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Opinion CNN corrects Comey-testimony-prediction story

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a written statement by former FBI director James B. Comey prior to his appearance before senators June 8. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
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Former FBI director James B. Comey will be testifying before Congress on Thursday regarding his interactions with President Trump. That’s a big news story. Which means that at CNN, it’s a huge news story. There’s an on-air countdown clock, there are nonstop panels trianglulating the event, there’s everything that a 24/7 news channel can muster.

And now there’s a correction. A Tuesday story with four bylines carried this headline: “Comey expected to refute Trump.” Here’s a key part of that story:

Trump has made a blanket claim that Comey told him multiple times that he was not under investigation. But one source said Comey is expected to explain to senators that those were much more nuanced conversations from which Trump concluded that he was not under investigation.

On CNN’s air, analyst Gloria Borger put matters more starkly, saying, “Comey is going to dispute the president on this point if he’s asked about it by senators, and we have to assume that he will be. He will say he never assured Donald Trump that he was not under investigation, that that would have been improper for him to do so.”

Wednesday afternoon produced a document that underscored the perils of such testimony-prediction. The prepared testimony of the former FBI chief carries the following paragraph:

Prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

Given that bit of difficulty, CNN has published a correction to its story, stating:

CORRECTION AND UPDATE: This article was published before Comey released his prepared opening statement. The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published.

The new headline reads, “Comey unlikely to judge on obstruction.”

For a more nuanced view on landscape of Trump v. Comey on this particular point, please see this story at Lawfare.