There seems to be a lot of confusion over what Buzzfeed reported about Donald Trump and what CNN reported about Donald Trump. A report from NBC appears to differ from what CNN reported, and that is a separate issue. However, people are accusing CNN and Buzzfeed of publishing the same information, and that simply is not true.
Buzzfeed posted the contents of memos that were not prepared by the intelligence community and contained salacious rumors and allegations about Donald Trump that had him furious this morning. CNN’s report included none of those details. Here is what they wrote:
Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.
The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.
The classified briefings last week were presented by four of the senior-most US intelligence chiefs — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.
One reason the nation’s intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington, multiple sources tell CNN.
Jake Tapper, following Donald Trump’s press conference, said Donald Trump and his team were conflating what CNN did and what Buzzfeed did. He was having none of it and called out what he said is “irresponsible reporting.” Watch:
On the other side of that, however, is a report this morning from NBC that differs from what CNN reported and therefore CNN is “just as bad” as Buzzfeed. NBC said the following:
President-elect Donald Trump was not told about unverified reports that Russia has compromising information on him during last week’s intelligence briefing, according to a senior intelligence official with knowledge of preparations for the briefing.
A summary of the unverified reports was prepared as background material for the briefing, but not discussed during the meeting, the official said. During Trump’s press conference Wednesday morning, the president-elect said he was made aware of the information “outside that meeting.”
Two U.S. officials told NBC News that materials prepared for Trump in advance of last week’s intelligence briefing included damaging allegations from the dossier — unverified by American intelligence agencies — about his dealings with the Russians.
Officials prepared a two-page summary of the dossier for Trump’s briefing Friday at Trump Tower in New York.
Multiple officials say that the summary was included in the material prepared for the briefers, but the senior official told NBC News that the briefing was oral and no actual documents were left with the Trump team in New York. During the briefing, the president-elect was not briefed on the contents of the summary.
My colleague, Streiff wrote about this earlier and concluded with the following:
Assuming that NBC’s anonymous source is more reliable that CNN’s reliable source, it looks like CNN’s story, even though it is not as bad as BuzzFeed’s, gets not only the nature of the material wrong (“none of the investigations have found any conclusive or direct link between Trump and the Russian government period”) but they get wrong the purpose of the material and how it was used. While CNN’s reporting may read better than BuzzFeed’s, fake is binary. Either it is or it isn’t. CNN appears to have been substantially wrong and totally misleading. That is rather the definition of fake.
The immediate problem is the first word……assuming. Why should anybody assume NBC’s source is right and CNN’s are wrong? In reading the CNN story, they cite “multiple sources.” The NBC story quotes one source.
I am not making a judgment as to which story is correct. I don’t know. But there is a big difference between a story being fake and a story being wrong. CNN only “appears to have been substantially wrong” if you’re just prepared to believe NBC and it’s not as though they have a spotless track record. It is certainly possible the NBC story is wrong, and CNN is correct.
Nobody knows and it’s short-sighted to make any conclusions at this point. Anybody who does is just choosing to take sides.
The one conclusion that can be made is that Buzzfeed trafficked in the unsubstantiated garbage and Tapper was right to call them out. It’s no wonder Buzzfeed is l sing the only good reporters they have to places like CNN and The Atlantic.