In a major blow to The New York Times and the prevailing liberal narrative on the president, James Comey testified that a Times story on collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian hackers was flat-out false.
The February 14 story, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence,” ran the day after Trump dismissed Michael Flynn as national security adviser. Times reporters Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo wrote the story.
Schmidt's getting it wrong is likely a big deal, too: He was The Times reporter who broke the news of Hillary Clinton's private email server in 2015, but who also authored a page-one story on the San Bernardino terror attack that turned out to be false. That story, like this one, relied on anonymous sources for its main premise.
Comey, whom President Donald Trump fired on May 9, said he knew the story was false, but he double-checked with his agents after The Times published it. Comey made the comment during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in response to a question from Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho).
The story alleges that "phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials."
The anonymously sourced story suggested a connection of dots between the Trump campaign and Russian agents likely involved with the hacking into Democratic campaign emails. For Democrats, this is the Holy Grail of their campaign to oppose and oust Trump.
But Comey let the air out of the story — big time.
"That report by The New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?" asked Risch.
"In the main, it was not true," Comey said. "The challenge, and I'm not picking on reporters, about writing on classified information is, the people talking about it often don't really know what's going on, and those of us who actually know what's going on are not talking about it. And we don't call the press to say, 'Hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic.' We just have to leave it there."
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), asked Comey later about the story and pressed for a more encompassing statement. Was it "almost entirely wrong?" Cotton asked.
"Yes," Comey said.
"The challenge about writing on classified information is, the people talking about it often don't really know what's going on, and those of us who actually know what's going on are not talking about it."
The revelation is likely to hurt the media even more in the minds of the public.
Already, a majority of Americans "doubt the 2016 presidential election outcome was influenced by Russia and nearly half agree that the current investigation is a 'political witch hunt' aimed at getting the president impeached," according to the latest TIPP Poll by Investor's Business Daily.
"Americans overwhelmingly blame the media for the hoopla surrounding the Russian investigation, with 57 percent agreeing that 'the media [have] prematurely declared President Trump and his allies guilty of collusion with Russia,' despite a lack of evidence. Just 39 percent disagreed," the IBD/TIPP poll reported.
Trump will likely spin the Comey revelation, on the record, as a major victory against his arch-nemesis, the predominantly liberal mainstream media and their kingpin, The New York Times.
For now, The Times is not admitting the wrong: As of 1:45 p.m. Thursday, the publication had not updated its web version of the story with a correction, or even acknowledged Comey's remarks.
Last Modified: November 21, 2017, 9:53 am