Once again, reporters got burned by believing anonymous Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast credulously believed their “sources familiar with the exchange,” who said Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, refused to deny he had coordinated with the White House when putting together a memo alleging surveillance and law enforcement abuses at the FBI.
In fact, Nunes explicitly denied the charge before shutting down the line of questioning in order to provide other members who were not trying to hijack the hearing time to get actual committee business done.
According to a transcript of the meeting, the Daily Beast’s headline, subheadline, and lede are all false. The headline was “Devin Nunes Won’t Say If He Worked With White House on Anti-FBI Memo.” The subhead was “The House intel committee GOP leader refused to answer behind closed doors if he coordinated with the president’s team on his report blasting Rosenstein, Comey, and McCabe.” The lede is “The Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee refused to answer when a colleague asked him if he had coordinated his incendiary surveillance memo with the White House, The Daily Beast has learned.” But that apparently wasn’t enough, as the Daily Beast even blared “non-denial” above the headline in bright red font.
Contrary to what the Daily Beast claims, which is that Nunes refused to answer, the transcript shows he explicitly denied the charge, saying, “I would just answer, as far as I know, no.”
After repeating the Nunes-specific false claims three times, Woodruff and Ackerman claimed more narrowly:
During Monday’s contentious closed-door committee meeting, Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat, asked Nunes point-blank if his staffers had been talking with the White House as they compiled a four-page memo alleging FBI and Justice Department abuses over surveillance of President Trump’s allies in the Russia probe.
According to sources familiar with the exchange, Nunes made a few comments that didn’t answer the question before finally responding, “I’m not answering.”
Additionally, the quote attributed to Nunes by the Daily Beast, “I’m not answering,” appears nowhere in the exchange according to a transcript of the meeting. A review of the transcript makes clear that Nunes answered the question before returning to committee business and allowing other members to speak about the pending business or make additional motions. You can see for yourself here:
When the transcript came to light, Woodruff defended her original reporting by ignoring the many falsehoods prominently featured in her story, conveniently omitting the accusation which she originally reported Nunes refused to deny.
This publication of false information based on anonymous Democratic sources on the Intelligence Committee is reminiscent of CNN’s embarrassing publication of a claim that Donald Trump, Jr., had colluded to publicize a new Wikileaks stash of hacked emails ahead of its public release. In that case, CNN claimed two independent sources. But it turned out that these two supposedly independent sources had provided false information about the email’s date. The correct date, after the public release of those records, completely destroyed the claim. CNN has still not revealed which sources lied to the network and its audience by providing false information, or why the network publicized information without first verifying whether it was even true.
The Daily Beast has also published false information when it accused Chairman Nunes of sneaking to the White House at midnight to secretly review top-secret documents. Rep. Adam Schiff, who is plausibly the source of this false claim, repeated the false claim earlier this week. In fact, Nunes reviewed the documents during daylight hours, as he corrected the record publicly on CNN in April. In that case, it was Tim Mak who credulously accepted false information without verifying it.
The entire transcript of the Monday hearing is available for review here.