Accuracy in Media

A story on the Daily Beast could blow the lid off a key piece of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The kicker head above the story, and its title – “Texts Show Roger Stone, Randy Credico Discussing WikiLeaks Plans: NBC” – indicate the story’s contents are bad for Stone and his friend President Trump, and could lead to criminal sanctions against one or both.

The lead of the story continues down this path. “Radio host Randy Credico was providing former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone with ‘regular updates’ about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s plans to release hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, text messages obtained by NBC News show,” the story read.

Later, it says Mueller is “reportedly probing Stone to determine whether he had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks releasing Clinton’s campaign chairman’s hacked emails before the 2016 election” and whether Stone “tried to ‘intimidate and discredit’ Credico.”

CNN took a slightly different tack in “Text messages show Roger Stone discussing WikiLeaks plans days before hack” by Sara Murray and Kate Sullivan.

“Roger Stone exchanged text messages with his alleged WikiLeaks back channel about imminent ‘big news’ harmful to Hillary Clinton’s campaign six days before WikiLeaks released hacked emails from former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, according to new messages released by Stone,” Murray and Sullivan wrote.

As was the case with the Daily Beast, the rest of the story focused on the contents of the messages. The NBC story on which the Daily Beast was based also centered on the contents of the messages and the fact NBC had them exclusively.

But none of the reports mentioned that the messages Stone unearthed from an old telephone on Wednesday essentially end a line of inquiry that had become a central focus of the Mueller probe.

Mueller’s interest in Stone is based on the notion Stone received advance notice of the Wikileaks revelations from Russian sources, establishing a near-direct link between the Trump campaign and Russians seeking to influence the election.

The text messages Stone produced establish he learned what he knew of the Wikileaks revelations from Credico, a New York City radio host, who, according to Stone, got the information from Margaret Ratner Kunstler, a lawyer for Wikileaks and a close friend of Credico.

The Daily Caller, a conservative website, grasped the importance of the story.

“Stone, 66, reluctantly told the House Intelligence Committee in October 2017 that Credico was his back channel to WikiLeaks and Assange,” wrote Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller under the headline “Bombshell text messages support Roger Stone’s claims about Wikileaks Backchannel.”

“But he has claimed that he did not know the source or content of the Clinton campaign emails. Credico has adamantly denied being Stone’s conduit, saying in numerous interviews over the past year that Stone was lying.”

Credico has denied being Stone’s source for the information, and the two had engaged in what Ross called a “he said, he said” battle. Stone said Wednesday the texts, which his lawyers were able to obtain off a phone he stopped using in 2016, “prove that Credico was the source who told me about the significance of the material that Assange announced he had on Hillary.”

Stone “had struggled for months to provide evidence to back up his claims about Credico,” Ross said.

Axios released a timeline of events that included some extra information, such as that Mueller also was seeking to investigate “whether Stone has tried to intimidate Credico, who as a witness to the investigation has contradicted Stone’s version of events.”

The New York Times and Washington Post did not report the story.

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