On Friday afternoon, President Trump tweeted an image of Senator Chuck Schumer standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It depicts the two men seemingly cordially holding coffee and donuts.
“We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!” Trump wrote.
The image and the narrative framing itself is ripped directly from The Drudge Report, which included the picture and a related story at the top of its homepage on Friday.
The defensive posture from Trump and supportive media outlets is a response to the news on Thursday that Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would be recusing himself from any investigations into the alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Sessions recused himself after the revelation that he had spoken with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and told the Senate that he had no such contact with Kremlin officials.
Like Sessions, Schumer has met with Russian officials from time to time. Unlike Sessions, however, there is no evidence of Schumer lying about such conversations.
Schumer was roped in to Trump’s attack specifically because he called for Sessions to resign.
The story on Drudge linked out to an article by Gateway Pundit, which has written several articles over the past 24 hours attempting to link Senate Democrats to Russia. A story published by Joe Hoft late Thursday night on Gateway Pundit titled “The Great Projectionists: Democrat Party Ties to Russia are Criminal” led the phrase “Democrat Party Ties to Russia” to trend on Twitter.
Other notable right-wing and conspiracy accounts, like those belonging to InfoWars editors, helped push the trend to the top of Twitter, usually accompanied by memes about Schumer or Hillary Clinton.
One of the first recent iterations of the particular Schumer storyline appeared in the comment section of a Free Republic post on March 2 which was just a reprint of an article written by conservative author Erick Erickson entitled “The Jeff Sessions Attack is a Nothingburger.” That evening, Reddit user willdogs posted the image on the_donald subreddit and it was upvoted tens of thousands of times.
That same evening, author Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit published a post with the image and the title “Flashback: Chuck Schumer Meets with Putin in New York City.”
“Where’s the outrage?” Hoft writes. “Democrat Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer continues to push the Russia conspiracy. But it was Schumer who met with Putin in New York City – not Trump.”
Another rendition of the story appeared on March 2 on the site “The Truth Division,” which claims that it is “dedicated to defending conservatism, exposing establishment politics, and tearing down the globalist political class -- it's an adventure.”
Gateway Pundit recently received a spot in the White House press room, despite repeatedly publishing false information collected by troll accounts on Twitter.
Just last week, Sean Hannity was forced to apologize after citing a Gateway Pundit article that claimed John McCain solicited campaign donations from Russia. The article cited “Reddit users” as its source, and was entirely fabricated.
In January, Hoft published a story blaming the wrong Esteban Santiago for the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting attack, then claimed CNN ran a photo of the framed man and lightened his skin on-air. In truth, CNN hadn’t yet run a photo of either the shooter or the framed man, nor did they lighten either picture. Hoft cited a lone Twitter user whose account had been created weeks prior.
Moments after the Trump tweet went up, fans on the_donald subreddit rejoiced because they had also posted the image. One user triumphantly remarked: “THE MADMAN!! What an absolute savage. His aids lurk on here, guys. This is the best timeline.”
Schumer responded with a tweet of his own saying “Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in '03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team?”