-- A fake news story making the rounds on Facebook claims in the headline that Congress is concerned that former President Barack Obama might make a "treasonous coup attempt" against President Trump -- and that they're taking steps to stop him.
It's not true.
Though the headline screams "BREAKING: Congress Moves to STOP Obama’s Treasonous Coup Attempt Against Trump," only parts of the story are based on facts. It's done by seeding the story with quotes that are true, but are twisted out of context.
The original version of the article, posted on a website called Angry Patriot, has 38,000 shares. And since this fake news story's text has been posted more than two-dozen times on other webpages, its false headline has been shared even more on social media networks.
One of the other sites, Trump Media, has a disclaimer page: "All the information on this website is published in good faith ... The Trump Media does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information.” Neither The Trump Media nor Angry Patriot sites responded to requests for comment from ABC News.
To understand this fake news story, know the background
The fake news article has its roots in two complicated, nuanced stories: one, about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's communications with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition period. The second deals with communications between Trump associates and suspected Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned last week after it was revealed that he spoke with the Russian ambassador about pending sanctions from the Obama administration before President-elect Trump took office. Flynn said in his resignation letter that he "inadvertently" gave "incomplete information" about the calls.
President Trump later said he asked for Flynn's resignation because Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence. Pence had appeared on television to defend Flynn, who had said he never talked with the ambassador about the sanctions.
U.S. intelligence officials are probing communications between associates of President Trump and suspected Russian intelligence officials to see what may have occurred before Election Day, according to sources familiar with the matter. The New York Times reported there was no evidence of cooperation between the campaign and Russia to influence the election. In January, ABC News' Cecilia Vega asked Trump if anyone in his campaign had contact with Russia leading up to the election. Trump denied it.
What the fake news story got right
A quote from Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., from the House's intelligence panel is accurate: "I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer." Nunes made these comments to The Washington Post on Feb. 14 about why U.S. intelligence reportedly recorded Flynn's calls with the Russian ambassador.
This tweet from President Trump is also accurate: “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?” This tweet showed Trump's concern with intelligence sources leaking details of their ongoing investigation to media outlets.
What the fake news story got wrong
The key point is that there's no tie between the leaked information from U.S. intelligence agencies and former President Obama, as this fake news headline suggests.
It is true that many of the employees of U.S. intelligence agencies are carried over from one administration to the next, and some current agency employees may not have supported President Trump's candidacy. But no one is alleging that former President Obama is connected to the leaks or has committed treason because of these revelations.
The article cites "the leaking of the Flynn videos." No video or audio recordings were ever released to the media, but several Democratic lawmakers have called on U.S. intelligence agencies to release written transcripts of these calls.
The details of the calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador have not been confirmed by any credible media reports. ABC News has continued to pursue more details of the calls, but our sources were unable to say that explicit promises were made to lift the sanctions. Officials did say the discussion did occur in the context of Trump and his team reviewing the sanctions put in place by the outgoing Obama administration.
Finally, the article claims that news reports are "alleging collusion between the Trump administration and Russia." The article fails to cite any examples as proof.
The media has reported that U.S. intelligence is investigating communications between Trump’s associates and suspected Russian intelligence officials. No coordination between the two sides has been confirmed.
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