MEDIA MINEFIELD AHEAD

On Jan. 24, 2018, NBC posted an article about Michael Flynn’s Jan. 24, 2017 interview with the FBI. Two-thirds of the way into the piece, this grabbed my attention:

“McGahn did not later ask Flynn if he lied to the FBI, one person familiar with the matter said. This person said it was unclear if Flynn intended to lie and that McGahn did not conclude that Flynn had lied to the FBI until after he had been fired. It was at that time in late winter or early spring that the White House received a request from the FBI for phone records and other documents related to Flynn that McGahn and other top officials concluded he had lied in his interview and was otherwise under investigation, this person said.” (emphasis supplied)

That description of events is wrong. NBC should not have run it just because a person said it.

Mistakes Happen; This Is Something Else

“This person” fed the NBC reporter, Carol E. Lee, incorrect information. The disturbing aspect is that, in the face of known facts refuting the person’s” attempt to rewrite history, NBC published it.

Who benefits from such disinformation? In this case, the article is self-revealing: “McGahn and other top officials.”

The Facts

Jan. 24, 2017: Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s office contacts national security adviser Mike Flynn’s scheduler to set up the FBI’s interview with Flynn. Three weeks earlier, Flynn’s lawyer had informed then-White House counsel-designate Don McGahn that Flynn was already under investigation for his dealings with Turkey.

Jan. 24, 2017: FBI agents interview Flynn.

Jan. 26, 2017: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informs McGahn that, based on recent public statements of White House officials including Vice President Mike Pence, Mike Flynn had lied to Pence and others about his late-December conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. According to Sean Spicer, Trump and a small group of White House advisers were “immediately informed of the situation.”

Jan. 27, 2017: McGahn asks Sally Yates to return to the White House for another discussion about Flynn. He asks Yates, “Why does it matter to the Department of Justice if one White House official lies to another?” Yates explains that Flynn’s lies make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail because the Russians know that Flynn lied and could probably prove it.

According to subsequent reporting by Foreign Policy, McGahn researches “federal law dealing both with lying to federal investigators and with violations of the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.” McGahn’s records indicate that he then warns Trump about Flynn’s possible violations.

Feb. 13, 2017: Flynn resigns.

Dec. 2, 2017: Trump tweets:

That evening, White House sources tell CBS that Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, had written the tweet. Dowd then tells NBC, CNN and ABC that he wrote it.

Dec. 3, 2017: The Washington Post reports:

“President Trump’s personal lawyer said Sunday that the president knew in late January that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had probably given FBI agents the same inaccurate account he provided to Vice President Pence about a call with the Russian ambassador.

“Trump lawyer John Dowd said the information was passed to Trump by White House counsel Donald McGahn, who had been warned about Flynn’s statement to the vice president by a senior Justice Department official.” (emphasis supplied)

A cursory review of the factual record would have revealed that the person in the Jan. 24, 2018 article was seeking to enlist NBC’s help in rewriting history. Mission accomplished. As the country enters the most dangerous phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, the media cannot succumb to systematic disinformation emanating from Trump defenders or others seeking to protect themselves. When in doubt, the Trump-Russia Timeline is only a click away.

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