Hours After Trump Tweet, ‘Washington Examiner’ Backs Off Of FBI Story

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Early on Friday morning, President Trump tweeted about a story in The Washington Examiner that made certain assertions about The New York Times and the FBI.

“NYT reporter emailed FBI to ‘flag’ Jared Kushner meetings with Russians” was the headline of the Washington Examiner story, published on Thursday. The story alleged that before the New York Times ran a story in the spring of 2017 about a meeting between the president’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, reporter Michael Schmidt reached out to the FBI to “flag” the story.

“Just revealed that the Failing and Desperate New York Times was feeding false stories about me, & those associated with me, to the FBI,” Trump’s tweet said of the article. “This shows the kind of unprecedented hatred I have been putting up with for years with this Crooked newspaper. Is what they have done legal?”

The email was among those released as a result of a lawsuit from the conservative group, Judicial Watch.

Despite the conspiratorial tone of both the Washington Examiner article and the president’s response to it, some noticed quickly that based on the facts in the story, nothing untoward or even unusual had happened.

Schmidt, the reporter, rather than engaging in a conspiracy with a fellow Trump enemy, had merely reached out to the FBI for comment, which is something that’s completely standard and uncontroversial that reporters do when they’re writing about a particular individual or institution. And NYT, rather than “feeding information,” was contacting the FBI for their story about an FBI investigation.

The person Schmidt contacted, Michael Kortan, was, at the time, the FBI’s assistant director for public affairs; the type of person whose job it would be to field questions from the press. If a NYT reporter wanted to enter into a conspiracy with the FBI, it probably wouldn’t involve contacting the press office.

By day’s end, The Washington Examiner had issued a long correction, which essentially backed down from the story. The correction, among other things, was to remove the assertion that Schmidt had “fed information” to the FBI, to clarify the timing of the conversation.

“We regret that this story did not adhere to The Washington Examiner‘s normal standards and procedures,” the newspaper said.

The president has not deleted or corrected the tweet.

“If you think that presenting new reporting to the @FBI for comment or background context before publication constitutes ‘feeding information’ to the @FBI to advance an investigation, you don’t know much about reporting,” Kenneth P. Vogel, a reporter for the New York Times, said on Twitter.