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Watch: Provocateur targets CNN producer with hidden camera video

NEW YORK —A conservative provocateur posted a video Tuesday of a man identified as a CNN producer commenting on his network's coverage of President Donald Trump and connections to Russia.

The producer, identified as John Bonifield, said it appeared CNN had no "smoking gun" evidence of wrongdoing by the president and was giving the story extensive coverage because it was good for the ratings. A CNN biography lists Bonifield as a producer for the network's medical unit, with no indication that he's involved in political coverage.

The video, posted by James O'Keefe's Project Veritas, had Bonifield talking with an unidentified person while sitting at a table behind a drink and later in an elevator.

CNN has not commented on the video. O'Keefe and his web site have a long history of aiding Republican causes, often with the use hidden cameras. The law firm of one victim recently sued O'Keefe, alleging violation of a federal wiretap law.

The video was released after three CNN journalists resigned Monday following the network's retraction of a story Friday about a supposed investigation into a pre-inaugural meeting between a Trump associate and the head of a Russian investment fund.

Trump used the resignations to resume his attack on the network's credibility Tuesday.

The story was about a supposed investigation into a pre-inaugural meeting between a Trump associate and the head of a Russian investment fund. CNN accepted the journalists' resignations Monday.

Trump wrote in a Tuesday morning tweet, "Wow, CNN had to retract big story on 'Russia,' with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!"

A message seeking comment was left at CNN.

The story was posted on the network's website Thursday and was removed, with all links disabled, Friday night. CNN immediately apologized to Anthony Scaramucci, the Trump transition team member who was reported to be involved in the meeting.

The story's author, Thomas Frank, was among those who resigned, the Associated Press reported, citing a network executive who requested anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss personnel issues. Also losing their jobs were Eric Lichtblau, an assistant managing editor in CNN's Washington bureau, and Lex Harris, head of the investigations unit.

CNN, in initially taking down the story, said it didn't meet its editorial standards. The episode is a damaging blow for a network that Trump has frequently derided as "fake news," and for a story that never even made it onto any of CNN's television networks.

The story had been quickly questioned both internally and externally, including by the conservative site Breitbart News. It was determined that the story was posted without going through the expected checks and balances for a story of such sensitivity, the executive said.

The failure to follow proper procedures is what led to the resignations, the CNN executive said, according to AP.

It's not immediately clear what in the story is factually incorrect, or whether CNN will continue to report on the issue. The retracted story had said the Senate investigations committee was looking into a Jan. 16 discussion between Scaramucci and Kirill Dmitriev, whose Russian Direct Investment Fund guides investments by U.S. entities in Russia. Scaramucci, in the story, said he exchanged pleasantries in a restaurant with Dmitriev.

The report also said that two Democratic senators wanted to know whether Scaramucci had indicated in the meeting whether sanctions against Russia would be lifted, a decision that could impact the investment fund.

Following the retraction, Scaramucci tweeted that CNN "did the right thing. Classy move. Apology accepted. Everyone makes mistakes. Moving on."

Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. [Associated Press]

Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. [Associated Press]

Watch: Provocateur targets CNN producer with hidden camera video 06/27/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 1:13pm]
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