The Brian Ross fracas raises many questions about how President Trump is covered in the media. As most readers know, Ross, ABC News’s senior investigative reporter, citing a single anonymous source, reported last Friday that former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, as part of his plea deal with Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, is prepared to testify that during his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Trump directed him to reach out to the Russians.
This was considered a bombshell, constituting the first indication of evidence that Trump contacted the Russians during the campaign to do Hillary Clinton in. Speculation abounded as to what Flynn would have to say about what Trump told him to discuss with the Russians. To be sure, the contact alone was not necessarily inappropriate, but anti-Trumpers gleefully seized upon the report as a sure sign of what was to come. And the stock market tanked.
Of course, Ross later admitted that Flynn was only prepared to testify that Trump’s direction to him occurred after the election, during the transition period – a difference between night and day. In fact, ABC News suspended Ross for four weeks over the incident.
But the issue is not just how a veteran like Ross could have run with the original story. More important – although ignored by the media – is the nature of the Flynn plea deal itself. First thought to be a “smoking gun,” the deal is actually evidence that no such smoking gun exists. For if it did, why would Flynn get such a sweet deal? Why would Mr. Mueller allow him to plead guilty to lying to the FBI, perhaps the lowest hanging fruit available for a plea, if he had real evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? Evidently, then, he doesn’t. All he has is Flynn’s post-election information.