For the past couple of years, Trump-Russia collusion has been the holy grail for liberals desperate to find a way to remove President Donald Trump from office. Unfortunately for them, any actual proof of such collusion has yet to emerge.
What gave them hope that finally, FINALLY proof had been produced demonstrating Trump-Russia collusion came in the form of a Thursday piece from McClatchy correspondents Peter Stone and Greg Gordon that signals from Michael Cohen's cell phone had been detected near Prague in the summer of 2016 despite a denial by him.
This report gave great joy to liberals who have thus far been bereft of any actual collusion proof. Unfortunately for them, this "proof" quickly proved to be so third party lame that even resolutely anti-Trump lefty and MSNBC host Joy Reid was skeptical of it. However, first let us see the McClatchy report, "Cell signal puts Cohen outside Prague around time of purported Russian meeting," which gave no indication of just how incredibly weak it was:
A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.
During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague, two people familiar with the incident said.
The phone and surveillance data, which have not previously been disclosed, lend new credence to a key part of a former British spy’s dossier of Kremlin intelligence describing purported coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling operation.
Wow! That certainly sounds like a slam dunk for Cohen having been near Prague in 2016 despite vehement denials by him. Too bad the reporters somehow failed to mention that their sources were weak third hand accounts as Joy Reid, substituting for Rachel Maddow on Thursday, quickly discovered while interviewing one of the correspondents, Greg Gordon (click "expand"):
REID: You saw Michael Cohen today who hasn’t talked a lot since his sentencing again denied ever having been not just in Prague, but this the Czech Republic as well. What is your response to that, having reported on this?
GORDON: Well, Bob Mueller is in a pinch because he has an acting attorney general who now oversees his investigation and has harshly criticized it. He has the nominee to be the permanent attorney general in Bill Barr who has harshly criticized the investigation. So one would think that Bob Mueller wouldn’t want too much about his investigation getting out in the public. Former prosecutors have said that this is actually a standard practice for a prosecutor to...
REID: But Cohen doesn’t have to say anything. Cohen could say nothing.
GORDON: He could say nothing.
REID: But he is saying he was definitively not in Prague, he was not in Prague ever.
GORDON: And all I can say to that is we’ll see how this sorts out because Michael Cohen, as we all know, has been convicted of lying about his dealings with the trump hotel in Russia. He’s been convicted of being deceitful in a number of ways. And so his credibility is not high. We have to follow what our sources that we trust and have developed over this two-year period have told us.
REID: Let’s talk about the source. Obviously you’re not going to tell me who your sources are. But let’s talk about what they have told you. If there are intercepts that put Michael Cohen’s cell phone in Prague, one would think those would be fairly specific. But reporting by McClatchy is they were either in August or September. How would they not be more specific if these are actual intercepts that show the phone pings?
GORDON: I think they are more specific, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to pry that out of our sources who are getting information from foreign intelligence agencies. This is a counterintelligence investigation. It’s closely held.
REID: Did your sources see the intercepts for themselves or are they passing along information from other people?
Uh-oh! Joy is getting close to finding out that the sources are all third hand (click "expand"):
GORDON: The sources have — some of the sources have government sources, and some of the sources are — are people who have told us that they have trusted intelligence-type sources that they get information from. We don’t know the specifics, but we have used these sources on many subjects, and they have been very accurate.
REID: You know that sounds a lot like a Steele dossier. I reread the Steele dossier today. I told you that today. Because the reality is if your sources didn’t see the intercepts themselves, did they let you see them?
GORDON: Did they let us see...
REID: Have you seen the intercepts?
REID: So what we have, then, is sources have been used before, and they’re saying they were told that these intercepts exist.
GORDON: That is true.
TRANSLATION: Third hand sources. Gordon has not seen the intercepts. His sources also have not seen the intercepts. What he was telling us is that his sources have sources who have told them they have seen the intercepts:
REID: Have they — what kind of evidence did they provide you for you to feel confident that this was something you’re willing to put McClatchy’s name on?
GORDON: Well, for one thing, we — we — we got numbers. And we have four sources who told us about this. And for another, we have read the beginning of our story to some of these sources to make absolutely certain we’ve gone over and over and over it. We worked on this story for — really for months.
By the end, Gordon's lame explanations came crashing down upon him:
REID: I guess my other question to you would be, is there anything you were able to actually physically see for yourselves that corroborated what these four sources were telling you, anything that — that intercepts, that would give you some further evidence beyond that?
GORDON: I wish we had. We held out for a while for that, and we — you know, it came a time when we thought we had a critical mass. It is a competitive business.
So because it is a "competitive business" they went with what they thought was the "critical mass" of third hand hearsay without seeing any actual evidence themselves. This should qualify Gordon and his McClatchy colleague for either the Claas Relotius or Jayson Blair Excellence in Fake News awards.