The truth isn’t always the truth—to paraphrase Rudy Giuliani’s newly famous phrase—when CNN and Carl Bernstein report it.
CNN and the famed Watergate reporter are standing by their deceitful and discredited story about Michael Cohen being willing to testify that Donald Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump, Jr, campaign officials and Russian nationals peddling dirt about Hillary Clinton.
Reached at his Sag Harbor home yesterday, Bernstein tried to deflect questions by asking his caller, who had repeatedly identified himself by name and this publication, to call his New York City office and provide more information.
“I don’t know who you are or who you work for,” he insisted, after being told just that.
“What do you need to know?” this reporter asked.
“Call my office,” Bernstein again intoned.
“I’m not stonewalling,” replied the legendary Watergate chronicler and investigative journalist, repeating the phrase that came into the vernacular when deployed by President Nixon during the very scandal that Bernstein helped break.
A subsequent call to the office number Bernstein provided was not returned. But the question he refused to answer is simple enough. Why did the scribe’s July 27 story say that Cohen’s lawyer and spinmeister Lanny Davis “declined to comment” when he was, in fact, one of the sources?
Bernstein and his CNN cohorts, reporter Jim Sciutto and producer Marshall Cohen, wrote that, “Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said.
“Cohen’s claim would contradict repeated denials by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., their lawyers and other administration officials who have said that the President knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting until he was approached about it by The New York Times in July 2017.”
To cover their tracks, CNN and Bernstein then officially asked Davis to comment on a story for which he was actually the source.
“Contacted by CNN, one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.”
There was a time in journalism when somebody talked on background or not for attribution the reporter would write, “so and so declined to comment on the record.”
But that was then. This is now.
The CNN story imploded on Saturday when Lanny Davis outed himself as the source for it and withdrew his claim that Michael Cohen would say that Donald Trump had foreknowledge of the Trump tower meeting.
The Washington Post reported that Davis is “backing away from confident assertions he made that Cohen has information to share with investigators that shows Trump knew in 2016 of Russian efforts to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.”
Davis told the Washington Post that “he is no longer certain about claims he made to reporters on background and on the record in recent weeks about what Cohen knows about Trump’s awareness of the Russian efforts.”
In a statement CNN told the Washington Post, “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.”
CNN’s defense is that they had two other sources for the story.
But, as Washington Post media blogger and reporter Erik Wemple noted “we have little knowledge of what remains of the piece’s sourcing.”
We certainly don’t. We certainly don’t.
Given how one key source is now discredited CNN and Bernstein would do well to provide some more information about the other sources they are now hanging the story on. It’s possible to reveal pertinent information without naming names. Given that opportunity on the phone in Sag Harbor, the author of All the President’s Men, The Final Days, and coincidentally, a loving biography of Hillary Clinton called A Woman in Charge, declined.
Are these “sources” allied with Cohen, in which case their credibility is suspect because they are peddling a self-serving tale? Are they law enforcement sources? Is this information from the “sources” first hand or second hand? Did they get their information from Cohen or somebody else?
For now, don’t look for “Stonewall Bernstein” to provide any answers.