Thomas Frank, a reporter for “CNN Investigates,” last Thursday appeared to have a compelling exclusive on the story of the year. The Senate Intelligence Committee, reported Frank, was investigating a Russian investment fund — the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) — “whose chief executive met with a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team four days before Trump’s inauguration.”
That transition team official is Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Streeter who was expected to take a prominent White House position but did not. Scaramucci met in January with RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev.
The CNN exclusive — which hung from one unnamed source — didn’t take long to wither. Breitbart News’s Matthew Boyle bombed the CNN piece as baseless. Sputnik News published a refutation, indicating that the fund was not a part of Russian state bank Vnesheconombank, as the CNN report had claimed. This detail mattered a great deal, considering that Vnesheconombank was listed in a set of sanctions issued by the U.S. government. According to the CNN report, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into this matter was linked to the meeting between top Trump adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner and Vnesheconombank CEO Sergey Gorkov during the presidential transition.
Scaramucci himself chimed in:
It’s ok. I did nothing wrong. They like hitting friends of @potus who are loyal advocates on his behalf. https://t.co/58LdPff6bV
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) June 22, 2017
CNN issued a retraction late on Friday:
An appreciative Scaramucci tweeted:
[email protected] did the right thing. Classy move. Apology accepted. Everyone makes mistakes. Moving on. https://t.co/lyVajCKNHx
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) June 24, 2017
Now for the consequences. CNN announced on Monday afternoon that three network officials are leaving their jobs over the incident: Frank, the reporter on the story; Eric Lichtblau, a recent CNN addition from the New York Times who edited the piece; and Lex Haris, the executive editor of “CNN Investigates.” The moves follow an investigation carried out by CNN executives over the weekend, with the conclusion that longstanding network procedures for publishing stories weren’t properly followed. “There was a significant breakdown in process,” says a CNN source. “There were editorial checks and balances within the organization that weren’t met.”