Did House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff pay witnesses over $40 million to testify against Trump? No, that's not true: the story comes from a satire website, there is no evidence that such a payment took place and the people referenced in the story didn't testify against Trump.
The story originated from an article published by Bustatroll on December 3, 2019 titled "Adam Schiff Paid Witnesses Over $40 Million To Testify Against Trump" (archived here) which opened:
More corruption from the Democrats today as reports from Capitol Hill suggest that Shifty Adam Schiff has not only been leading an illegal coup against the President, but paying the witnesses with taxpayer dollars. According to our source inside the Congressman's office, the treachery goes far beyond mere bribery:
"We have almost gathered the proof necessary to go public to the mainstream media about what's really going on here. Schiff and the Dems have been paying witnesses huge amounts of money to testify against Trump.
"Gordon Sonderland, for example, is said to have received $11 million in tax breaks and corporate welfare last year, which we are sure we can tie to Schiff's office somehow.
"Anita Hill was approached on Friday by Jon Stewart, who is known to stick his nose into politics where it doesn't belong to help people he thinks are 'needy' when actually it's all just a scam, according to our one guy.
Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:
Adam Schiff Paid Witnesses Over $40 Million To Testify Against Trump
Shifty has been up to no good.
While there is no such person as "Gordon Sonderland" tied to the impeachment inquiry, Gordon Sondland, President Trump's ambassador to the European Union, did indeed testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 17 and publicly on Nov. 20. In his public testimony, Sondland alleged that there was a "quid pro quo" between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump offered a White House meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as alleged interference by Ukrainians in the 2016 election. No such announcment was ever made.
There is no evidence that Sondland was paid for these appearences before Congress, nor that he was bribed or induced with tax breaks or incentives. Schiff has spoken out publicly against such tax breaks for millionaires. Sondland's net worth is estimated to be roughly $60 million.
The only others referenced by name in the story are Anita Hill, who testified against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, not Trump, in 1991, and Jon Stewart, the former host of The Daily Show, who has also not testified against the president.
Additionally, there is no "Committee to Undermine Nine Traitors," as is claimed in the story.
The site is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run byself-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:
The Ultimate Christopher Blair and America's Last Line of Defense Reading List | Lead Stories
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 bustatroll.org 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.
We wrote about bustatroll.org before. Here are our most recent articles that mention the site:
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- Fake News: 4 Democrat Senators Are NOT Turning Republican Because They Oppose Impeachment
- Fake News: Pelosi Did NOT Say: 'If Impeachment Fails, I Will Resign Immediately'
- Fake News: Dr. Phil Did NOT Say 'Women Who Support Trump Are Damaged.'
- Fake News: Rep. Omar Did NOT Demand Capitol Tree Be Topped By Qo'Nos Crescent Moon