Monday, Erik Wemple at the Washington Post noted that several media outlets, including his own, has reported previously that Sergei Millian was a sub-source for parts of the Steele dossier. But the recent indictment of Igor Danchenko, the main sub-source for the entire dossier, challenged those claims. In fact the indictment stated that Danchenko never spoke to Millian.
Wemple contacted all three of the outlets who had published claims about Millian being a source—the Wall Street Journal, ABC News and the Washington Post—needed to go back and correct the record. But as of Monday of this week, none of the three would commit to correcting or retracting the earlier stories. Wemple concluded his piece saying if the original sources could no longer defend the claims, there was only one option: “Retract the stories.”
Today Paul Fahri reports the Washington Post has gone back and substantially revised two earlier pieces, plus made changes to a dozen others that repeated the false claims:
The Washington Post on Friday took the unusual step of correcting and removing large portions of two articles, published in March 2017 and February 2019, that had identified a Belarusian American businessman as a key source of the “Steele dossier,” a collection of largely unverified reports that claimed the Russian government had compromising information about then-candidate Donald Trump.
The newspaper’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee, said The Post could no longer stand by the accuracy of those elements of the story. It had identified businessman Sergei Millian as “Source D,” the unnamed figure who passed on the most salacious allegation in the dossier to its principal author, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele…
Source D, according to the dossier, alleged that Russian intelligence had learned that Trump had hired Russian prostitutes to defile a Moscow hotel room once occupied by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama and possessed a video recording of the incident…
The newspaper removed references to Millian as Steele’s source in online and archived versions of the original articles. The stories themselves won’t be retracted. A dozen other Post stories that made the same assertion were also be corrected and amended.
The identification of Source D was important because he was the alleged source of the pee tape claim. There’s now a big Editor’s Note at the top of the 2017 story. It reads in part:
The original account was based on two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide sensitive information. One of those people now says the new information “puts in grave doubt that Millian” was a source for parts of the dossier. The other declined to comment.
So one of the two sources backed off and the other one is silent. That raises another obvious question: Were the sources misled by someone else or were they lying? To answer that question we’d need to know who the sources were. Was one of them Christopher Steele himself or someone at Fusion GPS. Is Steele now claiming he was lied to by Danchenko?
It seems the effort to tar Trump with the dossier was being pushed both before and after the election so it’s possible this story was part of that effort. A planted story about Millian as the source of the pee tape allegation was a good way to suggest that the most extreme allegation in the dossier was reliably sourced and if that story was somehow credible then maybe all of the dossier was credible.
Of course the opposite is also true. In reality, the allegation probably came from another Clinton crony. That ought to lead to more that just corrections. It ought to lead to some mea culpas from the people who promoted this and so far that isn’t happening.
Given the way this story is going lately, it really doesn’t seem like enough for the Post to merely revise its old stories and move on. They ought to investigate why this false story came to them when it did and who wanted it out there. Then they ought to explain that to readers because errors like this, which always seem to trend in one partisan direction, are why the media doesn’t have a lot of credibility.
The false story is just the tip of a real story lying underneath about how this happened. It would be nice if, after being taken for a ride that lasted four years, the Post would decide to actually investigate what happened here.