CNN forced to climb down over Trump-WikiLeaks email report

Network said Trump had received email that offered hacked WikiLeaks files but CNN got date wrong and later admitted material was already in public sphere

CNN was forced to climb down from a report Friday that an encryption key allowing access to hacked content had been emailed to Donald Trump and aides two months before the presidential election.

Such a key had been emailed, the cable network said in a corrected report, but the material it gave access to was already in the public sphere, and not previously unseen as an initial CNN report suggested.

The retraction was issued following conflicting reports from other news outlets establishing that the email in question was sent on 14 September 2016, and not 4 September as CNN originally reported.

Donald Trump Jr, one of the recipients of the email, tore into CNN and demanded a correction.

I know you cant help but spread #fakenews @cnn, but now that you know the truth you should have the decency to retract the false story, make the correction, take down the bs tweet, and apologize to the 2 or 3 people that still believe you to be credible, he wrote on Twitter, adding: #yourewelcome.

CNNs 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, the network said in a statement. We have updated our story to include the correct date, and present the proper context for the timing of email.

Congressional investigators asked Trump Jr about the email which came from an unknown person called Mike Erickson during a closed-door, day-long interview on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

A lawyer for Trump Jr earlier said his client did not remember the email or act on it.

Timeline

The key events in the Trump-Russia investigation

GCHQ warns US intelligence

Britains spy agency GCHQ becomes aware of suspicious interactions between people with Trump ties and Russian intelligence operatives. In late 2015, GCHQ warns US intelligence.

Hacking and 'influence campaign'

The first phishing emails begin to hit Democratic individuals (the Democratic National Committee having been hacked months earlier). Hundreds or thousands of impostor accounts appear on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Trump foreign policy meeting

Trump is told about the Russian contacts of at least one aide, and Jeff Sessions shoots down a possible Trump-Putin meeting, according to multiple people present. Later Trump and Sessions repeatedly deny there had ever been such contacts by anyone in the campaign with Russian operatives.

Trump tower meeting

Top Trump campaign advisers including Donald Trump Jrmeet at Trump Tower with Russian operatives, having been promised "official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary." A Russian present says sanctions were discussed.

Republican national convention

The convention convenes in Cleveland, Ohio. Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak attends. Top Trump campaign aides vociferously deny contacts with Russian operatives. WikiLeaks releases 44,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Publication of emails

Across the Fall, outlets including WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks publish tens of thousands of emails stolen from Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The Facebook campaign

As Russian impostor accounts spread divisive propaganda throughout social media over the Fall, the Trump campaign experiments aggressively with micro-targeting on Facebook, making on an "average day" 50,000-60,000 ads, according to former digital director Brad Parscale

Contacts and denials

Top Trump campaign aides Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and others have dozens of contacts with Russian operatives that are repeatedly denied in public across the Fall. "It never happened," a campaign spokeswoman said two days after the election. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign."

Trump elected

Donald Trump is elected president of the United States.

Presidential transition

Trump aides keep up contacts with Russian operatives on matters of policy and appear to hide those conversations from the US government and public. Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about the conversations, then later admitted that Jared Kushner had directed him to seek certain policy commitments from the Russian ambassador.

James Comey fired

Trump fires the FBI director. When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story'," Trump tells an interviewer two days later.

Trump Jr reportedly told the House intelligence committee that he did not remember the email.

Federal prosecutors and three congressional committees have been investigating whether the Trump campaign cooperated behind the scenes with Russia to sabotage the Hillary Clinton campaign or otherwise tamper in the presidential election.

In a separate phase of his interview before Congress, Trump Jr declined to discuss with the committee a phone conversation he had with his father following a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with Russian operatives linked to the Kremlin.

Trump Jr said the conversation with his father was protected by attorney-client privilege because lawyers for both men were on the phone call, too. The Republicans who control the committee accepted the assertion, but Democrats said they would challenge it, and outside analysts said it amounted to a very shaky legal argument.

The Trump Tower meeting has been a focus for federal prosecutors investigating alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump has admitted that his son took the meeting in hopes of gathering damaging material about Clinton.

Trump Jr has said that nothing of substance was exchanged at the meeting and dismissed allegations of collusion.

US intelligence considers WikiLeaks to be aligned with Russian intelligence, a charge the organization, which has described a mission of confronting US power on the global stage, has denied. Trump and his aides have denied wrongdoing.

The email was turned over to investigators earlier this year at their request for a batch of documents from the Trump Organization, according to reports.

Wikileaks

WikiLeaks has denied that Russia was the source of hacked material it published during the presidential campaign. US intelligence agencies say Russian operatives did provide WikiLeaks with hacked Clinton emails.

In direct messages on Twitter, WikiLeaks asked Trump Jr to promote links to hacked emails, to decry the election as rigged and to consider accepting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as Australian ambassador to the United States.

Trump tweeted the link provided to his son by WikiLeaks and praised the organization on the campaign trail, saying I love WikiLeaks in an October 2016 speech.

Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence was asked after the speech whether the campaign was in cahoots with WikiLeaks.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, Pence said.

  • This article was amended on 8 December 2017 as further details relating to the date of the email became available.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us