CNN published an exclusive Russia story Friday reporting that an unearthed email uncovered that WikiLeaks may have reached out to then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign team to provide hacked documents. The exclusive story was undermined only hours later by the Washington Post.
The article, titled, “Exclusive: Email shows effort to give Trump campaign WikiLeaks documents” and written by Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, reported that the Trump team was sent an email on September 4 that offered a website and decryption key to the team.
Congressional investigators are trying to ascertain whether the individual who sent the September email is legitimate and whether it shows additional efforts by WikiLeaks to connect with Trump’s son and others on the Trump campaign. The email also indicated that the Trump campaign could access records from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose hacked emails were made public by a Russian front group 10 days later.
CNN was cautious about the email, which its reporters had apparently not seen, and qualified that it was not clear if the email is legitimate. CNN’s report offered little information and said that the email was “described” to them by multiple sources. According to that description, it was sent from someone called “Mike Erickson” and was addressed to Trump, Trump Jr., and Trump Jr.’s personal assistant.
Although CNN decided to underline the story with an ‘exclusive’ title, they admitted that the legitimacy of the email was questionable.
“Congressional investigators are uncertain who the sender is, and CNN was unable to make contact with the individual. It’s not clear whether the email was a legitimate effort to provide the hacked documents to the Trump campaign,” the report says.
Trump Jr.’s spokesman told CNN that he didn’t remember the email, and took no action on it. However, only hours later, the Washington Post reported that the email was actually drawing attention to information that was already publicly available. No ‘exclusive’ here.
Crucially, the Post, whose reporters have seen a copy of the email, reported that the email flagged an upload of Democratic National Committee files by WikiLeaks and was actually sent Sept. 14, not Sept. 4 as CNN reported. The difference in the date is vital, as WikiLeaks had reportedly published the information linked to in the email on Sept. 13, making it publicly available and meaning that the writer was flagging information that was already in the public domain.