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CNN doesn’t intend to out sources in Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen story

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Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen.
Yana
Paskova/Getty Images


  • CNN doesn’t intend to reveal its second source on a
    July story that has sparked controversy this week, a senior CNN
    staffer told Business Insider.
  • The story said President Donald Trump’s former
    attorney, Michael Cohen, was prepared to tell investigators
    Trump had advance knowledge of a controversial June 2016 Trump
    Tower meeting.
  • A CNN employee told Business Insider earlier this week
    that the story had two “primary” sources.
  • The story has come under fire after the other source —
    Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney — recanted his earlier
    confirmation.

A senior CNN staffer told Business Insider on Thursday the outlet
doesn’t “intend” to reveal the identity of its other source in
a July story that has come
under fire this week, as President Donald Trump aimed repeated
rounds of criticism at the network.

The story said Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen was
prepared to tell investigators his old boss had advance knowledge
of a controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between senior
campaign officials and a Russian lawyer.

Trump has denied advance knowledge of the meeting, saying he
didn’t find out about it until July 2017.

The CNN staffer requested anonymity to speak about the network’s
internal deliberations.

That story has come under scrutiny in recent days after Cohen’s
attorney, Lanny Davis, first told other outlets to which he had
confirmed the CNN story that he could no longer “independently”
verify it. But after initially saying he was not a source on the
original July CNN story, Davis told BuzzFeed he
actually did confirm the story for the outlet, which he said he
now retracts.

“I should have been much clearer that I could not confirm the
story,” Davis said in a statement he provided to Business
Insider. “I take the responsibility for not communicating more
clearly my uncertainty or for any unintentionally misleading
comments I made to try to explain. I regret the error.”

Some critics called for CNN to
issue a correctionor even a full-blown retraction — to
the story.

In a day that included Trump again calling media the “Enemy
of the People,” the president tweeted Thursday that CNN was
“working frantically to find their ‘source'” for the July story.

“Look hard because it doesn’t exist,” he tweeted. “Whatever was left of
CNN’s credibility is now gone!”

Two CNN employees who spoke with Business Insider earlier this
week said the outlet is standing by the story “100%.”
They requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

An ulterior motive?


Donald Trump
Donald
Trump.

AP

One CNN employees who spoke to Business Insider earlier this week
said the network hasn’t found any reason to believe the story is
untrue. The person pointed to Davis saying not that the story was
false, but simply that he cannot independently confirm it, as
bolstering CNN’s argument.

A second CNN employee said Davis was one of at least two “primary
sources” on the story. The backlash to the story is “an attempt
to delegitimize” CNN, the other person said.

Those people additionally pointed to what they said is an
ulterior motive Davis could have for suddenly changing his tune.

Cohen last week pleaded guilty to eight counts of federal
felonies, including two campaign-finance violations stemming from
hush payments to a pair of women who alleged affairs with Trump.

Afterward, leaders of the Senate Intelligence
Committee issued a statement saying
they “recently reengaged
with Mr. Cohen and his team following press reports that
suggested he had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting
between campaign officials and Russian lawyers at Trump Tower.”

“Mr. Cohen had testified before the Committee that he was not
aware of the meeting prior to its disclosure in the press last
summer,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and
Vice Chairman Mark Warner said. “As such, the Committee inquired
of Mr. Cohen’s legal team as to whether Mr. Cohen stood by his
testimony. They responded that he did stand by his testimony.”

If Davis, speaking on behalf of his client, stood by his original
comments to CNN, Cohen could be opened up to a perjury charge.

In the initial CNN story, “sources with knowledge” told the
outlet that Cohen knew that Trump knew in advance about the Trump
Tower meeting and was “willing to make that assertion” to special
counsel Robert Mueller. The sources told CNN that Cohen was in
the room with several others when Trump first learned of the
Russians’ offer to meet. A source told CNN that Cohen did not
testify that Trump had advance knowledge when he was testifying
before the House Intelligence Committee. CNN said that Davis
“declined to comment.”


Lanny Davis
Lanny Davis.
Sean
Gallup/Getty Images


The story sent shockwaves around the political landscape and
multiple outlets soon followed up with confirmations of the CNN
report, such as The Washington Post and The New York Post. Davis
later revealed he was a source of confirmation for those outlets.

The morning after the CNN story was published, MSNBC’s Donny
Deutsch said on “Morning Joe” that
Cohen told him earlier this year that Trump knew about
“everything” going on with the campaign, including the Trump
Tower meeting.

At the time, Trump’s team hit back on the CNN story. The
president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called Cohen a
“pathological liar” who has been “lying for years.”

Giuliani has shared his thoughts on Davis’s
credibility to Business Insider
, pointing to the attorney’s
past work for former President Bill Clinton. Davis served Clinton
as an attorney and spokesman amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Last week, nearly a month after the CNN story ran and right after
Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court, Davis began to walk-back
his earlier confirmations, raising eyebrows. It also opened up
Cohen to new questions about his credibility and, experts told Business Insider,
it may complicate his ability to cooperate in other
investigations.

On Tuesday afternoon, two of the reporters who authored the
original CNN piece wrote on Davis’s reversals in an
attempt to provide clarity
amid the backlash.

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