Did a fact-check confirm that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually did move $2.4 billion from Social Security Insurance to cover impeachment costs? No, that's not true: the hoax stems from a fake fact-checking and satire website, and real fake-news sites have been spinning the satire as true news despite obvious disclaimers on the site that the story is made up.
Lead Stories previously fact-checked this story in October and found it to be satire and fake news. We are revisiting it because an article (archived here) published by Freedom Fictions, a satirical fact-checking site, came to the opposite conclusion. The fake fact-check, titled "Yes, Nancy Pelosi Moved Billions from SSI to Cover Impeachment Costs", admits it is satire in its opening:
The Claim: Nancy Pelosi moved $2.4 billion from social security funding to cover the cost of Donald Trump's impeachment proceedings. The report was made in an article published on the America's Last Line of Defense satire network and was clearly labeled as such. Despite that fact and the dubiously named author "Fallis Gunnington", ("Phallus" is a synonym for "penis"), the article has been shared by nearly one million pea-brained trumpchumps clamoring about losing their social security. We researched and rate this claim as true.
Pelosi in no way would be able to pull off such a ridiculous stunt, even if she wanted to, and 2.4 billion dollars was randomly invented to sound large. Although it would be worth it to see that cartoon embarrassment of a President gone.
At any rate, we at Freedom Fictions rate this tale true because we are also part of the America's Last Line of Defense network, and honestly, if this is in the article, and you still can't tell it's satire, you need a kick in the balls.
In case people are not convinced by the story's own words and satire warning - or Lead Stories' previous fact-check - here is a quick primer on the budget process to explain why Pelosi couldn't have moved $2.4 billion from Social Security to cover the impeachment inquiry.
The U.S. budget starts when the White House, in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget, develops a budget request and sends it to Congress. There, it is evaluated by both the House and Senate budget committees and the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO publishes an analysis of the budget request each March, while the two committees work on making changes. Once the two committees finish, each respective body votes on the budget, then the differences between the two must be reconciled and voted on again.
Pelosi does not sit on the House budget committee, so the only power she has in influencing the budget is with her single vote and through persuasion of other members of Congress. Additionally, the budget for Social Security Administration in fiscal year 2020 increased by about $41 million from fiscal 2019.
There is also no evidence to suggest that impeachment cost anywhere close to $2.4 billion. The budget for all the staff of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees, where the impeachment hearing took place, totals only about $9 million for the entirety of 2019, according to the congressional research website LegiStorm. The actual costs of the inquiry are currently unclear, but Independent Counsel Ken Starr said a 1998 report to Congress that his three-year investigation into Former President Bill Clinton cost "just shy of $30 million," which is $47.3 million dollars today when adjusted for inflation.
Additionally, Freedom Fictions, the site that made up the story, as well as the fake fact-checking site, are part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run by self-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair from Maine along with a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact-checking website Snopes for some time now and has also criticized other fact-checkers in the past who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction to this, he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages so they carry extremely visible disclaimers everywhere.
Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":
The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.
Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites, who often omit the satire disclaimer and any other hints the stories are fake. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down in the past, but new ones keep cropping up.
Here is a video of Blair explaining how his process works:
If you are interested in learning more about Blair and the history of his sites, here is something to get you started:
STORY UPDATED: check for updates below. Yesterday Eli Saslow at the Washington Post wrote a fantastic article about Christopher Blair, a man from Maine who has been trolling conservatives and Trump supporters online for years and occasionally even made a living out of it.
If you see one of his stories on a site that does not contain a satire disclaimer, assume it is fake news. If you do see the satire disclaimer, it is of course also fake news.
NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes freedomfictions.com as:
A site that publishes false stories and hoaxes that are often mistaken for real news, part of a network named America's Last Line of Defense run by hoax perpetrator Christopher Blair.
According to NewsGuard, the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.