When Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey he might have thought that would stop – or at least slow down – the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. Instead, it has ignited the Democratic opposition, enraged many private citizens, and caught the attention of many journalists.
Now the muckraking magazine Mother Jones is pushing ahead with plans to get to the bottom of the Trump-Russia connections and spill the secrets of what happened, starting with uncovering the secret information in Congressional national security briefs.
Mother Jones, a non-profit based in San Francisco, today announced the launch of an initial $500,000 crowd-funding campaign to hire reporters, editors, fact-checkers, researchers and others to do multimedia work and legal reviews.
The magazine is named after Mary Harris Jones, aka Mother Jones, who in the first years of the 20th century was an Irish-American schoolteacher and dressmaker. She became a trade union activist who fought to end the practice of child labor and other abuses.
Those fighting unionization in the 1920s and 1930s called her “the most dangerous woman in America.” Mother Jones’s motto was: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
Mother Jones magazine has been constantly working on the Trump-Russia story. In October, its Washington bureau chief David Corn was one of the first to report that a veteran spy had given the FBI information about a Russian operation that could possibly compromise Donald Trump.
That story was followed up by mainstream publications including The New York Times and CNN.
However, that was just normal business. What happened this week was revelatory to them: “And then Trump fired the FBI director – and made it plain for everyone that the Russia story really does represent a serious threat to American democracy.”
“Because now it’s no longer just about how exactly the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, or whether Trump or his associates merely winked and nodded or actively colluded,” adds Mother Jones in an announcement. “It’s about whether the public’s right to know the truth is stronger than a powerful man’s burning desire to keep it hidden.”
Mother Jones is calling its project Trumpocracy: The Russia Connection. It has already received a $200,000 grant from The Glaser Progress Foundation, which will also put up an additional $50,000 once the initial goal is reached.
Mother Jones expects to raise most of the money by signing up at least 1,000 new sustaining donors who will give $15 each month. $500,000 is just their first benchmark.
This effort grows out of the tradition of Mother Jones, which was launched in 1976.
“Mother Jones was born out of a similar moment,” the magazine states in the announcement, “in the post-Watergate years when it became clear that the public needed independent watchdogs. Going after what powerful people want hidden is what we exist to do.”
In the 2012 election, Mother Jones was the outlet that broke the story of a speech by the Republican candidate Mitt Romney in which he said 47 percent of the voters were too poor or too liberal to matter, which set off a firestorm of controversy.
“We’ve been able to ultimately get to the truth about all the scandals of the past – whether it was the Lewinsky scandal in a Democratic administration or Iran-Contra or Watergate or Teapot Dome going all the way back,” said Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein, adding: “This story is ultimately about whether we can get to the truth about what our leaders are doing.”
They have already hired Bill Buzenberg, former executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, who will write a weekly newsletter constantly updating the story as it develops.
“This story may not be in the headlines every day like it was this week,” adds the Mother Jones announcement, “bu it won’t get any less important.”
Quoting journalist Dan Rather, Mother Jones laid out their game plan: “When we look back at Watergate, we remember the end of the Nixon presidency. It came with an avalanche, but for most of the time, my fellow reporters and I were chasing down the story as it rumbled along with a low-grade intensity. We never were quite sure how much we would find out about what really happened. In the end, the truth emerged into the light.”
It may seem unnecessary to have this kind of effort when so many major news outlets are working the story, but the reality is those reporters will be pulled away by the next crisis, or a future problem, and not spend the time and shoe leather it will take to crack this.
Mother Jones will still be on it when others have moved on, and that should put a chill into Trump and Republicans who want to bury the truth under an onslaught of denials.