Veteran investigative journalist Carl Bernstein and CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto on Tuesday stood by their botched report on Michael Cohen claiming then-candidate Donald Trump knew in advance of the Trump Tower meeting during the 2016 presidential election — despite their source, Lanny Davis, admitting he could not confirm its veracity.
Bernstein, Sciutto and CNN researcher and producer Marshall Cohen on July 27 reported that “sources with knowledge” told the news network that Cohen was present when Donald Trump Jr. disclosed the forthcoming meeting with Kremlin-linked associates to his father.
President Trump has denied having any prior knowledge of the meeting and has publically asserted Trump Jr.’s participation was in full accordance with the law. “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?),” President Trump tweeted. “He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!”
…..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
Further, CNN’s July 27 report said Cohen does not possess any evidence of the exchange, including audio recordings, yet claimed the longtime Trump lawyer has volunteered to “attest to his account.” Appearing before lawmakers as part of Congress’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a “source,” told CNN that Cohen did not testify then-candidate Donald Trump was informed of the Trump Tower meeting ahead of time.
In what now appears to have been an attempt to shield Davis from suspicions that he was CNN’s source for the bombshell report, Bernstein, Sciutto, and Cohen wrote Lanny Davis declined to comment on the allegations.
CNN’s report began to fall apart after Davis revealed to both the Washington Post and CNN host Anderson Cooper that he, in fact, possess no knowledge of whether Cohen was privy to the alleged conversation about the meeting.
“I think the reporting of the story got mixed up in the course of a criminal investigation. We were not the source of the story,” Davis falsely claimed to Cooper the previous Wednesday. “And the question of a criminal investigation, the advice we were given, those of us dealing with the media, is that we could not do anything other than stay silent.”
The botched CNN report suffered a deadly blow on Monday evening after Davis admitted to Buzzfeed News that he was the source for the wobbly story. “I made a mistake,” he told the news outlet. “I did not mean to be cute.”
In a statement to Buzzfeed News published Monday evening, CNN said of its original report: “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.”
One frustrated CNN employee told Buzzfeed News that the network’s defense of its report drew ire from staffers. “We should address Lanny Davis’s comments in our reporting and be more transparent with our readers about our reporting,” the source said.
Bernstein and Sciutto on Tuesday defended their original report by pointing out that Davis has “offered many variations of his client’s knowledge,” and in the past three weeks “did not raise any issues to CNN about its reporting.”
“CNN stands by its story,” the two reporters affirmed. A CNN spokesperson issued a brief statement on the botched report: ”We stand by our story, which had more than one source, and are confident in our reporting of it.”
However, here’s where the reporter’s defense of their initial reporting takes yet another bizarre turn. Bernstein and Sciutto are perceived to have outed Cohen as another potential source for their July 27th report by noting: “Cohen, unlike Davis, has not publicly addressed what he might have said to friends, associates or reporters about these matters.”
Reacting to CNN’s latest attempt at saving face over the story, Republican strategist Arthur Schwartz said it was “obvious” that the network is “conspiring with Bernstein to save their reputation and his legacy,” because he “didn’t have any other sources.”