The attorney for President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is admitting to being an anonymous source in the now-scrutinized CNN-Trump Tower story from July. He’s also admitting to lying on TV about his involvement.
Lanny Davis admitted to Buzzfeed’s Steven Perlberg yesterday evening that he provided the information for an anonymously sourced story that implied Trump had prior knowledge of a controversial June 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower.
Davis told Perlberg that he regrets both his role as an anonymous source in the CNN story and his subsequent denial of his own involvement.
“I made a mistake,” Davis told Perlberg. “I did not mean to be cute.”
According to anonymous sources quoted in the story published on July 26, Michael Cohen had heard his then-boss speak in advance about the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and senior members of the campaign, something which has become a focal point of Robert Mueller’s probe. Pres. Trump continues to claim that he knew nothing about the meeting beforehand. CNN reported that Cohen was willing to testify to Mueller about what he’d heard in said meeting.
The original CNN story, which was broadcast on Cuomo Prime Time, was written by CNN’s Jim Scuitto, Carl Bernstein and Marshall Cohen. The story noted that Davis had “declined to comment” for the story. Yet his involvement in the story, on “background,” had not been previously reported.
Davis’ version of events received scrutiny last week when he went on AC 360 and seemed to contradict the July 26 CNN story, saying he wasn’t certain that Cohen had made any such claim about Trump.
“I think the reporting of the story got mixed up in the course of a criminal investigation. We were not the source of the story,” said Davis.
But CNN appears to be standing by its journalists, despite the controversy.
“We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it,” a CNN spokesperson told Perlberg.
The decision to stand by the story has ticked off some employees, says Perlberg. The network has taken strong action on reporting errors in the past, including the resignation of three journalists last June who wrote a since-retracted article that falsely linked Anthony Scaramucci to a billion-dollar Russian investment fund.
They don’t seem to be taking the same type of action here.
The network, in effect, doesn’t appear to believe it made a mistake — the story was, some inside CNN argue, carefully worded to hedge against those in the Cohen camp changing their tune. In other words, the story reports claims that Cohen had said he was willing to make, not the underlying truth of those claims.
The decision from CNN to continue to stand by the story suggests that it believes the strength of its other sources outweighs any waffling from Davis — or that the network believes Davis was telling the truth then, and not now. But Davis’s new statement that he was a source for a story he now refutes raises questions about what action, if any, the network might take.