Sunday, January 20, 2019

Russian To Judgment, Con't

BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith and reporter Anthony Cormier went on CNN's Reliable Sources today to talk with host Brian Stetler about their bombshell Michael Cohen story from Thursday night, that was denied, sort of, by the Mueller team on Friday and both Smith and Cormier say they are continuing to stand behind the story.

Towards the beginning of this morning’s lengthy interview, Smith noted that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had just appeared on CNN’s State of the Union and said that it wasn’t a big deal if the president had discussed the Congressional testimony with Cohen. “As we go to on to talk about process, I do want to make sure we also talk about the fundamental core of this story, about a giant construction project in Russia and secret negotiations through the campaign,” he further told host Brian Stelter.

After Cormier and Smith added that it is “extraordinary” that Giuliani’s story has shifted to “they were probably talking about it” and how that gets at the heart of their reporting, Stelter asked Cormier whether there was “any new evidence since Thursday night that supports your story.”

“I have further confirmation this is right and we’ve been told to stand our ground,” Cormier responded. “Our reporting is going to be borne out to be accurate.”

Stelter asked him directly who his sources are, something Cormier said he wasn’t going to share. “This is an important matter and in order to protect our sources and not put them in any risk, we’re not going to talk about the sourcing,” Cormier stated.

While Cormier said he wasn’t going to talk about sourcing matters or if they had additional sources outside of who they cited in the story, he did point out that the “same sources we used in that story are standing behind it.”

Here's the clip from CNN from Contemptor.

At this point I'm going to have to say that when your reporter and your editor go on a national cable news show about the media and say "Yes, this story is true, we have multiple sources, no I'm not going to burn my sources, this story is vital and will be proven true" then yes, everything is on the line for your news organization, even if it wasn't a story about the guy in the Oval Office committing conspiracy and impeachable criminal acts.  It takes guts to do this.

The Washington Post has more details on the Mueller team's denial.

The reporter informed Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, that he and a colleague had “a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project,” according to copies of their emails provided by a BuzzFeed spokesman. Importantly, the reporter made no reference to the special counsel’s office specifically or evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered.

“We’ll decline to comment,” Carr responded, a familiar refrain for those in the media who cover Mueller’s work.

The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce. When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described fixer, “told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,” and that Mueller’s office learned of the directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

In the view of the special counsel’s office, that was wrong, two people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller’s team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.

Within 24 hours of the story’s publication, the special counsel’s office issued a statement doing just that. Trump, who has called the media the “enemy of the people,” on Saturday pointed to the special counsel’s assertion as evidence of what he sees as journalists’ bias against him.

So what I said Friday about the denial from the Mueller team being more about damage control of what was an obvious leak in their ongoing investigation of Trump seems like the best theory right now. Remember, the rest of the circumstantial evidence strongly supports the story being true as well, so for now I'm going to believe BuzzFeed News, with the caveat that if they are bullshitting us, they are done.

But let's remember who we're dealing with here.

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