Analysis: About That CNN 'Bombshell' Scoop on Supposed Trump-Russia Collusion...

Posted: Mar 24, 2017 10:35 AM

Matt touched on this yesterday, but I wanted to circle back to it because it's indicative of the frustration with the media that many in the Trump White House have expressed -- especially the president himself. On Wednesday, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes announced that he'd seen evidence that members of Trump's circle did have communications intercepted during the presidential transition. Those intercepts were "incidental" in nature, he said, and appeared to be legal. They did not pertain to Russia, he added. And yet those communications made the rounds within elements of the intelligence community, then leaked into the media. Nunes erred by briefing the White House on this information before his committee colleagues, for which he has apologized. One can also easily argue that he shouldn't have briefed the president at all -- after all, he leads a Congressional body that is conducting an active investigation that involves various figures in Trump's orbit. Nevertheless, the substance of what he revealed raises more questions about the nature of the ongoing drumbeat of national security leaks, many of which seem designed to damage Trump's presidency. On the same day of Nunes' revelation, his Democratic counterpart declared the existence of evidence pointing to Trumpworld coordination with the Russians, beyond mere "circumstantial" conjecture:

Of course, that claim was advanced by the same man who recklessly repeated the endlessly-debunked yet widely-believed 'Moscow hacked the election' conspiratorial lie earlier in the week:

But to what evidence was Rep. Schiff referring? That remained, and remains, unclear. Soon thereafter, however, CNN dropped this alleged "bombshell," which was breathlessly circulated by liberals who treated it as a smoking gun. Mentions of "impeachment" and "treason" whizzed around social media. But what did CNN's big scoop actually demonstrate or prove? Nothing. Matt ran through some of the details, but I thought this tweet was useful. Look at the number of weasel-word hedges here, even if you want to ignore the parting shot at the cable news network:

The report is about "indications" that "associates" (what does that mean?) of Donald Trump had "communicated" (in what capacity or context?) with "suspected" Russian officials (suspected?) to "possibly" coordinate with the campaign. And all of this is attributed to nameless "officials." Maybe the factual proof to back up the implications of this story truly does exist somewhere, which would be a genuine scandal. The FBI and relevant Congressional committees should continue their investigations into the matter. But to report such a provocative allegation based on such thin details doesn't look like responsible journalism. It looks like a hit job.  CNN's report went on to concede that their anonymous sources couldn't corroborate their central claims with "conclusive"  evidence, and that the FBI isn't able to confirm it.  Okay, so why report it, if not to add to a haze of controversy by amplifying unverified opinions?  I'm not willing to categorically say that no collusion took place because I don't know that to be true.  But pardon me for not simply accepting what unnamed "officials" believe may have happened between unidentified people, admittedly with no concrete evidence.