CNN stands by story detailing Trump’s involvement with Russian

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Ohio Republican Party State Dinner. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Despite a key source backing off his assertion, CNN is sticking by a story casting doubt on President Donald Trump’s claim that he did not have prior knowledge of a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

CNN said it had more than one source for its story, co-authored by Jim Sciutto and Watergate legend Carl Bernstein.

CNN’s story, written on July 27, said that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was willing to say that he heard Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tell his father about the Russians’ offer to share material about Clinton, his Democratic rival for the presidency. It also said that Trump gave the go-ahead to take the meeting at Trump Tower. If true, that would contradict what Trump and representatives have long said, that he didn’t know about the meeting until long after it happened.

Such information would be of great interest to special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 American presidential campaign.

WHY WAS THE STORY CALLED INTO QUESTION?

Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, has recently taken back earlier remarks, and now says that he is no longer certain that Cohen could legitimately claim Trump knew about the meeting, and that he didn’t have information to prove it. He said he was a source for other news organizations that tried to match CNN’s original story and, indeed, that he was a source for CNN.

CNN, in its story on Tuesday, quoted Davis as saying, “I should have done a much better job of speaking with more suspicion than certainty, and I regret my mistake.”

Some CNN critics wondered if Davis’ subsequent statement meant that CNN should retract its entire story. But CNN made a distinction: its original story did not assert that Trump definitely knew about the meeting ahead of time — only that Cohen had been making the claim while talking with prosecutors.

CNN said on Tuesday that it “we stand by our story, which had more than one source, and are confident in our reporting of it.”

WHERE IS CNN VULNERABLE?

The network walked a delicate line in its discussion. Its original story cited “sources with knowledge” telling the network about Cohen’s claim. The network noted in Tuesday’s story that Davis had admitted to being one of the sources for its original report. CNN technically didn’t confirm that in that Tuesday story — networks hate to be in a position of revealing confidential sources — but a spokeswoman confirmed to The Associated Press that Davis was one of the confidential sources.

The problem for CNN is that the July 27 story said “contacted by CNN, one of Cohen’s attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment.”

Yet, if Davis was actually an anonymous source for CNN, the story should not also say that Cohen’s lawyer declined to comment. You can’t have it both ways. That’s a big no-no in journalism.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

The president loves to rail about “fake news” telling untrue stories, and CNN arguably is his most frequent target.

Early Wednesday, the president tweeted more criticism. “‘Anonymous Sources are really starting to BURN the media.’ @FoxNews The fact is that many anonymous sources don’t even exist. They are fiction made up by the Fake News reporters. Look at the lie that Fake CNN is now in. They got caught red handed! Enemy of the People!”

He continued the attack on the network later in the day in another tweet: “CNN is being torn apart from within based on their being caught in a major lie and refusing to admit the mistake.” He also launched a personal attack against Bernstein, accusing him of “making up story after story.” (Bernstein did not immediately return an email seeking comment, but CNN reiterated its support for the story and Bernstein’s reporting in a tweet.)

If real doubt can be raised about CNN’s reporting on an important, damaging story regarding Trump and the Russia investigation, it gives Trump and his supporters major ammunition in its ongoing effort to make CNN seem like an unreliable news source._______________________________________________________

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Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

White House defends barring CNN reporter

President Donald Trump meets with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The White House on Thursday defended its decision to bar a CNN correspondent from attending an open press event but contended it had nothing to do with the questions she asked.

Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Kaitlan Collins was denied access to Trump’s Rose Garden event with the European Commission president on Wednesday because of her refusal to leave the Oval Office during a previous availability with the president. She and her employer, CNN, said she was barred because White House officials found her questions “inappropriate,” which Gidley disputed.

“It had nothing to do with the content of the question,” Gidley told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Donald Trump headed back to Washington from Iowa and Illinois.

Collins had served as a representative of the television networks during an earlier “pool spray” availability in the Oval Office. She and a handful of other reporters peppered the president with questions, including many focused on his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. A day earlier, CNN had obtained and aired a secret audio recording that captured Trump and Cohen discussing a potential payment to a former Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Trump.

Gidley said Collins “was told repeatedly to leave the Oval Office.” She refused and stayed “despite staff, Secret Service, everyone trying to usher everyone out of the room,” Gidley said. “And that can’t happen.”

