In the old days, when the Associated Press was the gold standard for unbiased newspaper copy, it broke stories of corruption and covered the trials that sometimes followed.
But according to a story on Thursday from investigative journalist Sara Carter, the AP actively assisted the government in its prosecution of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Andrew Weissman, a federal prosecutor known as the pit bull of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigated Russian collusion with the Trump campaign during the 2016 campaign. Weissman met with AP journalists on April 11.
The next day, the AP published an exposé claiming Manafort received $1.2 million in payments for consulting services for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
Lauren Easton, a spokesperson for the AP, said, “We refrain from discussing our sources.
“Associated Press journalists meet with a range of people in the course of reporting stories, and we refrain from discussing relationships with sources. However, the suggestion that AP would voluntarily serve as the source of information for a government agency is categorically untrue.”
But according to Carter’s sources, AP reporters “promised to share documents and other information gleaned from their own investigation with the Justice Department.”
Weissman, whom the AP reporters knew from having “worked with him” on stories before, was not assigned to the Manafort investigation at the time, did not know where it stood and had no access to grand jury materials or reports. His only function was to facilitate the meeting because the AP had reached out to him, officials said.
But internal Justice Department emails obtained by Judicial Watch showed multiple Justice Department emails praising former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for defying the president’s travel ban executive order – among them one from Weissmann that said, “I am so proud.”
Carter wrote that the AP meeting came to light in a letter late last year from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R.-Calif.) to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein requesting documents related to the Fusion GPS dossier that alleged collusion between Trump and the Russians.
The letter said the Justice Department is “researching records related to the details of an April 2017 meeting between DOJ Attorney Andrew Weissmann and the media. Also present, according to Cater, were two employees from the Justice Department, one from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and some FBI agents.
The agency not only acknowledged Weissmann attended the meeting with the AP reporters, but it also expressed unease with the meeting because, among other things, Weissmann may not have followed proper procedures before accepting purported evidence from journalists.
He could have further problems as well. Last week, just ahead of a deadline set by Nunes, who had threatened to hold Department of Justice officials in contempt of Congress, Justice agreed to turn over all documents related to the Fusion GPS dossier to his committee. He had been requesting the records since August but had been “stonewalled” by both the FBI and Justice Department for months, according to Carter.
DOJ agreed to turn over all records, including “records related to the details” of the meeting with the Associated Press.
There will be questions for Weissmann, but there also should be some questions for the Associated Press. Why would AP provide information to be used in prosecuting someone? Why would it immerse itself in the justice process this way?
And finally, the AP is owned cooperatively by the newspapers and other media outlets who use its work. If it is playing footsie with the FBI to get a Trump associate indicted, how can its coverage of anything to do with the president be taken seriously?