We need to circle back to CNN’s epic failure last Friday. The network reported that a man named Michael Erickson had emailed Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and other Trump officials with a decryption key to a trove of emails from the DNC and John Podesta that was taken by Wikileaks. The “bombshell” aspect is that this email was sent before the documents were made public. Yeah—wrong. All of those documents were already public and the news organization screwed up the dates. They’ve since corrected the report:
Statement from CNN PR pic.twitter.com/H7XZ8Fuzdi— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) December 8, 2017
Candidate Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and others in the Trump Organization received an email in September 2016 offering a decryption key and website address for hacked WikiLeaks documents, according to an email provided to congressional investigators.
The September 14 email was sent during the final stretch of the 2016 presidential race.
CNN originally reported the email was released September 4 -- 10 days earlier -- based on accounts from two sources who had seen the email. The new details appear to show that the sender was relying on publicly available information. The new information indicates that the communication is less significant than CNN initially reported.
Yet, prior to this, The Washington Post published a story that cleaned up CNN’s mess [emphasis mine]:
A 2016 email sent to candidate Donald Trump and top aides pointed the campaign to hacked documents from the Democratic National Committee that had already been made public by the group WikiLeaks a day earlier.
The email — sent the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2016 — noted that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC” and included a link and a “decryption key,” according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post.
The writer, who said his name was Michael J. Erickson and described himself as the president of an aviation management company, sent the message to the then-Republican nominee as well as his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and other top advisers.
The day before, WikiLeaks had tweeted links to what the group said was 678.4 megabytes of DNC documents.
But if 2 sources independently confirm to you that it's a banana..... https://t.co/eWWYEb96m8— Larry O'Connor (@LarryOConnor) December 9, 2017
It's amazing to watch CNN stand up and defend the anonymous sources who burned their credibility like this. Must be pretty important and well connected sources then, definitely not part of the House intel committee. https://t.co/8lxIRBdP8R— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) December 9, 2017
CNN's initial reporting of the date on an email sent to members of the Trump campaign about Wikileaks documents, which was confirmed by two sources to CNN, was incorrect. We have updated our story to include the correct date, and present the proper context for the timing of email— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) December 8, 2017
They got the dates wrong. ABC News stepped on a rake with dates when they reported that Donald Trump directed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians during the campaign. Actually, this was done after Trump had won the election. This was part of the transition. Nothing new. Brian Ross, who reported this on air, has been suspended for four weeks without pay. So, will CNN do the same? Nope. They’ve decided that since the sources didn’t intend to deceive, no disciplinary action will be taken. Also, CNN peddled this story for hours before correcting it. One CNN reporter is quoted as describing the whole affair as a “colossal f**k up.” That statement is accurate (via Washington Examiner):
The story claimed the 2016 GOP nominee, his son Donald Trump Jr., and various campaign advisers received an email in September 2016 offering them advance access to an impending WikiLeaks dump of emails stolen from Democratic National Committee staffers and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The CNN report hinged entirely on an email that was supposedly sent on Sept. 4. The September email to Trump and his team included a “decryption key and website address” for the WikiLeaks dump, the article added.
There’s a major, glaring error in this story, which CNN promoted all Friday morning and into the afternoon.
“What a colossal f**k up,” one CNN reporter told the Examiner Friday in response to the story’s unraveling.
So what went wrong? For starters, let’s look at CNN’s source material.
The Sept. 14 email was uncovered by the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. Federal investigators are currently poring over thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials and family members, which means they’re also looking into spam and junk email mails.
Donald Trump Jr., who was copied on the Sept. 14 email, was asked about the note this week during a closed-door session with committee members. How the contents of that email got into media hands is anybody’s guess, but it’s not the best look for the committee.
Now, regarding the bogus CNN report: Its authors, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, claimed the email had been “described” by “multiple sources” and “verified” by Trump Jr.'s attorney.
CBS News also misreported independently that the email was dated September 4.
The Post and the Wall Street Journal, both of which acquired a copy of the Sept. 14 email, handled the story a little differently. Where CNN and CBS saw a major scoop, the Post and the WSJ saw an email lacking in credibility.
The Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus, for example, noted Friday that there were serious problems with the note.
“The Sept. 14 email to Trump campaign advertising WikiLeaks emails promoted publicly available info, was riddled with typos and came from a Trump backer who had given $40 to the campaign months earlier, per email viewed by @WSJ,” she tweeted.
And there were other stories as well that were misreported, one was from The Wall Street Journal that alleged Robert Mueller has subpoenaed President Trump and his family’s financial records from Deutsche Bank; it was actually “people or entities close to Trump.”
Donald Trump. Jr. doesn’t expect an apology from the network.
The only question remains is whether CNN is an apple or a banana.