NPR falsely claimed that Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017 conflicted with an account given by a former attorney for President Donald Trump.
Here is NPR’s false write-up of that testimony:
Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017 that although there had been negotiations surrounding a prospective Trump Tower in Moscow, they concluded without result ‘at the end’ of 2014.
‘But not in 2015 or 2016?’ Trump Jr. was asked.
‘Certainly not ’16,’ he said. ‘There was never a definitive end to it. It just died of deal fatigue.’
Trump’s account contrasts with the new version of events given by Cohen on Thursday in a guilty plea in federal court. In that new version, Cohen says the discussions with at least one Russian government official and others in Moscow continued through June 2016, well into Trump’s presidential campaign.
In fact, Senate investigators were asking Trump Jr. about a series of efforts to develop property in Russia, going back several years. Reporter Phil Ewing (reporter Tim Mak contributed to the story) conflates one of those efforts with another separate effort. That conflation results in the false news report.
A full 100 pages before the portion Ewing quotes, Trump Jr. explicitly contradicts NPR’s false claim when he gives a clear answer to the following question:
Q. It’s been reported that in late 2015 or 2016 when now President Trump was running for office the Trump Organization was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow. Is that accurate?
A hundred pages later, the investigator asks if there was an effort by Felix Sater to “bring together a development in Moscow.” Trump Jr. says he believes there was an effort to work on that with Cohen in 2015. Asked if he knew about the deal, he says not much, but that it got to the point his father signed a letter of intent. He said he would provide a copy of that letter. Trump Jr. says he was aware of this deal “peripherally.”
Then the investigator asks, “In this same time frame, 2015 or 2016, when Mr. Sater and Mr. Cohen were exploring a possible deal, do you know if anyone else was also exploring a deal simultaneously with the Trump Organization to build in Moscow?” (emphasis added).
Here’s the full exchange:
Q. In this same time frame, 2015 or 2016, when Mr. Sater and Mr. Cohen were exploring a possible deal, do you know if anyone else was also exploring a deal simultaneously with the Trump Organization to build in Moscow?
A. I don ‘t believe so .
Q. We’ve discussed the Agalarov family, Emin and his father Aras. Do you know if they were also exploring building a Trump Tower in Moscow?
A. We had looked at it earlier than that, but it sort of faded away I believe at the end of ’14.
Q. But not in 2015 or 2016?
A. Certainly not ’16. There was never a definitive end to it. It just died of deal fatigue.
As is obvious from the context, the quotes Ewing used weren’t about the Cohen efforts, but the Agalarov efforts.
What makes Ewing’s error so surprising is that the very next two lines make abundantly clear that the discussion is not about the Cohen efforts but the Agalarov efforts. Here’s a brief exchange with Trump’s attorney:
Q. How did that deal first come about?
MR. FUTERFAS: Which, just for clarification?
MR. PRIVOR: The Agalarovs in 2014.
Despite this being an obvious error by NPR, the media outlet has failed to correct it even hours after it was first published. And Russia conspiracy theorists such as John Schindler, who earlier this week fell for the false Guardian story about Paul Manafort and Julian Assange, once again fell for the latest false Russia story: