At CNN, Retracted Story Leaves an Elite Reporting Team Bruised

The story said that the Senate Intelligence Committee was examining the fund and that Mr. Scaramucci had met with the head of the fund, Kirill Dmitriev, several days before Mr. Trump’s inauguration. It also said the Treasury Department had been looking into the meeting at the request of two Democratic senators, who had expressed concern that Mr. Scaramucci might have promised to help get sanctions against Russia waived by the new administration.

The story was written by Thomas Frank, who had been a Pulitzer Prize finalist at USA Today. But Mr. Scaramucci, who was jockeying for a position in the White House, disputed the information when CNN contacted him for comment, according to a person close to Mr. Scaramucci; the story quoted Mr. Scaramucci as saying “there is nothing there,” in reference to his meeting with Mr. Dmitriev.

Mr. Lichtblau was editing the article and, according to the people with direct knowledge of the events, he sent a draft of the story to Lex Haris, the head of the investigative unit. Mr. Haris, who was traveling to Phoenix for a conference, signed off — as long as the story passed muster with CNN’s internal review system, known as the Triad.

The Triad includes CNN’s fact-checkers and its standards team, both of which approved the article. But the third prong, the legal department, had at least one question that went unanswered.

It is not clear what specific concerns the legal department raised, or why Mr. Lichtblau and Mr. Haris did not address them; journalists at CNN said it was sometimes difficult to keep track of the flurry of inquiries that could come during the review process. (Mr. Frank, Mr. Haris and Mr. Lichtblau declined to comment for this story.)

Mr. Lichtblau moved forward with publication. He emailed an editor affiliated with KFile, Kyle Blaine, who had not been involved in the story, and instructed him to publish it on his behalf.

When the story was posted that afternoon, it received little attention — inside the newsroom and out. But Mr. Scaramucci and his representatives quickly contacted CNN officials, including the network’s Washington bureau chief, Sam Feist, to complain. It was an “all hands on deck’’ rebuttal, said the person familiar with Mr. Scaramucci’s response.

Breitbart News, a frequent critic of CNN, soon posted an item that questioned CNN’s reporting, and called the network’s story “very fake news.’’ Citing its own source,…

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