Maybe it’s time the Washington Post and the New York Times return those Russian collusion Pulitzers

Did you know there’s a process whereby an undeserved Pulitzer Prize may be returned?

Disgraced former Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke in 1981 returned hers after it was discovered she fabricated the feature story that won her the award in the first place.

It’s worth revisiting this factoid this week with the news the primary source for the infamous Steele Dossier — which launched two solid years of white-knuckled, award-winning Russian collusion news coverage — has been indicted on five counts of lying to federal investigators about how and where he got his supposed information.

Igor Danchenko is accused of making several significant false claims, one of the biggest being he was informed of a “conspiracy of cooperation” between Moscow and the Trump 2016 campaign by a man federal authorities identify only as the president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.

The federal indictment plainly accuses Danchenko of contributing multiple exaggerations, rumors, and flat-out lies to the Steele Dossier. The indictment also alleges Danchenko received a good deal of his supposed information from a longtime Democratic Party operative with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign instead of actual intelligence experts with keen and relevant knowledge of the Kremlin’s inner workings. Danchenko told federal investigators he did not receive certain information from a Democratic operative. Federal authorities say this is a lie. The indictment likewise hints at the possibility Danchenko worked recently for a Russian intelligence agency.

Insofar as the indictment’s suggestion that Danchenko may be in bed with Russian intelligence is concerned, it’s worth recalling the FBI conducted a counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 to assess his “documented contacts with suspected Russian intelligence officers.” The operation was “based on information by the FBI indicating that the Primary Sub-Source may be a threat to national security,” the agency explained, according to declassified records.

If the indictment’s charges prove true, it means the primary source for the dossier used to secure authorization from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on one-time Trump campaign aide Carter Page — the same dossier that served as the foundation for the yearslong Russian collusion news cycle — is a complete fraud. And not just a fraud, but a fraud who allegedly conspired with Clinton-connected Democratic operatives and Russian intelligence services.

In other words, on top of everything else that undercuts the credibility of the Steele Dossier, including that it is as absurd as it is uncorroborated, it appears increasingly likely it is the product of a Kremlin counterintelligence operation, one in which Democrats may have played a key role.

The Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the supposed election-year conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow, stated the obvious this week, reporting, “The [federal] allegations cast new uncertainty on some past reporting on the dossier by news organizations, including the Washington Post.”

The New York Times, which similarly won a Pulitzer for its reporting on the alleged Trump-Russia conspiracy, had no such moment of introspection following news of the charges against Danchenko.

Perhaps former President Donald Trump has a point. Knowing what we know already about the Steele Dossier, most especially that it amounted to a big, fat nothing, perhaps it’s time the Washington Post and the New York Times take a page from Janet Cooke’s book and return the Pulitzers they won for their ultimately pointless and very likely Kremlin-manipulated coverage of the collusion allegations. And should the indictment’s charges prove true, and the New York Times and the Washington Post still refuse to return the awards, perhaps the Pulitzer committee should rescind them itself.

Then again, considering the Pulitzer committee decided in 2003 not to revoke the prize it awarded in 1932 to New York Times reporter Walter Duranty for his coverage (or lack thereof) of the Soviet Union, which the New York Times itself conceded in 1990 was “some of the worst reporting” ever to appear in its pages, we’d be wise not to hold our breath.