- National Security Correspondent for CNN
- Worked at the Obama State Department from 2011-13
- Was a leading media promoter of the false notion that the infamous Steele dossier contained valid intelligence information implicating Donald Trump
Born on March 10, 1970, Jim Sciutto earned a bachelor’s degree in Chinese history from Yale University in 1992. After serving as a Fulbright Fellow in Hong Kong during 1993-94, he began his broadcasting career as a moderator and producer of the weekly PBS show The Student Press.
In 1997 Sciutto was hired as the Hong Kong Correspondent for Asia Business News, where he reported on events in China, Mongolia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, and South Korea. The following year, he went to work for ABC News—first in Chicago and then in Washington, where he covered stories involving the Pentagon.
In 2002 Sciutto was selected as a term member of the Council of Foreign Relations, and was appointed an Associate Fellow of Pierson College at Yale University.
In 2006 Sciutto became a Senior Foreign Correspondent and lead reporter on ABC News, a position that had him covering stories in approximately 50 countries throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In 2006 as well, he married ABC News Correspondent Gloria Riviera.
In 2008 Sciutto was selected as a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. That same year, he published Against Us: The New Face of America’s Enemies in the Muslim World. According to a Publishers Weekly review, this book “examines and explains the increasingly negative attitudes toward the United States among citizens of Muslim and Arab countries.” Sciutto and his publisher, meanwhile, described Against Us as “an urgent wake-up call for all Americans—and in particular those charged with formulating U.S. foreign policy—to rebuild relations with the Arab world and restore confidence in American values.”
Sciutto worked at the Obama State Department from 2011-13, serving as Chief of Staff for the U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke. When Sciutto was first hired for this post, he told TV Newser that he had consulted with George Stephanopoulos, a onetime Clinton administration operative who subsequently became an ABC newsman, for advice on how to properly blend the roles of reporter and political insider.
In September 2013 Sciutto became the Chief National Security Correspondent for CNN, reporting and providing analysis on matters related to American national security, foreign policy, the military, terrorism, and intelligence.
In April 2017, Sciutto sparked controversy with his handling of a blockbuster Bloomberg News report indicating that Susan Rice, former President Obama’s National Security Adviser, had requested or directed that the identities of a number of individuals involved with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign be “unmasked” in raw intelligence reports that would then be widely distributed throughout the federal government—a massive and unprecedented violation of standard policy. Sciutto—without informing his CNN audience that he had worked for the Obama White House at the same time as Susan Rice, or that he had previously been a colleague of Rice’s husband (Ian Cameron) at ABC—dismissed Bloomberg’s scoop on Rice as something that had been “largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from this larger investigation” into Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. Sciutto also said that “someone close to Ambassador Rice” had told him that “there is nothing unusual about [Rice] making these requests when serving as a senior national security official.” And, paraphrasing the opinions of unidentified senior intelligence officials “who served both Republican and Democratic administrations,” Sciutto added: “[W]hen you are briefed on intelligence, communications like this, sometimes senior national security officials can ask the intelligence community to identify the Americans either mentioned in those conversations or on the other side of those phone calls…. It’s then up to the intelligence agencies, the NSA, they decide what’s appropriate to unmask for that senior official. It is legal.”
In February 2018, Sciutto falsely claimed that it was anti-Donald Trump Republicans, most notably Washington Free Beacon founder Paul Singer, who had provided the initial funding of the infamous “Christopher Steele dossier,” a 2016 document wherein a former British intelligence officer alluded to a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [Trump and his associates] and the Russian leadership,” including an “intelligence exchange [that] had been running between them for at least 8 years.” As the Daily Caller correctly notes: “Singer did pay Fusion GPS [a commercial research and strategic intelligence firm based in Washington] for standard opposition research, however, he stopped paying Fusion GPS well before they contracted Christopher Steele to create the dossier. That research was paid for solely by the DNC and the [Hillary] Clinton campaign.”
From that point forward, Sciutto was one of the media’s leading promoters of the notion that the Steele dossier contained valid intelligence information. This is highly significant because the FBI had already used the data from that dossier to convince a FISA court to grant four separate warrants authorizing the Bureau to spy on Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign adviser Carter Page and, by extension, virtually the entire Trump team.
