NBC Issues Massive Correction to Cohen Surveillance Story, Admits He Was Not Wiretapped

What a time to be at NBC. First, Ronan Farrow won a Pulitzer Prize on April 16 for his Harvey Weinstein reporting NBC supposedly tried to suppress. Then, two stories broke one week ago that the network botched its response to the Matt Lauer scandal and former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw was accused of sexual misconduct.

Now, Thursday saw another embarrassment as NBC News was forced to run a correction on MSNBC’s MTP Daily that, contrary to their original reporting, longtime Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen was not being wiretapped. 

 

 

The original story’s headline read “Feds tapped Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s phones” and reported that at least one Cohen call with someone originating at the White House was picked up. 

Reporters Julia Ainsley and Tom Winter also wrote that it was unclear when the wiretapping specifically started, but it was weeks before the April 9 raids on Cohen’s hotel room, home, and office.

Alas, none of that was true. MTP Daily host Chuck Todd stated at the top of the program:

But before we get further into the Giuliani news, we have a correction via NBC News. Earlier today, NBC News reported there was a wiretap on the phones of Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney citing two separate sourcing with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen. But we’ve got a correction to that now. It’s not a wiretap where they were listening into the phone calls but something else specifically. 

Winter started his mea culpa with the qualifier that the “two independent sources” at the heart of this false report “have a long-term track record of credibility in providing accurate information to this news organization.” Translation? It’s not our fault!

He recapped what he and Ainsley had originally reported then pivoted to what was wrong with that information (click “expand” to read more):

Now, three senior U.S. officials are telling us that this is a — it was not a wiretap. Instead, it was what is referred to a pen register. In plain English, that means it is a log of phone calls that were made from a specific phone line or a specific phone lines. In this case, we know Michael Cohen had several phone lines and so, in this case, they were able to see who he called or who somebody using his phone lines called but they were not able to listen in real time or record those conversations. So, it’s an important distinction, Chuck. I want to add to that by saying it doesn't change necessarily the legal bar here in order to get a warrant of this type. It's still a very serious matter because they would have needed to fill out a significant affidavit and be able to go down a significant road to get this approved by a federal judge. 

The remainder of the four-minute-and-28-second segment revolved around Winter trying to explain what this correction meant or, in other words, offer spin.

For good measure, here’s the correction that can now be found at the top of the NBCNews.com piece (again, hit “expand”):

CORRECTION: Earlier today, NBC News reported that there was a wiretap on the phones of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, citing two separate sources with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen.

But three senior U.S. officials now dispute that, saying that the monitoring of Cohen’s phones was limited to a log of calls, known as a pen register, not a wiretap where investigators can actually listen to calls.

NBC News has changed the headline and revised parts of the original article.

The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross noted that, at one point during MSNBC’s afternoon programming promoting this lie, Stormy Daniels lawyer and CNN BFF Michael Avenatti asserted that this now-false claim about a Cohen wiretap wasn’t speculation but “a fact.”

Avenatti also predicted that, among other things, the wiretaps will show that “Michael Cohen and others were going to potentially destroy or spoliate evidence or documentation.”

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s MTP Daily on May 3, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s MTP Daily
May 3, 2018
5:03 p.m. Eastern

CHUCK TODD: But before we get further into the Giuliani news, we have a correction via NBC News. Earlier today, NBC News reported there was a wiretap on the phones of Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney citing two separate sourcing with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen. But we’ve got a correction to that now. It’s not a wiretap where they were listening into the phone calls but something else specifically. Let me bring in my colleague Tom Winter here to explain. There’s always a difference here when you hear the words wiretap and surveillance and the de — the level of detail of the surveillance, sometimes it's monitoring when a phone call comes in. Sometimes, it's overhearing. Explain what we reported and what we now know. 

TOM WINTER: So, Chuck, based on information from two independent sources who have a long term track record of credibility in providing accurate information to this news organization they today — earlier today, based on that information, we reported that there was a wiretap on Michael Cohen's phone meaning they were able to listen in to conversations from phone lines associated with Michael Cohen to any other person that he might have talked to and in part of that reporting we said one of those phone calls was between a phone line associated with Michael Cohen and the White House. Now, three senior U.S. officials are telling us that this is a — it was not a wiretap. Instead, it was what is referred to a pen register. In plain English, that means it is a log of phone calls that were made from a specific phone line or a specific phone lines. In this case, we know Michael Cohen had several phone lines and so, in this case, they were able to see who he called or who somebody using his phone lines called but they were not able to listen in real time or record those conversations. So, it’s an important distinction, Chuck. I want to add to that by saying it doesn't change necessarily the legal bar here in order to get a warrant of this type. It's still a very serious matter because they would have needed to fill out a significant affidavit and be able to go down a significant road to get this approved by a federal judge. 

TODD: Essentially, to bring back a phrase we used to use a lot during the Snowden revelations and, frankly, during the investigation in the Boston marathon, this is metadata. 

WINTER: Exactly. 

TODD: Is — meaning he is being surveilled, but they’re trying to figure out who he is talking to not necessarily what he’s talking about. 

WINTER: Right. So, this would be as if I was going to call you earlier today to get caught up, they would see Tom Winter’s phone call — they would see my number and see that I dialed Chuck Todd. They would not know what you and I said to each other. We could have talked about everything — anything. And with respect to your point with respect to metadata. That's exactly what this is. It's a phone number, it’s a time and based on what we saw by three U.S. officials, earlier the reporting was too far where it was a wiretap here where there was real time monitoring. In this case, they were just able to see that somebody called somebody else and so, that’s what this is about.

TODD: Do we know the extent right now -- there have been some filings. And you and I were talking about it. The government has admitted to some surveillance that they’ve been doing for months over Cohen. But we don't know the extent. Do we know the extent of how much they have been surveilling Cohen? How thoroughly? Has it been e-mails? Texts? Phone calls? What do we know? 

WINTER: So, Chuck, it’s a great question. So, we know from public filings that they were able to do surveillance on his e-mails. The federal prosecutors put that in open court. Anybody with access or who wants to get the record can get it themselves and for that, they had a filler team because there could be attorney-client communications in that and so, they had a separate team look at it and then hand over the relevant matters to the investigators that are working on the case. So, we know for a fact it’s e-mails. We’re being told now there was some sort of a pen register that was being used. So, we know that, you know, what calls he may have been making or people using his phone lines were making. Now, as part of this, could there be other types of things that were monitored real-time as it relates to communications? Obviously, everybody now uses texts. They use various types of apps to communicate. That's something we haven't yet seen come out and that’s something we haven’t been guided to or told explicitly at this point.

TODD: Alright, Tom Winter, coming on here, an important correction to our earlier report that we know has gotten some big headlines. Michael Cohen's calls are being monitored but they’re not being listened in to at least as far as our sources are concerned. 

WINTER: Precisely.

TODD: Tom Winter, thank you very much.

NB Daily Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Fake News Michael Cohen Michael Avenatti Chuck Todd Donald Trump
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