A bombshell headline by the New York Times set journalists into a feeding frenzy though the report was apparently a rehash of a previous story.
The Times published “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence” on Tuesday, alleging that President Donald Trump and members of his campaign had contact with “senior Russian intelligence officials” during the election campaign, according to four current and former American officials.
Journalists Go Nuts Over Rehashed New York Times Story https://t.co/ICVjCDIrGX pic.twitter.com/eyyUfoJkUe
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 15, 2017
The anonymous U.S. officials said phone records and intercepted calls pointed to the contact between Russians and members of Trump’s campaign.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that 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 Times noted, “The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.”
Intercepted calls show Trump campaign members had repeated contact with Russian intelligence before the election https://t.co/kKjlQiBWMK
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 15, 2017
In fact, despite the attention grabbing headline, the story contained more than a few caveats that minimized the “news.”
Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone were all identified as people the FBI was investigating.
According to the report:
The officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, the identity of the Russian intelligence officials who participated, and how many of Mr. Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians. It is also unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Mr. Trump himself.
“This is absurd,” Manafort told the Times, refuting the story’s validity. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”
He added, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, said he never knowingly spoke to Russian intelligence officers https://t.co/g9osJYmAFW pic.twitter.com/dvp9q7FecA
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 15, 2017
A Times article from January featured many of the same claims reprinted in the current story with two of the same writers, Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo.
“Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates,” published on Jan. 19, similarly claimed:
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.
The January article also noted that it was “not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself,” adding later that “investigators have accelerated their efforts in recent weeks but have found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said.”
Despite the repeated information, and the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has found no evidence of questionable contact between Russia and the Trump campaign, journalists reacted with shock and amazement over the new Times piece.
From Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin:
Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence https://t.co/Gm57YAJLAY shoes keep dropping… how bad does this get?
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) February 15, 2017
Gizmodo writer, Ashley Feinberg:
it is fucking insane that trump is not being impeached https://t.co/IgUJAoCC0z pic.twitter.com/oQJRSfqbkT
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) February 15, 2017
Michael Weiss, Daily Beast senior editor:
Shortest. Presidency. Ever.
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) February 15, 2017
Dan Rather, who knows a thing or two about false reporting, also reacted on Facebook.
Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now: https://t.co/9NCmordowo
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) February 14, 2017
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