- On February 10, 2017, Sciutto reported that U.S. officials had “corroborated some” parts of the dossier.
- On December 26, 2017, he reported that “officials familiar with the [FISA] process say that if the [first FISA] application included information from the dossier, it would only be after the FBI had in fact corroborated information through its own investigation as well.”
- On February 2, 2018 — after it had been revealed that the FBI had obtained three additional FISA surveillance warrants on Page — Sciutto said that the renewals would have been granted only if the FBI had “gained valuable intelligence” from the probes authorized by the previous warrants.
- And on January 7, 2019, he reported: “The fact is … that some of the central claims, allegations in the dossier have been corroborated in the past two years.”
But a December 2019 Justice Department Inspector General’s report showed conclusively that each of the foregoing claims by Sciutto were either misleading or outright false.
When President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, expressed anger during his October 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where he was confronted with uncorroborated allegations that he may have committed sexual assault 36 years earlier when he was a teenager, Sciutto suggested that Kavanaugh’s outburst indicated that he might be temperamentally unfit for the post of Supreme Court Justice: “This is a person … being considered for a lifetime position. The fact is, this is Washington, this is politics. But political candidates have been accused of horrible things for years, and it becomes – how do you respond to that?”
In December 2018, Sciutto repeatedly asserted that President Trump was incorrect in having said that U.S. authorities had recently “caught 10 terrorists over a short period of time” trying to sneak across America’s southern border. “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] did not provide evidence of a single terrorist caught at the southern border over the very last short period of time as the president claimed,” said Sciutto. But DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton quickly corrected the newsman, tweeting: “We are happy to provide the facts — but you never reached out. In fact, DHS prevented 3,755 known or suspected terrorists from traveling to or entering the U.S. in FY . That’s in addition to 17,526 criminals, 1,019 gang members, and 3,028 special interest aliens.”
In September 2019, Sciutto, in what he billed as an exclusive story, reported that the CIA in 2017 had exfiltrated a high-level American intelligence operative out of Russia because President Trump had “repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.” But Sciutto’s report was untrue. Indeed, CIA officials had already decided in late 2016 — weeks before Trump even took office — to withdraw from Russia the individual in question. As Federalist editor Mollie Hemingway commented: “[T]his exfiltration was first offered in 2016 before Donald Trump was president. This has nothing to do with Trump. So why was someone trying to make it sound like it had something to do with Trump?” In a similar spirit, a current CNN employee told Fox News: “CNN has many Obama national security officials on-air, including Sciutto, Clapper, Vinograd, and now McCabe. But none of them should properly be viewed as journalists or hosts, but instead as partisan commentators.”
Further Reading: “Jim Sciutto” (Ans-wer.com); “CNN Hires Obama Foreign Policy Political Appointee As ‘Chief National Security Correspondent’” (Fox News, 9-23-2013).
- “Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel” (by Eli Lake, Bloomberg.com, 4-3-2017); “What Is ‘Unmasking?’ How Intelligence Agencies Treat U.S. Citizens” (USA Today, 4-4-2017); “CNN’s Jim Sciutto: Susan Rice News ‘Appears to Be a Story Largely Ginned Up, Partly as a Distraction’” (Mediaite, 4-3-2017); “Susan Rice Statement Denies ‘Improper’ Unmasking, but Appears to Confirm Accusation” (TheBlaze.com, 4-3-2017).
- In contrast to Sciutto’s analysis, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew C. McCarthy asserted that Rice’s actions constituted a “monumental abuse of power.” McCarthy then proceeded to thoroughly debunk Sciutto’s claims, writing: “The thing to bear in mind is that the White House does not do investigations. Not criminal investigations, not intelligence investigations…. In general, it is the FBI that conducts investigations that bear on American citizens suspected of committing crimes or of acting as agents of foreign powers. In the matter of alleged Russian meddling, the investigative camp also includes the CIA and the NSA…. There would have been no intelligence need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. If there had been a real need to reveal the identities — an intelligence need based on American interests — the unmasking would have been done by the investigating agencies. The national-security adviser is not an investigator. She is a White House staffer. The president’s staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it. If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests; it was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic-party interests.” (All emphases in original)