Since news broke Monday that the Obama Administration's National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, directed the "unmasking" of NSA intercepts of Trump associates, CNN has raced to shoot down the blockbuster report.
CNN Tonight's Don Lemon went so far as to announce he would ignore the news at all costs.
While interviewing a Democratic congressman, CNN's Chris Cuomo claimed it was "demonstrably untrue" Rice sought surveillance of the Trump team, even as that's exactly what yesterday's reports prove. He further announced that the story is a "fake scandal."
"There is no evidence of any wrongdoing," Cuomo concluded. "In fact if anything, the NSA asking for identities was foreign players. The White House blasting the press for not reporting on another fake scandal being peddled by right-wing media."
Over the last 24 hours, the network has also repeatedly called on its chief national security correspondent — who was also a political appointee in the Obama White House — Jim Sciutto, to dismiss the reports as a non-story; Sciutto has even excused Rice claiming ignorance of the unmasking scandal two weeks ago, arguing Rice "wasn't aware" what unmasking Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was referring to.
And on Tuesday's "New Day," anchor Alisyn Camerota openly pleaded with Sen. John McCain to write-off the news as unimportant.
Last night, Lemon began "CNN Tonight" with an announcement that the Rice report a "fake scandal ginned up by right-wing media and Trump" that he would not be baited into justifying with coverage.
"On this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending," it's legitimate, he said. "Nor will we aid and abet the people trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion. Not going to do it."
Sciutto also claimed the story was "ginned up" to distract from Trump tweeting that the Trump Tower was "wiretapped," when it was in fact communications were picked up through ordinary NSA surveillance.
"Again, to note by senior intelligence officials who work for both Democrats and Republicans, this appears to be a story, largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from this larger investigation," Sciutto told Anderson Cooper, explaining that "someone close to Ambassador Rice" told him this type of unmasking is "not unusual."
In another appearance, Sciutto even attempted to excuse Rice from claiming to have no knowledge of the unmasking she's been caught orchestrating.
"From her perspective she didn’t know what specific unmasking Devin Nunes and others are talking about, in part because that is something she asks — or asked during the regular course of her work as national security adviser," he said. "I do know from speaking to people yesterday close to her that she doesn’t know specifically what Devin Nunes and others are accusing her of when it comes to unmasking because that was something sets in the regular course of her job."
And in yet another appearance, Sciutto also setup something of a strawman, arguing that the unmasking story is not important because "unmasking is not leaking."
During an interview with Sen. John McCain, CNN's Camerota plainly tried nudging the Arizona senator into dismissing the Rice bombshell:
CAMEROTA: “Okay, senator, I want to move on to other news of the day and that is, as you know, the Trump White House has talked about what they see or they say they see as a controversy of the former national security adviser Susan Rice unmasking a name, someone on team Trump, that was somehow caught up in some incidental collection of surveillance. They say that this is a controversy, it shows that she has done something wildly out of the bounds of normalcy. Is this business as usual for a national security adviser to ask for a name to be revealed, an American name, if she wants to know more or is this some sort of a controversy?”
McCAIN: “I think the circumstances indicate that there’s a possibility that that request could have been politically motivated. But we need to get to the bottom of it. As I’ve said, and I’ll probably say many more times because I’m kind of boring, this is a centipede. A shoe will drop every few days, the latest the meeting in Seychelles. This is a requirement, in my view, why we need a select committee in order to get through all this because there’s lots more shoes that will drop. I can’t make a judgment on what I just heard. She did have the authority to do it. What was the motivation for doing it, I think is the question.”
CAMEROTA: “What we’ve heard from the reporting, is that if she saw a masked name that said American number one had these conversations with Russians at the same time that President Obama had imposed sanctions, wouldn’t that arouse some curiosity on her part?”
McCAIN: “All I can say, Alisyn, is that I don’t know enough to reach a conclusion except to say this is another aspect of this multi-dimensional scandal."
UPDATE: In an interview on MSNBC addressing this story, Susan Rice has now confirmed she unmasked Trump campaign officials, but is denying doing so for political reasons.
Other highlights from the interview:
— Rice on Whether She Unmasked More Trump Officials than Usual: ‘I Don’t Have Any Particular Recollection’