President Trump left the White House on Saturday morning to travel to Dover Air Force Base to pay tribute to four fallen American heroes, the victims of a suicide bomb attack in Syria. He will be meeting with their families. As is his habit now, he stopped to answer questions from the press before boarding Marine One. He was asked about the Buzzfeed story and thanked Mueller’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for issuing a statement strongly pushing back on the credibility of the story.
‘It hurts me to say it but mainstream media has really hurt its credibility”, Trump said. He called the story – one that claimed President Trump instructed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow a “total phony story” and a “disgrace to the country, to journalism. Media coverage was disgraceful.” Apparently, disgraceful is the word of the day. He’s not wrong.
“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,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller.
A little less than 24 hours after Buzzfeed broke the story, Meuller’s office issued that statement. That alone is newsworthy because it is so rare for OSC, at least Mueller’s, to issue any statement at all. I’m guessing the need to issue the statement was due to the over the top coverage of the Buzzfeed story. With the exception of Fox News, all television networks seemed to take the story as the gospel and brought on politicians and pundits happy to declare that the highly anticipated impeachment of President Trump is on the horizon. The coverage was quite a sight to behold. Though the cheerleaders of impeachment have consistently been burned, this time this story would surely be the one that takes down Trump, right? Wrong. The punditry class should have realized that they were traveling down the wrong path once again as no other media outlet confirmed the validity of the Buzzfeed story. Were it to be verifiable, how long do you think it would have taken CNN or MSNBC to gleefully announce that breaking news?
The Justice Department acknowledges that OSC would only issue such a statement if the story was believed by them to be false. (WaPo)
Inside the Justice Department, the statement was viewed as a huge step, and one that would have been taken only if the special counsel’s office viewed the story as almost entirely incorrect. The special counsel’s office seemed to be disputing every aspect of the story that addressed comments or evidence given to its investigators.
The explicit denial by the special counsel’s office is likely to provide further ammunition to complaints by Trump and his supporters that press coverage of him is unfair and inaccurate.
This does, in fact, give the president additional ammo against the media and their wildly skewed coverage of him and his administration. The lesson is a hard one for the anti-Trump media. How many times does Lucy have to pull the football away from Charlie Brown before they show some small amount of professional decorum? Verifying sources is a pretty basic part of professional journalism. The Buzzfeed story claimed texts, documents, and emails were all there, though the reporters had not seen any of them.
I called b.s. on the story early on. One of the reporters is the same one who reported on Karl Rove’s indictment in 2007 during the Valerie Plame story investigation. That story was quickly proven wrong. It’s hard to take a journalist seriously after that. President Trump told reporters Saturday that the “media can pull the country together” yet we know that will not happen in Trump’s America. There is big money to be made and careers to launch over the divisions in our country now and the media has clearly chosen a side.
Buzzfeed, by the way, is not copping to their mistake. (WaPo)
Following the special counsel’s denial, BuzzFeed insisted its story was correct. In a statement, the website’s top editor, Ben Smith, said, “We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.”
It looks like to me that OSC was clearly disputing the validity of the story. Maybe taking a claim from an admitted liar and convicted felon isn’t such a great source for a story. Here are some tweets that haven’t aged well from the 24-hour freak-out.
Rep. Joaquin Castro: President Trump “should resign, but if he doesn’t resign, he should be impeached."https://t.co/lDINeOdXs2
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 18, 2019
"It is one of the most dramatic and potentially devastating developments in the Donald Trump vs Michael Cohen saga, to date: a new report so damning that if true could very well put in motion Donald Trump's impeachment…"- @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/iLFMI6fhSu
— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) January 18, 2019
And even Never-Trumper CNN legal contributor Jeffrey Toobin admits the media hung itself with the story, though the panel is still in denial
CNN's @JeffreyToobin on Buzzfeed story and the Special Counsel's response: "I just think this is a bad day for us… it reinforces every bad stereotype about the news media." https://t.co/L0G6P0Qz7t pic.twitter.com/8SqUrnvDq2
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) January 19, 2019