FOLKS: We’ve got a real primetime matchup for you today in the boy wonder division. Two fairly insufferable—although in totally different ways—journalists are DUKING IT OUT over who fucked up the Rod Rosenstein story today more.
IN ONE CORNER we have Axios’ Jonathan Swan, who reported this morning that the deputy attorney general had verbally “offered to resign” to Chief of Staff John Kelly, a tasty morsel he attributed to “a source close to Rosenstein.” When the story was published, the SCOOP crowed: “Rod Rosenstein has verbally resigned to John Kelly.”
Swan later added a “clarification” to his scoop—in other words, something a neutral observer could well characterize as a “correction”—saying the headline and copy were edited to note it’s unclear whether Rosenstein’s verbal offer to resign was accepted. Kind of an important detail!
It didn’t take very long for other outlets—NBC News and CNN among them—to chip away at Swan’s reporting. ENTER: Vanity Fair scoopmeister Gabriel Sherman, who reported in the early afternoon that the White House played Swan like a damn fool (emphasis mine):
For all the morning’s madness, there may have been an underlying logic. Over the weekend, as Brett Kavanaugh’s prospects appeared increasingly imperiled, Trump faced two tactical options, both of them fraught. One was to cut Kavanaugh loose. But he was also looking for ways to dramatically shift the news cycle away from his embattled Supreme Court nominee. According to a source briefed on Trump’s thinking, Trump decided that firing Rosenstein would knock Kavanaugh out of the news, potentially saving his nomination and Republicans’ chances for keeping the Senate. “The strategy was to try and do something really big,” the source said. The leak about Rosenstein’s resignation could have been the result, and it certainly had the desired effect of driving Kavanaugh out of the news for a few hours.
So Sherman is reporting that the Trump administration wanted to drop a news bomb—which he says they placed with Axios—and it worked. How embarrassing it would be to be played like a fiddle by the single anonymous source upon which your entire story relies!
As you can imagine, this was not kindly received by Swan, the same reporter who once mused that Jeff Sessions is “an honorable person.” He called Sherman’s reporting “disgraceful bullshit” and accused HIM of being the REAL PAWN, except for Steve Bannon.
Sherman, for his part, has not responded to that attack on his character. Egad, I say!!!!
Who’s fucking up this story the most? More importantly: Who would win in a two-on-two man fight to the death: Sherman and his “sourced briefed on Trump’s thinking” or Swan and his “source close to Rosenstein”?? I can’t wait to find out!!
UPDATE, 5:11 p.m. ET: As The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr pointed out, there’s now a “note for readers” at the bottom of Swan’s post: