ABC News is making a significant correction to a report it did on former national security adviser Michael Flynn that sent shockwaves across social media and financial markets on Friday.
Brian Ross, a veteran journalist at ABC News, reported earlier in the day that a source close to Flynn said that the retired lieutenant general was prepared to testify that during the campaign Donald Trump instructed him to make contact with Russian government officials.
The report came out after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts during the presidential transition period with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that Flynn lied to the FBI during a Jan. 24 interview on the topic.
WATCH FLYNN’S MOST INTERESTING CAMPAIGN MOMENTS:
The stock market plummeted more than 350 points after the ABC News report, seemingly because it undercut Trump’s longstanding claim that he did not order anyone to contact the Russians prior to the election.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) December 1, 2017
“[Flynn is prepared to testify, we are told by a confidant, against President Trump, against members of the Trump family, and others in the White House,” Ross reported. “He is prepared to testify that President Trump, as a candidate Donald Trump, ordered him to make contact with the Russians, which contradicts all that Donald Trump has said at this point.”
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) December 1, 2017
The source for Ross’s report appears to have been Richard Frankel, former senior aide to Flynn and an ABC News contributor. After Ross’s segment, ABC News published an article quoting Frankel at length.
“I don’t know how much General Flynn knows about any criminal activity that took place during the campaign or in the White House,” said Frankel, who retired earlier this year from a senior role at the FBI.
“However, General Flynn was a top adviser to President Trump in the campaign and a top adviser to him when he entered into the WH so if there are bodies buried so to speak, General Flynn would know about them in my opinion.”
The Daily Caller reached Frankel after Ross’s initial report.
“I have not had discussion with the General regarding these issues. I cannot comment in that I am with ABC News,” he said through email.
Ross issued a “clarification” to his report on ABC “World Tonight,” hours after the initial bombshell allegation about pre-election Russia contacts was made on air.
“A clarification tonight on something one of Flynn’s confidants told us and we reported earlier today,” Ross told ABC “World Tonight” host David Muir.
“He said the president had asked Flynn to contact Russia during the campaign. He’s now clarifying that, saying, according to Flynn, candidate Trump asked him during the campaign to find ways to repair relations with Russia and other world hot spots. And then after the election, the president-elect asked him to contact Russia on issues including working together to fight ISIS.”
WATCH: Brian Ross ‘clarifies’ report about Michael Flynn
Flynn did have direct contact with Russians, but the only known interactions occurred after Trump was elected president. Those contacts could potentially cause legal problems for Trump and some in the White House, but they do not fit into the narrative that the Trump team colluded with Russia in order to win the election.
A “statement of offense” released by Mueller on Friday revealed that on Dec. 22, Flynn was directed by a “very senior” official on the Trump transition team to contact Kislyak and other foreign diplomats in order to quash a United Nations proposal aimed at sanctioning Israel over its West Bank settlements.
That official was later identified as Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The statement of offense also revealed that on Dec. 29, Flynn spoke with a “senior” Trump transition team official about new sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia for hacking during the presidential campaign. That senior officials was identified on Friday as K.T. McFarland. She would later serve as deputy national security adviser under Flynn.
Flynn was fired as national security adviser on Feb. 13, purportedly because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his Kislyak contacts.