CNN stands by dubious Cohen Trump Tower story -- even after Lanny Davis admits he was a source

This would be the same Lanny Davis who admitted to the Washington Post this weekend that, contrary to what he’d claimed before, he couldn’t say for a fact that Cohen had watched Donald Trump Jr tell dad in advance about his meeting with the Russians in 2016. WaPo had reported that claim as news last month and outed Davis in a new story this weekend as having been a source for it.

But WaPo wasn’t the only outlet that reported Team Cohen’s claim about Trump Tower. CNN also ran a story in July alleging that Cohen had watched Trump and Junior chat about the Russia meeting before it happened. Big question: Was Lanny Davis also a source for CNN’s story? CNN won’t say — but Davis will. Per BuzzFeed:

Attorney Lanny Davis says he was an anonymous source in a July CNN story that reported his client, Michael Cohen, had privately claimed that President Trump had advance knowledge of the infamous Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians — contradicting Davis’s own words on CNN’s air last week

Last week, Davis told Anderson Cooper, “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.”

On Monday evening, Davis told BuzzFeed News that he regrets both his role as an anonymous source and his subsequent denial of his own involvement.

Time for CNN to retract or at least “clarify” its original Trump Tower story, right? Wrong. The network continues to stand by its reporting even though Cohen’s own lawyer, who presumably is hearing from Cohen himself that it’s time to walk back the Trump Tower allegations, is running away from it. How come? BuzzFeed has an insight into that too:

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.

For fark’s sake. It’s true that CNN’s July 27 story notes in the opening paragraph that “Cohen is willing to make [his] assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller,” but if his lawyer/spokesman is now retreating from that assertion, at the very least the story warrants updating to reflect that fact. If Cohen said the sun rises in the west and sets in the east and would be willing to tell Bob Mueller that, the truth of the underlying claim isn’t salvaged by that willingness. Particularly if his attorney is out there telling people he’s no longer certain if the sun rises in the west.

But it gets worse. Elsewhere in CNN’s July 27 story the network notes that it actually spoke to none other than Lanny Davis for reaction to what its “sources” were telling it about what Cohen knew. Quote: “Contacted by CNN, one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.” This wasn’t just a case of Davis spreading now-questionable information to the media, in other words, it was a case of CNN wiping Davis’s fingerprints off of it and misleading its readers by implying that the information was coming from someone other than him. Lanny Davis, attorney for Michael Cohen, had no comment. Lanny Davis, CNN source on background, had a lot to say.

And so we’re back to the question I asked yesterday, which recurs in virtually all news commentary these days: What the hell is going on? Did CNN have other sources who corroborated what Cohen knew of Trump and Junior discussing the meeting with the Russians in 2016? (The network did say in its original report that it had “sources,” not just one source. It wasn’t just Davis whispering to them, apparently.) How could they trust their sources to know what Michael Cohen saw when Cohen’s own lawyer says he can’t be sure? Three possibilities occur to me:

1. Cohen himself is one of CNN’s sources for the story.

2. There was someone else in the room besides Cohen for the conversation between Trump and Junior who corroborated that it happened.

3. CNN has reason to believe that Davis is lying now in trying to walk back the Trump Tower story and was telling them the truth when they first reported on it in late July. I can’t figure out why Davis would go so far as to damage his already shaky credibility, though, by running around to outlets like WaPo and admitting that he’d passed along possibly bad information previously. Why not just decline comment about what Cohen did or didn’t know about the Trump Tower meeting going forward? Is he worried that Cohen might be charged with perjury because he told Congress under oath months ago that he didn’t know of any discussions between Trump and Junior about the Russia meeting? If so then Cohen’s in a bind about what he can tell Mueller. If he tells the special counsel under oath that he did in fact witness that conversation between the two Trumps then he’s admitting to having lied under oath to Congress earlier.