The clowns just keep piling out of the little car as CNN has published what can best be described as a hit-piece on Michael Cohen attorney Lanny Davis, who "repeatedly changed his account of what Cohen knew about President Donald Trump's involvement" in a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian associate of opposition research firm Fusion GPS, and several others in attendance.
Cohen is President Trump's former longtime attorney and self-described "fixer" who retained Davis - a lifelong friend of Hillary Clinton - to represent him in his ongoing legal matters related to the 2016 presidential election, including hush money payments made to two women who claim to have had affairs with Trump over a decade ago.
Davis backpedaled on "confident assertions" that Cohen would share information with investigators that President Trump knew of Russian efforts to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton - forcing the Washington Post and others to correct their reporting.
Davis told The Washington Post that he cannot confirm media reports that Cohen is prepared to tell special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that Trump had advance knowledge of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting -WaPo
“I should have been more clear — including with you — that I could not independently confirm what happened,” Davis told the Post, adding perhaps the most difficult four words for an attorney to utter: "I regret my error."
CNN, meanwhile, is standing by their version of the Cohen story - even after Davis admitted to BuzzFeed News he was CNN's source. "We stand by our story, which had more than one source, and are confident in our reporting of it," said a CNN spokeswoman on Tuesday.
The CNN story noted, based on sources, that Cohen did not have corroborating evidence to back up his claim. CNN did not report whether Trump knew about the meeting before it happened -- only that Cohen was making that claim while hoping for a deal from prosecutors.
Davis acknowledged over the weekend that he confirmed CNN's story to other news organizations.
He now says that he also was one of the sources for CNN's story.
For more than three weeks, Davis did not raise any issues to CNN about its reporting. -CNN
So Cohen's attorney has retracted a claim that his client would tell Mueller of Trump's foreknowledge of the infamous Trump Tower meeting, while CNN claims that some other anonymous source, not Lanny Davis, said the same thing.
Was Cohen himself another CNN source? If not, they're sure implying it.
This is a heck of a way to either burn Cohen as CNN’s source, or pretend that he is. pic.twitter.com/Ts26Cz6deX— Vince Coglianese (@TheDCVince) August 28, 2018
CNN's "defense" of their Trump Tower story does the following:— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) August 28, 2018
- Doesn't address Davis declining comment on record despite being a source
- Doesn't explain why they think the story is strong enough w/o Davis
- Suggests Michael Cohen was a sourcehttps://t.co/jsjo4V6sgz
Still kind of a mystery to me why @jimsciutto and @carlbernstein can't just write in their own words that Lanny Davis was one of their sources — he told me so himself on the record! Also lol can BuzzFeed News get a LINK pic.twitter.com/xJ7OtnyPs9— Steven Perlberg (@perlberg) August 28, 2018
On Sunday, CNN's Brian Stelter tweeted "We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it."
Davis' role in the CNN story also offers a window into the kind of anonymous sourcing common across newsrooms, as Buzzfeed concluded. Some news outlets have a policy to not let sources speak "on background" — that is, as a “person familiar with the matter” or some other unnamed moniker — and also be allowed to decline to comment on the record.
“We should address Lanny Davis’s comments in our reporting and be more transparent with our readers about our reporting,” one CNN staffer told BuzzFeed News.
We can't wait for the next act in this comedy of errors.