Other journalists who were in the room disputed the White House account.

Numerous reporters, including many from the European Union delegation, had been shouting questions, and, as usual, it took some time for the pack of journalists to file out the doors. Trump frequently answers reporters’ questions even as staffers try to usher them out of the room, creating sometimes-chaotic scenes where low-level press officers shout at reporters as the president tries to speak.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said the White House had made clear that other CNN journalists were welcome at the Rose Garden event, just not Collins.

“To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House,” she said.

Earlier Thursday, White House communications chief Bill Shine quibbled with the use of the word “ban” in describing the action taken against Collins.

“Would you ask her if we ever used the word ‘ban’?” Shine told reporters.

And Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway said the incident showed the need broadly for more “civility” between reporters and the White House.

“I think it should start here at the White House and just show a little bit more respect,” she said.

Asked whether Trump had directed the decision, Gidley replied: “The president does feel strongly about this.”

CNN, in a statement Wednesday, objected to the White House decision, calling it “retaliatory in nature” and “not indicative of an open and free press.”

“Just because the White House is uncomfortable with a question regarding the news of the day doesn’t mean the question isn’t relevant and shouldn’t be asked,” the network said.

The White House Correspondents’ Association also issued a harshly worded statement condemning “the White House’s misguided and inappropriate decision … to bar one of our members from an open press event after she asked questions they did not like.”

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Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

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Follow Jill Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Sebelius headed for tough grilling on Capitol Hill

Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (KVUE-TV)
Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (KVUE-TV)

Republicans said Sunday they intend to press Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the Obama administration’s troubled launch of healthcare.gov, the online portal to buy insurance, and concerns about the privacy of information that applicants submit under the new system.

Meanwhile, the healthcare.gov application and enrollment system was down Sunday afternoon because the company that hosts the site had an Internet outage. HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters wrote on Twitter that Terremark, the hosting company, was “working to fix ASAP.”

The Obama administration will face intense pressure next week to be more forthcoming about how many people have actually succeeded in enrolling for coverage in the new insurance markets. Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner is to testify during a House hearing Tuesday, followed Wednesday by Sebelius before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The officials will also be grilled on how such crippling technical problems could have gone undetected prior to the website’s Oct. 1 launch.

“The incompetence in building this website is staggering,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., the second ranking Republican on the panel and an opponent of the law.

Democrats said the new system needed time to get up and running, and it could be fixed to provide millions of people with affordable insurance. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, said the system was “working in Kentucky,” a state that has dealt with “some of the worst health statistics in the country. … The only way we’re going to get ourselves out of the ditch is some transformational tool,” like the new health insurance system.

Blackburn said she wanted to know much has been spent on the website, how much more it will cost to fix the problems, when everything will be ready and what people should expect to see on the site. Blackburn and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., raised questions of whether the website could guard the privacy of applicants.

“The way the system is designed it is not secure,” said Rogers, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

The administration sought to reassure applicants about their personal information. HHS’ Peters said when consumers fill out their applications, “they can trust that the information they’re providing is protected by stringent security standards and that the technology underlying the application process has been tested and is secure.”

The botched rollout has led to calls on Capitol Hill for a delay of penalties for those remaining uninsured. The Obama administration has said it’s willing to extend the grace period until Mar. 31, the end of open enrollment. That’s an extra six weeks. The insurance industry says going beyond that risks undermining the new system by giving younger, healthier people a pass.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is seeking a yearlong delay to the penalty for noncompliance, said his approach would “still induce people to get involved, but it will also give us the time to transition in. And I think we need that transition period to work out the things.” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who has urged the Obama administration to postpone the March 31 deadline, said she was concerned applicants would not have a full six months to enroll.

The administration was under no legal requirement to launch the website Oct. 1. Sebelius, who designated her department’s Medicare agency to implement the health care law, had the discretion to set open enrollment dates. Officials could have postponed open enrollment by a month, or they could have phased in access to the website.

But all through last summer and into early fall, the administration insisted it was ready to go live in all 50 states on Oct. 1.

The online insurance markets are supposed to be the portal to coverage for people who do not have access to a health plan through their jobs. The health care law offers middle-class people a choice of private insurance plans, made more affordable through new tax credits. Low-income people will be steered to Medicaid in states that agree to expand that safety net program.

