Trump Russia Investigation: Who Are the Three Journalists Who Resigned Over CNN's Retracted Story?

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves as he is introduced during the CNN presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas, in Las Vegas, on December 15, 2015. The network took the decision to distance itself from the pro–Donald Trump commentator after a Twitter spat. Ethan Miller/Getty

Three CNN journalists have resigned amidst the fallout from a retracted story that alleged that the head of a $10 billion Russian investment fund had met with a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team days before his inauguration.

Thomas Frank, who wrote the story, Eric Lichtblau, an editor in the CNN Investigation unit and Lex Haris, the head of the unit, all resigned on Monday after the story—which was based on a single anonymous source—was retracted on Friday, the Washington Post reported.

The story had claimed the Senate Intelligence Committee was investigating the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a Russian organization, after its chief executive Kirill Dmitriev met with a “member of President Donald Trump’s transition team four days before inauguration.”

Read more: Why is CNN getting nervous about its coverage of the Trump-Russia investigation and introducing new restrictions?

The official was Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street entrepreneur who was eventually overlooked for a position in Trump’s White House. Scaramucci did meet with Dmitriev in the Swiss resort of Davos in January, but refuted the CNN story.

 

 

The CNN report also said that the probe into Scaramucci’s meeting was linked to the alleged meeting between Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, and the chief executive of Russia’s state bank, Vnesheconombank, Sergey Gorkov.

In its retraction on Friday, CNN said that the story “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards and has been retracted” and issued an apology to Scaramucci, which he accepted.

But the story had already caused a storm in right-wing and Russian media outlets: Sputnik News published a refutation that denied that the RDIF was affiliated to the Vnesheconombank, while Fox News anchor Sean Hannity trolled CNN about the affair on Twitter.

Frank, the author of the story, investigated government affairs from Washington for CNN. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while at USA Today in 2012 for a collection of stories about U.S. government pensions. He has also reported from Iraq, where he was embedded with the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion.

Lichtblau headed up the reporters and producers working in Washington as part of the CNN Investigates unit. He joined CNN in April after almost 15 years at The New York Times, where he was the co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for an expose on a secret surveillance program run by the U.S. government in the wake of 9/11.

Haris, the executive editor of CNN Investigates, has worked at CNN for 16 years and took over the investigative unit in January, moving from CNNMoney. In a statement following his resignation, Haris said: “I’ve been with CNN since 2001, and am sure about one thing: This is a news organization that prizes accuracy and fairness above all else. I am leaving, but will carry those principles wherever I go.”

Following the episode, CNN has reportedly enforced tough restrictions on publishing stories relating to Russia. CNNMoney executive editor Rich Barbieri sent an email to employees over the weekend that said that Russia-related content should be checked with him or Jason Farkas, a CNN vice-president, before publication, BuzzFeed News reported.

President Trump has regularly targeted CNN as an emblem of what he calls the “fake news media.” In a January press conference a few weeks before his inauguration, Trump shouted down CNN reporter Jim Acosta and denied him the chance to ask a question. The incident came after CNN and other media outlets, including BuzzFeed, reported that the Russian government had “salacious” information on Trump.