In a court filing this week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office called out The New York Times and The Washington Post for their “not responsible” reporting on the FBI’s actions.
The reprimand, included in a footnote of the filing, was caught by USA Today’s Brad Heath:
As Law & Crime’s Matt Naham explains, the filing addressed false reports by both the Times and the Post on a supposed “early morning,” “no-knock” raid on Paul Manafort’s condo. The reports falsely asserted that federal agents “did not knock on the front door and picked the lock to enter.” The claim, Mueller’s team suggested, was completely fabricated, as was the assertion that it came from a leak by the Special Counsel.
“But, I do question the publication of the completely unsupported speculation that this revelation was an intentional leak by the Office of the Special Counsel,” the footnote reads. “No reporter had any facts to base that on, so I’m not sure why anyone printed it. It’s not responsible.”
The New York Times didn’t just include the fabricated detail in a story, they declared it in the headline: “With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller’s Inquiry Sets a Tone.” Here’s how the big story began:
Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.
According to Heath, not only is the “picked lock” claim false, so is the “early one morning” part. Oops.
The Washington Post’s coverage, an op-ed by Radley Balko, likewise emphasized the false claim in their headline: “No-knock raids like the one against Paul Manafort are more common than you think.”
While false reports by once unimpeachable outlets based on faulty or nonexistent sources are nothing new, what is noteworthy here is that, apparently, Mueller is about as big of a fan of being a victim of “fake news” as his ultimate target.