CNN botches dates, inaccurately reports Trump campaign had WikiLeaks sneak peek

CNN’s latest anti-Trump “exclusive” came crashing down on Friday, when the Washington Post debunked the network's report claiming the Trump campaign had early, secret access to hacked DNC emails from WikiLeaks.

The liberal network on Friday trumpeted that Congressional investigators obtained a mysterious 2016 email that was sent to Trump and other top aides, including Donald Trump Jr., which contained information on how to get a sneak peek at hacked information that WikiLeaks had acquired. The email, as CNN reported, offered a “decryption key” to access the files.

But by getting the crucial dates wrong, CNN turned information available to anyone on the planet with an Internet connection into secrets - and an implication WikiLeaks was offering to collude with Team Trump.

"... this massive error has only cemented the skepticism of those that slammed the network's self-righteous campaign.”

- Alan Futerfas, attorney for Donald Trump, Jr.

“Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC,” a person named Michael J. Erickson wrote in an email to Trump and his staffers on a date CNN put at Sept. 4.

That would have been more than a week before WikiLeaks posted the emails online for all the world to see. But as the Post and other media outlets who saw the same email noted, it was not sent on Sept. 4, but on Sept. 14, a day after WikiLeaks DNC document dump.

“So CNN misreported the day of the WikiLeaks email that @DonaldTrumpJr received, meaning that the entire point of the story – that the campaign might have gotten advance warning of the leaks – is wrong. Wow,” Washington Examiner White House Correspondent Sarah Westwood tweeted.

CNN’s date gaffe means that the email could have been from anyone, and its sender was merely pointing Trump Jr. to emails already available online.

Compounding matters, CNN claimed that the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the panel was looking into the email and other news organizations quickly tried to match CNN’s report – CBS followed up with an inaccurate report of its own. The inaccurate story dominated CNN’s coverage until it was discredited by the Post.

Trump Jr.’s legal team was quick to pounce on one of the administration's favorite targets. Attorney Alan Futerfas noted the campaign and individual members including Trump Jr. received thousands of emails from supporters. Although they have been turned over to congressional investigators, many of them were never even seen by their intended recipients. In this case, it wouldn't have even mattered, Futerfas said.

FILE - In this June 5, 2017, file photo, Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of The Trump Organization, announces that the family's company is launching a new hotel chain inspired by his and brother Eric's Trump's travels with their father's campaign at Trump Tower in New York. Trump Jr. shared a video on July 8, 2017, of an edited clip of the 1986 military thriller “Top Gun” in which President Donald Trump’s face is superimposed over Tom Cruise’s character as he shoots down a Russian jet with a CNN logo on it. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

 (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“This email arrived after published media reports disclosed 12 hours earlier that hacked documents had been posted," Futerfas wrote in a statement. "The suggestion that this information was not public is false. The writer is unknown to us."

The statement also blasted members of the House Intelligence Committee the team suspects of leaking Trump Jr.'s emails to CNN and other outlets.

"It is profoundly disappointing that members of the House Intelligence Committee would deliberately leak a document, with the misleading suggestion that the information was not public, when they know that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Trump Jr. read or responded to the email,” Futerfas wrote.

The gaffe will surely give President Trump more ammunition in his fight against the network he derides as "fake news," with Futerfas claiming "this massive error has only cemented the skepticism of those that slammed the network's self-righteous campaign.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken to Twitter to mock the network, asking, “So who's going to be fired?”

President and Chief Executive Officer of NBC Universal Jeff Zucker arrives at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's 2010 Humanitarian Award Ceremony honoring producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard in Beverly Hills, California May 5, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS) - GM1E6560XLA01

As CNN scrambled in the wake of the contradictory Washington Post report, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press quickly matched the Post’s reporting. 

CNN eventually issued a correction: “CNN's initial reporting of the date on an email sent to members of the Trump campaign about Wikileaks documents, which was confirmed by two sources to CNN, was incorrect. We have updated our story to include the correct date, and present the proper context for the timing of email."

No disciplinary action will be taken in the matter, a CNN official said in a tweet.


CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta prepares to go on the air after the daily press briefing, during which he had a contentious exchanges with White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, at the White House in Washington, U.S. August 2, 2017.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC1693D7B420

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.