An HHS memo prepared for Sebelius in September estimated that nearly 500,000 people would enroll for coverage in the marketplaces during October, their first month of operation. The actual number is likely to be only a fraction of that. The administration has said 700,000 people have completed applications.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the president had been poorly served by Sebelius “in the implementation of his own signature legislature. So if somebody doesn’t leave and if there isn’t a real restructuring, not just a 60-day somebody come in and try to fix it, then he’s missing the point of management 101, which is these people are to serve him well, and they haven’t.”

Blackburn spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Beshear appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rogers was on to CNN’s “State of the Union,” Manchin was interviewed on ABC’s “This Week,” and Shaheen and Issa made their comments on CBS “Face the Nation.”

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Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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GOP approves debate boycott

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

The U.S. Republican party resolved on Friday to boycott any 2016 presidential debates sponsored by CNN and NBC if the networks go ahead with plans to make special programs on Hillary Clinton, who is widely expected to seek the Democratic nomination.

Delegates to a meeting of the Republican National Committee voted for a resolution that included the boycott and said the programs would be “little more than extended commercials promoting former Secretary Clinton.”

The RNC also resolved that it would require that any future debates have “appropriate moderators and debate partners.”

Delegates approved the motion by a unanimous voice vote.

Republican leaders sent letters of protest to both networks last week complaining that a planned CNN documentary and an NBC miniseries amount to political ads for the former secretary of state and wife of former President Bill Clinton. She has not said she is running.

The vote came on the last day of a three-day gathering called “Making it Happen,” at which Republicans discussed ways to use technology and other means to connect with a wider range of voters, following Mitt Romney’s failure to unseat incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama in last November’s election.

Officials with CNN, a unit of Time-Warner Inc, have said their documentary, due to appear in theaters and on television in 2014, is not yet complete, while Comcast Corp’s NBC said its mini-series is being produced by an entertainment unit, which is independent of the news division.

In preparation for the 2016 presidential election, RNC Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the party would consider holding its nominating convention in June or July, rather than August, to reduce the amount of time Republican candidates spend competing against one another to win the nomination. An earlier convention also would allow the Republican nominee to focus on the Democratic opponent.

“A network that spends millions of dollars to spotlight Hillary Clinton, that’s a network with an obvious bias and that’s a network that won’t be hosting a single Republican primary debate,” Priebus said on Friday. “We’re done putting up with this nonsense…The media overplayed their hand this time.”

A Democratic Party spokesman said the move would only limit Republicans’ ability to reach more voters.

“If they truly want to connect with a broader audience, they need an agenda that fights for the middle class and is inclusive,” said Michael Czin, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “Sadly, it appears that with today’s vote, their approach is to actually speak to even fewer voters.”

An affiliate of News Corp’s Fox had been in talks with NBC about a role in producing its Clinton miniseries, according to press reports, but on Friday dropped out of those talks, U.S. media reported.

Representatives of Fox did not respond requests for comment.

NBC said in a statement its series “is in the very early stages. The script has not been written nor has it been ordered to production. It would be premature to draw any conclusions.”

CNN also noted that its documentary is far from complete.

“We encouraged all interested parties to wait until the program premieres before judgments are made about it,” the network said. “Unfortunately, the RNC was not willing to do that.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, seen as a likely 2016 Republican contender for the White House, addressed the RNC meeting in a closed-door session Thursday.

Clinton, the former U.S. senator from New York, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2008, losing to Obama, but Republicans at the Boston meeting clearly saw her as a threat.

Republicans are holding their regular summer meeting in a Boston hotel next door to the convention center where Romney delivered his election night concession speech nine months ago. They moved the meeting, originally due to be held in Chicago, to Boston as a show of support after the April 15 bombing of the city’s marathon.
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Copyright  © 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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Ron Paul’s racist newsletters come back to haunt him

Ron Paul (REUTERS/Richard Clement)

A common complaint from Texas Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul’s supporters is that the media ignores their favorite candidate.

As the old Mongolian proverb goes, “be careful what you wish for.”  Paul is getting media attention now and it’s not the kind of attention he or his enthusiastic band of followers wanted.

A series of racist-themed newsletters that appeared under his name in the 1990s have resurfaced and questions about those newsletters and the money he made from them caused Paul to walk out on a CNN interview Wednesday.

