Mueller report exposes string of anonymously sourced stories that got it wrong

Peter Hasson, DCNF

  • The Mueller report revealed a number of bombshell stories based on anonymous sources were apparently wrong.
  • BuzzFeed and McClatchy each corrected two stories following the Mueller report’s release.
  • Mueller’s report had no evidence backing up a bombshell report in The Guardian that went viral but has since come into question.
  • A major CNN report on the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was also inaccurate, Mueller’s report confirmed.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling revealed a string of anonymously sourced stories about the investigation were inaccurate.

BuzzFeed and McClatchy each added editor’s notes to two stories following the publication of the Mueller report, which also contradicted an explosive CNN report and called into further question a bombshell story in The Guardian.

The Mueller report directly contradicted a Jan. 18 BuzzFeed story alleging that Mueller had evidence President Donald Trump ordered Michael Cohen, his former attorney, to lie to Congress about his exploration of a potential Trump Tower Moscow deal in 2016.

Image: Michael Cohen

The story claimed that Cohen “told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.”

But Mueller’s report states: “Cohen said that he and the President did not explicitly discuss whether Cohen’s testimony about the Trump Tower Moscow project would be or was false, and the President did not direct him to provide false testimony. Cohen also said he did not tell the President about the specifics of his planned testimony.”

A June 2018 BuzzFeed story fingered former Russian Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov as a potential go-between for Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Klokov was in contact with Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump, and offered to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, the BuzzFeed report claimed, including photos of the weightlifter. Klokov at the time adamantly denied having been in contact with the Trump camp, and he was right.

Cohen had been in contact with a Russian he thought was Dmitry Klokov, the former Olympian, but he, and BuzzFeed, got it wrong.

Mueller’s report showed. Cohen had confused the Russian weightlifter with a former Russian official by the same name.

Cohen was still under the impression that he had been talking with the weightlifter when he spoke with the special counsel’s office, according to the Mueller report.

The Mueller report contained no evidence to support an explosive, but thinly sourced, article in The Guardian.

The Guardian’s article alleged that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort visited WikiLeaks head Julian Assange three times between 2013 and 2016, including once around the time he joined Trump’s campaign.

The article, which was shared more than 100,000 times across the internet, attributed the bombshell claim to unnamed sources.

The Mueller report made no mention of Manafort ever visiting Assange. Before Mueller’s report came out, The Guardian’s story had been called into question.

Politico Magazine published an article the next day from a former CIA official who questioned if The Guardian’s reporters had fallen for “a disinformation campaign.”

Two weeks after The Guardian’s story came out, The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi noted that the fact that no other outlet had confirmed the British paper’s story meant it “could be a dud.” More than five months after Farhi’s observation, The Guardian’s story remains unconfirmed.

The Daily Caller News Foundation emailed The Guardian’s press office to ask whether the paper has any plans to update, correct or retract its story, but did not receive a response by press time.

McClatchy, a news company with 29 newspapers under its umbrella, added editor’s notes to two Trump-Russia stories in response to the Mueller report’s release.

Both McCatchy stories claimed that Mueller had evidence that Cohen traveled to Prague during the 2016 campaign, a key claim in the salacious but inaccurate Trump-Russia dossier.

The second report specified that Mueller had allegedly received evidence that Cohen’s personal cellphone sent signals to a tower near Prague in later summer 2016, around the time the dossier alleged that the former Trump fixer was meeting with a group of Kremlin insiders.

But Cohen hadn’t traveled to Prague, according to the Mueller report. “Cohen had never traveled to Prague and was not concerned about those allegations, which he believed were provably false,” the report states.

When asked for comment, a McClatchy spokeswoman directed TheDCNF to an article the company published Thursday.

“The redacted report is silent on whether investigators received information placing one of Cohen’s devices in or near Prague, as McClatchy reported,” the article states, adding that “McClatchy stands by the reporting.”

A bombshell CNN report on the June 2016 meeting that Trump Jr., Manafort and Jared Kushner attended with Russian nationals was flawed as well, Mueller’s report confirms.

The CNN story said that Cohen claimed “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.”

“Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians’ offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen’s account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians,” the CNN report added, citing unnamed sources.

CNN stood by its story, even after Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, refuted the network’s report. The Mueller report contradicted CNN’s reporting.

“Michael Cohen recalled being in Donald J. Trump ‘s office on June 6 or 7 when Trump Jr. told his father that a meeting to obtain adverse information about Clinton was going forward. Cohen did not recall Trump Jr. stating that the meeting was connected to Russia,” Mueller’s report states.

A CNN spokeswoman did not return an email seeking comment.

Follow Hasson on Twitter @PeterJHasson

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