ABC News released a statement tonight — long after news had raced the length and breadth of the nation and spawned in some quarters speculation that the end was near for Donald Trump — that significantly “clarified” reporting that Trump had ordered Michael Flynn to contact Russia during the campaign. Here’s ABC’s statement:
CLARIFICATION of ABC News Special Report: Flynn prepared to testify that President-elect Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians *during the transition* — initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria, confidant now says. https://t.co/ewrkVZBTbc pic.twitter.com/GQAKwT1Eda— ABC News (@ABC) December 2, 2017
This is one heck of a clarification. In reality, it’s a retraction of a report that was so momentous that it arguably helped send stocks briefly tumbling. Word that Trump ordered Flynn to reach out during the campaign raises the possibility of collusion. Communication with a foreign power during the transition, however, is normal, reasonable, and often prudent. This is no small detail. It’s an extraordinarily irresponsible mistake.
I expect that ABC’s tweeted retraction will get lost on Friday night. So millions of people will spend the next several days believing that Flynn is singing like a canary about nefarious campaign activities. Instead, the news is far better for Trump. If Flynn is speaking about post-campaign contacts, he’s likely telling a story of Trump officials doing their jobs. It’s entirely possible that one or more of those officials lied to the FBI about those contacts (as Flynn did), but that’s a wholly different and lesser scandal than campaign collusion with a hostile foreign power.
Today’s most important report of possible campaign misconduct has disappeared. How many Americans will know?