How NBC News Helped Trump
by Kevin Kelton
Last week, NBC News broke an exclusive report that Robert Mueller’s special counsel office had “wiretapped” Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime attorney. As NBC later acknowledged, Mueller’s team did not wiretap Cohen. They had merely monitored the log of calls coming in and out of Cohen’s phone lines, without actually listening in.
While Trump and his supporters have blasted NBC for its sloppy reporting, the mistake actually helps Trump and his cohorts.
Before the revelation of the pen register mistake, whenever a witness came before the Mueller grand jury to testify, the prosecutors could blindside them with a question such as, “On this date, did you receive a call from [insert name] at 12:52 p.m. that lasted 19 minutes?” The witness, surprised at the level of detailed the special prosecutors were displaying, might naturally assume the call had been tapped or someone else had testified about it already, giving prosecutors the specific content of the conversation. That might lead a nervous witness to be more forthcoming with facts and details than they otherwise might.
Now, with the revelation that Mueller’s office was only monitoring phone logs, not tapping calls, the same witness might not be as candid about the conversation.
Indeed, this exact scenario might have been waiting for Don Trump Jr., especially regarding his June 9, 2016 mystery call from a blocked number moments before his meeting with a gaggle of Russian agents. The same would be true for Trump pal Roger Stone’s suspicious phone call to Julian Assange in August of that year.
In that way, the NBC blunder might inhibit key witnesses from giving detailed testimony that would help Mueller build a case against Trump. So while NBC’s error might have given the network a black eye and given Trump a talking point, what it really did was hamper a criminal investigation and maybe let some bad guys get away.
So when Trump rails about NBC’s “fake news,” take it with a grain of salt. The most fake thing about this story is his faux outrage itself.