3 out at CNN in wake of Trump/Russia story retraction

So far, CNN is keeping quiet after deleting and retracting a story involving a possible link between Russia and a member of President Trump’s transition team.

CNN’s Brian Stelter reported early Monday evening that three journalists have resigned in the wake of a story about a Russian investment fund that the network deleted and retracted from its website.

The report’s author, one-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Thomas Frank; Eric Lichtblau, an editor and Pulitzer Prize winner in the network’s investigative unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, have all left CNN, according to Stelter.

“In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” a spokesman for the network said in a statement.

“In a staff meeting Monday afternoon, investigative unit members were told that the retraction did not mean the facts of the story were necessarily wrong,” Stelter reported. “Rather, it meant that “the story wasn’t solid enough to publish as is,” one of the people briefed on the investigation said.

In the wake of the retraction, CNN is making workflow changes in how it handles stories involving President Trump’s possible connections to Russia.

“No one should publish any content involving Russia without coming to me and Jason first,” CNNMoney executive editor Rich Barbieri said in an email to staff over the weekend, referring to Jason Farkas, a CNN vice president. BuzzFeed was first to report on the email, which said the changes will apply “to social, video, editorial, and MoneyStream. No exceptions.”

CNN has not offered any details why the report was pulled, other than it reportedly did not go through the network’s editorial processes. Frank’s story reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee was investigating a “$10 billion Russian investment fund whose chief executive met with a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team four days before Trump’s inauguration.”

The story was posted on Thursday night, but didn’t receive any air time on CNN, according to Stelter. By Friday, the story was removed from the website and scrubbed from the network’s social media accounts, replaced with an editor’s note noting the piece “did not meet CNN’s editorial standards and has been retracted.”

CNN also apologized to Anthony Scaramucci, an adviser to Trump during the presidential campaign and a member of his transition team’s executive committee, who was mentioned in the story as having met Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which the network said is overseen by Vnesheconombank, a state-run bank that is under U.S. sanctions. A spokesperson for the RDIF told Sputnik News, a state-run Russian news channel, that the fund is not a part of the bank.

Scaramucci weighed in on Twitter Saturday morning about the network’s decision to pull the story, calling it a “classy move.”

The president has dubbed CNN “fake news” and has made a habit of antagonizing the network, refusing to call on its reporters during press briefings. In May, the network refused to run a 30-second television spot created by Trump’s re-election campaign that featured the words “fake news” displayed over several journalists, including CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Many conservative figures, including the president’s son Donald Jr., used the retraction in an attempt to paint CNN as having an anti-Trump bias in its reporting.

“I sometimes complain to my editors about the layers of editing and oversight that exist at CNN,” Stelter said. “But these processes exist for good reasons. Determining what went wrong this time will help prevent future damage to the news organization.”