News Outlets Still Peddling CNN’s Debunked Sciutto Russia Story

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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  • Several outlets have not issued corrections or updates on articles about Trump being partially responsible for the decision to extract a high-level Kremlin source.
  • CNN first reported the story, alleging Trump’s lax handling of classified information was to blame, and the NYT later debunked this claim.
  • Business Insider updated its story after the Daily Caller News Foundation reached out, but the article still does not include the NYT finding that the media, not Trump, was responsible.

Several outlets have yet to issue corrections to stories reporting President Donald Trump’s alleged lax handling of classified information led to the decision to extract a high-level Kremlin source.

The dubious headlines all lead back to the first reported story from CNN’s Jim Sciutto and a single anonymous source on which he based the allegation.

The New York Times broke the spine of Scuitto’s central thesis with a later story Monday outlining how the CIA first attempted to extract the asset before Trump took office in 2016. The Times report also notes that there “was no public evidence” Trump “endangered the source.”

“But former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source, and other current American officials insisted that media scrutiny of the agency’s sources alone was the impetus for the extraction,” the NYT article reads.

News outlets such as Business Insider, Vox, Esquire and Washington Post Opinions ran with the CNN report, despite the NYT contradicting a key part of the story. Business Insider updated its story after the Daily Caller News Foundation reached out.

“The US extracted a top spy from Russia after Trump revealed classified information to the Russians in an Oval Office meeting,” the Business Insider article reads. It still does not include information about the NYT report that stated media scrutiny was the reason for the source’s extraction, and the headline remains the same.

The article now includes a bullet reading that “US intelligence officials were already worried about the source’s safety,” attributing it to the NYT. The second sentence in the bullet says that “These concerns were compounded by Trump’s disclosure to the Russians.” The NYT article debunked this claim, which was first reported by CNN.

“The update reflected new facts reported by the New York Times on Monday evening, namely that the US had considered extracting the spy before Trump took office,” Mario Ruiz, SVP of corporate communications, told the DCNF. “It decided to, in part, because of Trump’s revealing classified information.”

Screenshot of the Business Insider article, which suggests that concerns about the asset were compounded by Trump's disclosure to Russians. (Screenshot Business Insider)

Screenshot of the Business Insider article, which suggests that concerns about the asset were compounded by Trump’s disclosure to Russians. (Screenshot Business Insider)

The other outlets have not issued corrections or responded to multiple requests for comment.

The DCNF originally reported the CNN story and included reasons why blaming Trump should be questioned. A later article from the DCNF included the NYT debunking CNN’s allegations that the president was the reason for the source’s extraction.

WaPo also wrote up the CNN story, publishing both an article and an opinion piece. Neither included references to the NYT story. (RELATED: ‘Whose Side Is CNN On?’: Doug Collins Wants Investigation Over Kremlin Spy Story)

“The exfiltration took place sometime after an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, when President Trump revealed highly classified counterterrorism information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador,” the WaPo article reads. The opinion piece hit back at Trump for allegedly forcing federal officials to “defend” the U.S. from “the president himself.”

Esquire wrote that “Trump is not our most tight-lipped president” and highlighted a section of CNN’s story. Vox linked to The New York Times article, writing that it “added more details and offered entirely different reasons for the spy’s extraction.” However, this article did not include The NYT report that the media was to blame.

CNN has not issued a correction on the report either, and Sciutto doubled down on his reporting after The NYT article debunked the reason for the asset’s extraction. He acknowledged that the source was first offered extraction during the end of the Obama administration, but said that the “concerns grew” at the beginning of the Trump administration.

Sciutto also maintained on CNN’s “New Day” Tuesday that a former Trump administration official told him that the president was partially responsible for the extraction.


“I’m told by a former Trump Administration official directly involved in the discussions of this extraction that the president’s repeated mishandling of classified intelligence contributed to that decision to take this person out,” Sciutto said Tuesday.

CNN did not respond to a request for comment on whether it will be issuing a correction on the story.

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