The fact that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty on one charge of lying to the FBI about his talks with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was a grenade on its own. This signaled a sweetheart deal in exchange for Flynn’s cooperation with the Justice Department, given that he’s seemingly managed to avoid being charged for lobbying for Turkey during the election, along with his reported brokering of a Saudi-Russian business deal. However, ABC News added a bombshell to the mix by way of reporter Brian Ross, who (in an on-air report) told George Stephanopoulos that Flynn was expected to testify that candidate Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians.” This was, as it turns out, not an accurate report.
ABC News further tripped up by issuing an on-air “clarification,” which stated that Trump only made this direction to Flynn as president-elect and in reference to repairing relations and jointly taking on ISIS. The use of “clarification” looked like, as many outlets including CNN noted, a way to downplay an error that should have received the “correction” treatment. ABC News made that further amendment, but after more criticism, they’ve taken the step of suspending Ross for four weeks without pay. The network issued this statement:
We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made yesterday. The reporting conveyed by Brian Ross during the special report had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process. As a result of our continued reporting over the next several hours ultimately we determined the information was wrong and we corrected the mistake on air and online.
It is vital we get the story right and retain the trust we have built with our audience — these are our core principles. We fell far short of that yesterday. Effective immediately, Brian Ross will be suspended for four weeks without pay.
ABC News’ mistake, sadly, overshadowed other aspects of their report — like the fact that Flynn is indeed cooperating with Robert Mueller — that Flynn himself confirmed in a statement: “My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and our country.”
The error certainly won’t stop Trump from continuing to rail about “fake news,” although Trump hasn’t done himself any favors by tweeting that he fired Flynn because he lied to the FBI, a move that could signal obstruction of justice because it means that he realized that Flynn was guilty when he urged James Comey to kill the investigation into the “good guy.” And more developments are inevitably on the way, for Mueller hasn’t come close to revealing his hand yet.
UPDATE: Trump has responded on Twitter as predicted. He also took some comparative shots at “Crooked Hillary.”
(Via ABC News)