One of the most humiliating journalism debacles of the Trump era played out on December 8, 2017, first on CNN and then on MSNBC. The spectacle kicked off on that Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. when CNN, deploying its most melodramatic music and graphics designed to convey that a real bombshell was about to be dropped, announced that anonymous sources had provided the network with a smoking gun proving the Trump/Russia conspiracy once and for all: during the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump, Jr. had received a September 4 email with a secret encryption key that gave him advanced access to WikiLeaks’ servers containing the DNC emails which the group would subsequently release to the public ten days later. Cable news and online media spontaneously combusted, as is their wont, in shock, hysteria and awe over this proof that WikiLeaks and Trump were in cahoots.
CNN has ensured that no videos of the festivities are available on YouTube for anyone to watch. That’s because the claim was completely false in its most crucial respect. CNN misreported the date of the smoking gun email Trump, Jr. received: rather than being sent to him on September 4 — ten days prior to WikiLeaks’ public release, thus enabling secret access — the email was merely sent by a random member of the public after the public release (September 14), encouraging Trump, Jr. to look at the emails published by WikiLeaks.