Viewers of CNN and MSNBC were exposed for the first time on Tuesday night to coverage that undercuts the core allegations of the infamous Steele dossier, and it’s all thanks to President Trump’s tweets.
What fans of the networks heard might not have been what they were expecting.
Yahoo! News’ Michael Isikoff appeared on both networks to respond to Trump’s tweets thanking the veteran reporter for his recent comments that the dossier’s major allegations are likely false.
Michael Isikoff was the first to report Dossier allegations and now seriously doubts the Dossier claims. The whole Russian Collusion thing was a HOAX, but who is going to restore the good name of so many people whose reputations have been destroyed?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2018
….WILL NEVER BE PROVEN AND ARE LIKELY FALSE.” Thank you to Michael Isikoff, Yahoo, for honesty. What this means is that the FISA WARRANTS and the whole Russian Witch Hunt is a Fraud and a Hoax which should be ended immediately. Also, it was paid for by Crooked Hillary & DNC!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2018
Isikoff has been at the forefront of the coverage of the dossier. He was one of a handful of reporters who met with dossier author Christopher Steele prior to the 2016 election to discuss the ex-spy’s investigation. That meeting led Isikoff to write the first article laying out some of Steele’s allegations.
He is also co-author with left-wing reporter David Corn of “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War On America and the Election of Donald Trump.”
But Isikoff has recently turned sour on the dossier.
In a podcast interview on Saturday, he disputed the host’s contention that much of the dossier has been validated. He also said that he now doubts the dossier’s two most significant allegations — that a tape exists from 2013 of Trump engaged in a “golden showers” scene with prostitutes in Moscow, and that former Trump fixer Michael Cohen visited Prague during the campaign to arrange payments to Russian hackers.
The Cohen claim is perhaps the strongest and most specific allegation of collusion in the entire dossier, which was funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. But as Isikoff asserted in the podcast, it now appears that both of the allegations “are likely false.”
“When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, we have not seen the evidence to support them, and in fact, there is good grounds to think that some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven and are likely false,” Isikoff said.
Trump’s tweets generated interest in Isikoff’s comments, and the reporter was brought on for interviews with CNN’s Chris Cuomo and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
In both interviews, Isikoff said that while he still believes that Steele’s core allegations — that Russia meddled in the election — have panned out, he believes that it’s claims related to the Trump campaign are flimsy at best, and likely false.
“The Steele dossier (allegations), remain uncorroborated and likely not to be. In fact, the evidence for them seems — the sensational allegations seem to be getting weaker rather than stronger,” Isikoff told Cuomo.
Cuomo also chimed in during Isikoff’s remarks, inidcating that he too believes that the dossier’s claims about Cohen are false.
Isikoff noted that not only has Cohen vehemently denied Steele’s allegations about the Prague trip, the former Trump lawyer has not been charged with lying about those denials to Congress. Cohen pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s investigation on Nov. 29 to lying to Congress last year about the extent of his work to try to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen also reiterated his dossier denials during that testimony, but he did not plead guilty to lying about those remarks.
“Not everything in the dossier was true,” Cuomo conceded.
Isikoff made a similar argument on Hayes’ show, though the host appeared less interested in helping undercut the dossier.
“In some respects the credibility of the specific allegations have gotten weaker over time and not stronger,” Isikoff said.
He noted that Steele himself has said that his is uncertain whether the claim about Trump with prostitutes in Moscow is true.
“He told associates he believed it was no more than 50/50 that it was true, which is kind of, you know, should take a lot of people back who want to believe it if the guy who put it out there at first isn’t quite sure what he put out is true,” said Isikoff.
In their book, Isikoff and Corn noted that the window of opportunity for Trump to have met with prostitutes was very small. The real estate mogul stayed in Moscow for one night, and was in his room for only around five or six hours, according to witnesses.
Isikoff and Corn also reported in their book that Glenn Simpson, the founder of the firm that hired Steele, believed that the main source for the salacious allegation was a “big talker.”
Isikoff walked again through his thinking that Cohen is telling the truth when he denies the dossier’s allegations since he has not been charged with lying to Congress regarding that topic.
The lack of a charge against Cohen “tells me that (special counsel Robert) Mueller doesn’t have the evidence that that very sensational charge in the Steele dossier is true,” said Isikoff.
Hayes promptly changed the subject to former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
The dossier has taken other hits in the past few days.
On Sunday, Cohen’s adviser and former lawyer, Lanny Davis, again disputed the dossier’s allegations about Cohen. Davis last said that the dossier was wrong about Cohen on Aug. 22, before Cohen began cooperating significantly with the special counsel.
CIA and FBI sources have also told reporters that they believe the dossier’s claims about Cohen to be false, according to Washington Post reporter Greg Miller.
“We’ve talked to sources at the FBI and the CIA and elsewhere — they don’t believe that ever happened,” Miller said at a book event in October, footage of which aired on Saturday on C-SPAN.
It is still unclear why The Post has not run a story based on those CIA and FBI sources.
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