CNN is unwilling to let go of its narrative concerning Michael Cohen, Lanny Davis and the Russia investigation.
Lanny Davis, who has been engaged in high-stakes crisis management and political lawyering for decades, says he made a mistake.
CNN, which relied on Davis at least in part for a story he now says is false, won’t say it made a mistake.Davis, who I’ve found to be a straight shooter over a quarter century dating back to the Clinton scandals, told me in a telephone interview yesterday that he had made an error and regrets it.
“I should not be talking to reporters on background about something I’m not certain about,” Davis told me, describing his interactions with CNN reporters. “The combination of big stakes and a big mistake is a bad moment for me. If I had a redo in life, I wouldn’t have said anything about the subject.”
After initially saying nothing, here is the sum total of CNN’s comment: “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.” A CNN report yesterday said that Davis kept changing his story in his dealings with the network.
Here’s the backstory: CNN dropped a bombshell last month by reporting that Davis’ client, Michael Cohen, had information that Donald Trump knew in advance of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, his son-in-law, campaign chairman and a Russian lawyer. “Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller,” according to “the sources,” CNN said.
The president has repeatedly denied any advance knowledge of the meeting.
Lanny Davis, the attorney representing Michael Cohen, made several steps that threw mud all over the anti-Trump powers that are prosecuting the Russia investigation. On Tuesday, 22 August, Mr. Davis firmly stated that Michael Cohen, his client and one of Donald Trump’s former attorneys, had never been in Prague, as the Steele “dossier” had reported, to meet with Russians in 2016.
Lanny Davis, attorney for Michael Cohen, trashed the infamous Trump dossier, a document put together by former British spy Christopher Steele, in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Wednesday.
Davis said the part about Cohen visiting Prague to meet with Russians in 2016 “never” happened.” He called it the “so-called dossier” and said it mentions his client in a “false” manner. On Tuesday, a superior court judge threw out a defamation lawsuit against Steele for failing to provide evidence that information in the dossier was knowingly falsified.
“Can you say definitively whether you know if Michael Cohen was ever in Prague in 2016?” Todd on Wednesday’s edition of Meet the Press Daily on MSNBC.
“Never, never in Prague,” Davis sternly said.
“Never ever?” Todd pressed.
“Never ever in Prague,” Davis answered. “And the reason, just to let your viewers know what we’re talking about, is that the dossier, the so-called dossier, mentions his name 14 times. One of which is a meeting with Russians in Prague. 14 times. False.”
This is old news, but it was given new life on Sunday when Mr. Davis gave an interview to NBC News on Sunday, 26 August:
Last month, Michael Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, confirmed to NBC News a report that Cohen would be willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that the president was told in advance about the now-infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between members of the Trump campaign team and Russians. But on Tuesday, Davis said he was wrong, and apologized.
After CNN reported that Cohen alleged Donald Trump Jr. notified the president about the meeting in advance, Davis confirmed to NBC News that Cohen would be willing to tell the special counsel just that. But Davis was not willing at the time to be identified by name as a source.Davis now says that his confirmation was erroneous. “I regret not being much clearer in saying I’m not sure about this story,” Davis now tells NBC News. “It’s a major mistake for which I am 100 percent sorry. Period. I never should have done it unless I was certain and could prove it.”
However, this is not enough for CNN to back off from its full-court media press to try to discredit and dislodge President Donald Trump from his post in the White House. The network’s current claim, as Mr. Kurtz noted, is that Mr. Davis “keeps changing his story.”
In recent days, one of Michael Cohen’s lawyers has repeatedly changed his account of what Cohen knew about President Donald Trump’s involvement in a controversial meeting during the 2016 campaign. Lanny Davis has offered many variations of his client’s knowledge regarding the meeting in Trump Tower but says he is now less certain about Cohen’s claims.On July 26, citing sources with knowledge, CNN was first to report that Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, claimed he was willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower. CNN said Cohen claimed he was present when Donald Trump Jr. told Trump about the Russians’ offer to share dirt on Hillary Clinton, and Trump gave approval for the meeting to take place.CNN stands by its story.
A CNN spokeswoman said Tuesday: “We stand by our story, which had more than one source, and are confident in our reporting of it.”
It is interesting that CNN did not name the spokeswoman, just as they have not named their “anonymous sources” that offer the network its daily dose of slander. It appears that the network is in defensive mode, and the admission of Mr. Davis reveals the house-of-cards nature of the whole anti-Trump narrative being presented by the network as though it were really news.
Howard Kurtz offered his concluding thoughts here:
Implicit in CNN standing by the story is that the network has other sources for the Trump Tower allegation. But how could others have information about what Cohen believes when the president’s former lawyer is essentially saying, through Davis, that he has no such information?
The Washington Post handled its dealings with Davis very differently. The Post had also dealt with him as an unnamed source.
As the paper recounts, the day after the CNN story, “The Post reported that Cohen had told associates that he witnessed an exchange in which Trump Jr. told his father about an upcoming gathering in which he expected to get information about Clinton. The Post did not report that Trump Jr. told his father that the information was coming from Russians.
“The information in the Post story, which was attributed to one person familiar with discussions among Cohen’s friends, came from Davis, who is now acknowledging his role on the record.”
And that’s the thing. CNN doesn’t have to protect Davis, who has come clean about his role in the matter.
When the White House makes a mistake or clings to an unsubstantiated charge, news organizations hammer top officials about it. Shouldn’t a network have the same obligation to explain itself when an explosive story is denied by one of its own sources?