously explosive allegation was that Trump was in the midst of being replaced by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who would reign as the secret president.
On July 20, Taylor reported that Trump's New York modelling agency (Trump Model Management, which shuttered in April 2017) was a front for a sex-trafficking ring that was being investigated by the Financial Crimes Bureau, and that Trump and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had ties to the money laundering branch of the Russian mafia.
The source of these allegations was "Caitlin," an official in the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "Caitlin" conveyed the details of the "investigations" to Taylor, who then tweeted and reported about them. Mensch then retweeted Taylor's articles about the investigations.
But there is no Caitlin and there are no investigations. The leaker's true identity is simply a hoaxer, reported The Guardian on Tuesday.
The hoaxer justified her behavior by saying that she acted out of frustration of Taylor and Mensch participating in the "dissemination of fake news," such as the uncorroborated Hatch/Trump story. She does not work for Schneiderman, and the stories she fed Taylor and Mensch were entirely bogus.
"Taylor asked no questions to verify my identity, did no vetting whatsoever, sought no confirmation from a second source – but instead asked leading questions to support his various theories, asking me to verify them," the hoaxer told The Guardian in an email.
She added that Taylor pushed her for more sensational material in their email exchanges. "Is there anything you have heard that's really going to shock people? An 'Oh my god!' sort of thing?"
To his credit, Taylor apologized on Twitter after being called out for using a fake source. "As a 'citizen journalist' I acknowledge my error and do apologize," he wrote.
On Sputnik Radio's Fault Lines, co-host Garland Nixon said that Taylor "ain't anywhere near a journalist, because if somebody calls and you press him for information, and you don't vet any of it, and say 'hey, just give me something hot?' That's not journalism."
"I'm going to give him a quarter credit here," Nixon's co-host Lee Stranahan countered. "Maybe a third. Here's why: a lot of journalists simply never [own up to false reporting] at all."
Journalists such as Louise Mensch, who denied that she was using faulty information. She told The Guardian that her allegations (nearly identical to Taylor's) came from her own sources, that she refused to reveal. When asked why she retweeted Taylor's fake tweets, she replied that "I don't think anybody can vet anybody else's sources."
She also retweeted a couple of posts suggesting the Guardian itself was in the employ of Russian state intelligence services — her go-to tactic when dealing with critics.
And you should stop spreading deza for FSB.— Counterchekist (@counterchekist) August 28, 2017
Louise Mensch runs Patribiotics, which describes itself as an outlet for "investigative journalism and analysis of the Russian hack on America's election and related topics." She has written articles for The Guardian, The New York Times (including an op-ed in March offering advice to US officials investigating allegations of Russian collusion), and The Sun. In the past, she has claimed that the 2017 Daesh terrorist attack against an Istanbul nightclub was a Russian false flag operation, that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a Russian mole, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Andrew Breitbart (founder of Breitbart news) assassinated so former White House Advisor Steven Bannon could take over.
"Pretty much everybody that dies, the death was related to the Vladimir Putin," deadpanned Nixon.