“I didn’t write them. I disavow them,” a testy Paul told CNN’s Gloria Berger.  He also claimed to have never read the newsletters.

That is a change from earlier claims by Paul, who in the past said he wrote “some of them.”  In fact, a study of Paul’s comments throughout his political career reveals he has changed his story about the newsletters more than once.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, published  on May 22, 1996, Paul did not deny writing the newsletters.  Instead, he defended the writings, saying the comments were “taken out of context.”

In 1992, Paul wrote in his newsletter that “95 percent of the black men in Washington, DC, are “semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”  He also said that anyone who had ever been robbed by a black teenager knew they were “unbelievably fleet of foot.”

“It’s typical political demagoguery,” Paul said.

But he did not deny — at that time — writing the articles in the Ron Paul Political Report or other newsletters published under his name.

Paul also took responsibility for the newsletters in a 1996 interview with Texas Monthly magazine.

At least one former Paul staffer tells Capitol Hill Blue that Paul knew about the newsletter and approved the racists themes published under his name.

“The newsletters were his bread and butter,” said the former staffer who asked not to be identified. “He knew and he agreed with what was being published.”

Former Paul aide Eric Dondero says Paul “did read them, every line of them, off his fax machine at his Clute office before they were published. He would typically sign them at the bottom of the last page giving his okay, and refax them to go to the printer.”

The New Republic reported in 2008 that Paul pulled down close to a million in just one year of publishing the newsletter.  In his shortened interview with CNN, Paul said he would like to see the money.

The Atlantic reported on its web site Wednesday that many questions remain unanswered about Paul’s involvement in his newsletter and the incredibly racist comments published under his name.

Michael Brendan Doughterty of The Atlantic writes:

There is no doubt that the newsletters contained utterly racist statements.

Some choice quotes:

“Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

“We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational.”

After the Los Angeles riots, one article in a newsletter claimed, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”

One referred to Martin Luther King Jr. as “the world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours” and who “seduced underage girls and boys.”

Another referred to Barbara Jordan, a civil rights activist and congresswoman as “Barbara Morondon,” the “archetypical half-educated victimologist.”

Other newsletters had strange conspiracy theories about homosexuals, the CIA, and AIDS.

Some speculate the newsletters were actually written by long-time Paul confidant Lew Rockwell but few believe the Congressman did not know what was being said in his name.

The Ron Paul campaign did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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Woman claims 13-year affair with Cain

Ginger White goes public (AFP Photo/Mladen Antonov)

Herman Cain says he did not have sex with that woman…Ginger White.

Wait a second: This scenario has a familiar ring.

Some years back, President Bill Clinton says he didn’t have “sexual relations with that woman…Ms. Lewinsky.”

Turns out he was having some some of relations with the White House intern.

Now GOP presidential contender Cain is issuing another denial about sex from a Georgia businesswoman who went public Monday with claims of a 13-year affair with the former Godfathers Pizza CEO and talk-show wannabe.

“It was fun,” White told Fox5 News in Atlanta. “It was something that took me away from my humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting.”

For Cain, there is more resignation than excitement.

“Here we go again,” Cain told CNN. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Cain said his lawyer would answer White’s charges “in detail.”

But attorney Lin Wood did not deny White’s claims. Instead, he issued a carefully-worded statement saying Cain had no obligation to “discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media.”

But while Cain was denying an affair, Wood drew a comparison between earlier charges of sexual harassment and what he called “private alleged consensual conduct between adults.”

“Sounds like Herman’s lawyer won’t lie for his client,” a long-time GOP consultant told Capitol Hill Blue.  “I wonder if Ms. White has a semen-stained blue dress in her closet.”

The dress reference comes from a blue-dress that Monica Lewinsky kept and did not clean after one of her oral sex encounters with Clinton.  DNA tests later confirmed a semen stain on the dress came from Clinton and the President later admitted he lied when he claimed no sexual relations with Lewinsky.

White said she met Cain in Louisville, KY in the late 1990s while he was serving as head of the National Restaurant Association.  After drinks he invited her to his hotel room, she said, and the affair began.   Cain, she said, paid for her travel to meet him in places like Palm, Springs, CA, and gave her gifts.

Cain says he knew White and tried to help her financially when she was out of a job.  Public records show White has a long list of judgments filed against her for non-payment of rent.

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