Back on February 14, the New York Times ran a story headlined Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence. This is how it starts:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the government outside of the intelligence services, they said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.
This article was not a minor one. It dominated national news for days and is still used as evidence of some sort of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, though to what ends no one ever seems to be able to articulate. Idaho Senator Jim Risch asked former FBI Director James Comey about it in today’s Comey hearing.
However, Comey flatly disputed all of that.
“That report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, asked.
“In the main, it was not true,” Comey replied. “The challenge, and I’m not picking on reporters, about writing on classified information is: The people talking about it often don’t really know what’s going on, and those of us who actually know what’s going on are not talking about it.”
He added, “And we don’t call the press to say, ‘Hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic.’ We just have to leave it there.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., later asked Comey if the story was “almost entirely wrong,” and Comey said yes.
This is the kind of story that has been used over and over since November. Anonymous sources float patently implausible scenarios, the media develop the most incendiary headlines possible because Trump — and he’s the enemy so accuracy no longer matters–and shamelessly promote the stories. Actual knowledgeable sources don’t make it into print because there is no way agencies will be able to clear the release of statements responding to alleged classified information in time to be included in the story and in most cases they don’t bother to try to bat down wrong stories.
Somewhat related, Comey’s testimony has caused CNN to substantially revise a story it posted yesterday:
CNN has corrected a Tuesday report after the release of former FBI Director James Comey’s opening statement for his Thursday testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee contradicted the report’s sources.
The CNN report said Comey was expected to dispute President Trump’s claims that Comey said he was not under investigation on multiple occasions.
The report, titled “Comey expected to refute Trump,” was based on unnamed sources and said Comey’s conversations with the president “were much more nuanced,” and that Trump drew the wrong conclusion.
CNN published a correction to its story Wednesday afternoon with the revised headline: “Comey unlikely to judge on obstruction.”
“CORRECTION AND UPDATE: This article was published before Comey released his prepared opening statement,” it reads above the original Tuesday story. “The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published.”