The Media’s Russia ‘Bombshells’ Look Even Worse Now That Mueller Found No Collusion
Attorney General William Barr told Congress Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller did not find collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, destroying two years of media speculation and bad reporting.
The obsession to prove collusion has dampened the media’s journalistic abilities, leading to a seemingly endless list of corrections, retractions and apologies.
In light of Mueller concluding his investigation, we’ve compiled a list of some of the worst media screwups in the history of Russia theories.
1. CNN Accuses Don Jr. Of Wikileaks Collusion
Last December, CNN’s Manu Raju reported that Wikileaks emailed Donald Trump Jr. to give him access to stolen documents a full 10 days before they were released to the public.
Unfortunately for CNN, it turns out their sources gave them the wrong date. Don Jr. actually received an email with access to the stolen docs on Sept. 14, 2016, after they had already been released publicly.
2. ABC Tanks Stock Market With Fake Flynn News
ABC was forced to suspend Brian Ross after he falsely reported that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that then-candidate Donald Trump ordered him to make contact with the Russians.
The stock market dropped a few hundred points at the news — but it turned out to be fake.
ABC clarified that Flynn was actually prepared to testify that Trump asked him to contact Russia while the administration was transitioning into office. Pretty standard preparation for an incoming president.
3. The Mooch Is NOT Under Investigation
CNN earns another spot on this list for their shoddy reporting about former Trump adviser Anthony, “The Mooch,” Scaramucci. In June 2017, CNN relied on a single unnamed source to claim that Scaramucci was under investigation for a meeting he took with a Russian banker prior to Trump’s inauguration.
The Mooch denied the story and CNN later gave him a much-deserved apology. Oh … and three CNN employees resigned over the botched piece.
4. Bloomberg’s Dirty Deutsche Bank Scoop
Bloomberg initially reported in December that special counsel Robert Mueller had “zeroed in” on Trump by subpoenaing Deutsche Bank records for the incoming president and his family.
Bloomberg later admitted that Mueller was looking for records relating to “people affiliated” with Trump.
5. Sessions Exonerated
Last May, CNN was sure that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had botched protocol when he didn’t list meetings he had with the Russian ambassador on his security clearance forms. To CNN and other establishment media outlets, this was proof that Sessions was hiding something related to Russia.
A little over six months later, CNN quietly walked back the scandal, explaining the FBI sent emails informing Sessions’ aide that he did not need to disclose the meetings on his forms because they were carried out in the course of his duties as a senator.
6. Russians Aren’t Just Hacking The Election — They’re Hacking Our Power Grid
The Washington Post claimed in January 2017 that Russians were hacking the U.S. power grid through a company in Vermont, only to change the story to say that only one laptop was infiltrated. It turns out that one laptop was never even connected to the power grid.
7. Republicans Funded The Dossier!
A number of news outlets have consistently claimed that Republicans initially paid for the anti-Trump Steele dossier, failing to note that Steele wasn’t even contracted by Fusion GPS until after the GOP donors pulled funding. The Republican donors say they paid Fusion for standard opposition research and that they have zero connection to the dossier.
The media has perpetuated this falsehood so consistently that even former FBI director James Comey was confused, repeating the lie in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier.
8. CNN Gets Comey Prediction Wildly Wrong
Prior to former FBI director James Comey’s congressional testimony last June, CNN asserted that Comey was prepared to contradict a key claim by President Trump — that Comey told him he was not under investigation.
Sadly for them, Comey’s prepared testimony was released with the line, “During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower … I offered that assurance [that he was not under investigation].”
9. The ’17 Intel Agencies’ Lie
The media perpetuated a false claim from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for months, insisting that all 17 intelligence agencies agree that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. The New York Times, for example, rated that claim as true only to later say the exact opposite.
Only four intelligence agencies ultimately deemed Russia responsible for meddling because the other 13 have no business making judgments on the claim. As The NYT succinctly explained, “The rest were doing other work.”
10. Manafort Notes Are A Nothing Burger
NBC botched its big scoop claiming that Paul Manafort’s notes from a meeting with a Russian lawyer included the word “donations” near a reference to the Republican National Committee.
Turns out, not only did the word “donations” not appear in Manafort’s notes, but the word “donor” didn’t, either. POLITICO had to correct the NBC report, leaving the legacy network looking awfully embarrassed.
11. NBC Issues Cohen Correction
NBC issued a major correction in May on a story about wiretaps and Michael Cohen.
NBC initially claimed that federal investigators were listening in on Cohen’s phone calls, but it turns out they had what’s called a “pen register warrant,” which means they could see who Cohen spoke to on the phone but could not hear what was said.(RELATED: MSNBC Issues HUGE Correction To Michael Cohen ‘Wiretap’ Story)
12. Did Cohen Go To Prague?
A McClatchy report stated that special counsel Robert Mueller had evidence that Michael Cohen visited Prague in the summer of 2016, which seemed to corroborate the portion of the Steele dossier claiming Cohen visited Prague at that time to meet with a Kremlin official.
However, no other outlets ever confirmed the report and Cohen told Congress during an open hearing in February that he has never been to Prague. (RELATED: Here’s Why You Should Be Skeptical Of That Michael Cohen Prague Story)
13. Busted BuzzFeed
The special counsel’s office disputed a 2019 report by BuzzFeed claiming that Trump directed his lawyer to lie about a potential business deal in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The BuzzFeed report was used to float impeachment proceedings and obstruction of justice charges against the president, but Mueller’s team disputed the core premise of the reporting.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
14. Lanny Davis Obliterates CNN’s Trump Tower Story
CNN reported in July that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was prepared to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that the president had knowledge in advance of a Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians.
But Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said in August that CNN’s reporting got “mixed up” and that Cohen had no information related to the Trump Tower meeting. Cohen said the same to Congress on two separate occasions.
CNN doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on its reporting, despite a series of issues with the report.
15. NPR Accuses Don Jr. Of Perjury
NPR published a report in November insisting that Donald Trump Jr. lied to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow because his statements conflicted with those of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
However, NPR failed to realize that the piece of Trump Jr.’s testimony they quoted was about a different project.
“Trump Jr.’s statements about work on a Trump Tower Moscow that ended in 2014 referred to negotiations with Aras Agalarov,” The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Chuck Ross explained. “Felix Sater, a businessman with links to Cohen and Russian officials, tried to make a Trump Tower Moscow happen in 2015.”
16. Mic Claims Russian Spy Infiltrated The Oval
Shortly after it was revealed that a Russian spy was attempting to infiltrate right-wing networks, Mic writer Emily Singer claimed that same Russian spy was present during an Oval Office meeting with Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov.
Singer claimed Russian spy Maria Butina was spotted in a photo of the meeting, citing the fact that she has red hair like the woman in the photo.
The woman in the photo is actually NSC staffer Cari Lutkins.
This story was originally published in May 2018 but has been updated with additional information regarding the delivery of Mueller’s report to Attorney General Bill Barr.