Lanny Davis, attorney for former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, told Buzzfeed on Monday that he was a source for CNN’s article last month claiming that Cohen would tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that President Trump knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian purportedly offering information on Hillary Clinton.
Since CNN’s article published, Davis has admitted to the Washington Post, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and now Buzzfeed that he actually has no such knowledge of Cohen knowing such a thing. He also said he regretted lying about it on CNN’s air last week.
Davis had told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last Wednesday, “I think the reporting of the story got mixed up in the course of a criminal investigation,” but denied being the source of CNN’s original story.
That turned out to be a lie.
“I made a mistake,” Davis told Buzzfeed. “I did not mean to be cute,” he said regarding his interview with Cooper.
The original CNN report, by Jim Sciutto, Carl Bernstein, and Marshall Cohen, claimed that Cohen had personally witnessed Donald Trump, Jr. informing Trump about the meeting, which would contradict the president’s statements that he did not know about it.
Trump denied the report at the time:
…..I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2018
Now, Davis is backtracking. In recent days, he has admitted that he acted as an anonymous source for multiple news outlets who were seeking to confirm the CNN article, and has backed away from his original claim.
The New York Post and the Washington Post has outed him as their confirming source, and published apologies from Davis.
CNN — which cited “sources with knowledge” in its original report, has refused to back down. The report also said Davis had “declined to comment.”
When contacted by Buzzfeed, CNN said, “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.”
Buzzfeed said CNN’s reporting highlights “an uncomfortable reality” and the “pitfalls” of anonymous sourcing, among other things:
“The unfolding saga around CNN’s July report highlights an uncomfortable reality for reporters in the Trump era — about the pitfalls of anonymous sourcing, the dangers of the reliance on capricious narrators, and what it means for news outlets when the backstory can matter as much as the story.
“As Trump-Russia bombshells often do, the story sparked a dash from media competitors to confirm the news. One by one — from NBC News to CBS News to the Washington Post — they did. When another outlet breaks a story, reporters tend to call up the requisite spokesperson to ask for comment. In this case, that spokesperson was Davis. BuzzFeed News wrote an article about CNN’s story, citing reporting from CNN and NBC News. (Neither Cohen nor his lawyers responded for comment for that BuzzFeed News story.).”
Buzzfeed also reported that CNN’s decision to stand by the story has “irked some staffers” inside the network.
“We should address Lanny Davis’s comments in our reporting and be more transparent with our readers about our reporting,” a CNN staffer told BuzzFeed News.