Almost exactly a month ago, CNN floated a story from an anonymous source that claimed that Michael Cohen — former Trump lawyer and someone who won’t be spending much future time at Mar-a-Lago — had said President Donald Trump had advance knowledge of the infamous Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign figures and dodgy Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Cohen eventually disavowed the rumor and Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis was reported to have been a source in the story, but CNN wouldn’t retract it even as the story began to look more like collusion between the media and Trump’s enemies and less like Russia and Trump’s allies. The network even had Davis on Anderson Cooper’s show, and he said he didn’t know whether the rumor was true or not. He vehemently denied, however, he was the source of the rumor or for confirming it.
“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 said.
That was Thursday. This, meanwhile, was Monday night:
I guess lawyers with diminished credibility often flock to same.
“Attorney Lanny Davis says he was an anonymous source in a July CNN story that reported his client, Michael Cohen, had privately claimed that President Trump had advance knowledge of the infamous Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians — contradicting Davis’s own words on CNN’s air last week,” the BuzzFeed piece from Steven Perlberg read.
“In the story, Cohen was reported to claim he had personally witnessed Donald Trump Jr. informing then-candidate Trump about the June 2016 meeting. Such a claim from Cohen would directly contradict Trump’s statements about his knowledge of the meeting, where Russians were set to offer dirt on Hillary Clinton.”
The lawyer had a different story in his BuzzFeed interview.
“I made a mistake,” Davis said, according to the website.
My first thought was that, well, yes, you didn’t need to tell us this. But upon further examination, maybe he did — because it tells us exactly what we need to know about how he views manipulating the entire news infrastructure of America in order to push what his own client says is a lie about President Trump.
A mistake, at least if that’s what you’re calling it, implies a lapse of a certain limited gravity.
For instance, a “mistake” is a pilot who sets the flaps wrong on landing and runs the plane off the runway, injuring a few people when they go down the inflatable slide.
However, when we’re dealing with NTSB officials examining a cockpit voice recorder in which the captain can be heard belting out “Cheeseburger in Paradise” over the altimeter warning and demanding not to be interrupted by the first officer while he’s singing the part about “I like mine with lettuce and tomato / Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes,” we may indeed be discussing a different word.
Davis also stated he “did not mean to be cute” during the interview with Cooper. At least some people might use “mistake” for Davis’ decision to not divulge he was the source that set this story rolling, but “cute?” This was a calculated lie designed to foment an unverified rumor about the Trump-Russia narrative, not a poodle.
And finally, Davis managed to score a trifecta on the weasel-apology scorecard: Taking responsibility for something nobody else was apportioning responsibility to anyone else for. “I’m glad to take ownership of the mistake. Now I’m taking the heat, and it’s justified,” Davis said, no doubt with a jowl-stretching grin on the other side of the phone line.
BuzzFeed, meanwhile, pointed out in the least-condemning of terms that maybe, just maybe, reporting in the Trump era was a tiny bit reliant on chasing dodgy leads that may possibly kind of have political agendas behind them (on very, very rare occasions, of course).
“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,” BuzzFeed’s Perlberg wrote.
“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.”
Not that this will change or anything, nor should it — because I mean, it’s just a pitfall of the Trump era, and the press is unimpeachable. Meanwhile, look forward to a towering rage from someone like BuzzFeed, MSNBC or CNN the next time someone from the White House uses the two-word construction “fake news.”
Oh, yes, speaking of CNN, what was the network’s reaction to this development? About putting out a story where they knew Lanny Davis was one of the sources, then standing by it when Cohen denied it and bringing Lanny Davis to say that he wasn’t a source when they knew he was a source? And then having another news outlet uncover that yes, he was a source?
“We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it,” a CNN spokesperson said.
“Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer / well, good God almighty, which way do I steer for my / cheeseburger in paradise (paradise!) / makin’ the best of every virtue and vice…”
The only collusion here is between the media and Lanny Davis.
And that’s not a mistake. That’s an outrage.
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