Unverified Claim Russian Oligarchs Co-Signed Trump’s Loans Sparks Another ‘If True’ News Cycle

On the heels of Deutsche Bank confirming that it has tax returns responsive to the congressional subpoenas President Donald Trump is challenging in court, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell claimed that one unnamed source “close to Deutsche Bank” told him that Trump was only able to get the loans because they were co-signed by Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

The claim immediately sparked another “if true” news cycle. O’Donnell himself made sure to repeatedly emphasize “if true” regarding the information he was reporting, information that he said “would explain, it seems to me, every kind word Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin.”

“[I]f true, and I stress the if true part of this,” O’Donnell hedged.

True or not, the story spread like wildfire. Here’s a sampling of some of the major reactions.

“If this is true, Trump cannot remain POTUS”

All partisan suspicions about Trump’s tax returns have been confirmed.

“Impeachment is just the start.”

That time twice-convicted felon/former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stumbled all over himself to say that Trump had no financial relationships with Russian oligarchs.

If Lawrence O’Donnell is right, “bonfire of ethical — if not legal — issues for the White House.”

The claim, “if true,” fits what’s been asserted for years.

People shouldn’t be surprised by this because it’s been discussed.

On Wednesday, Morning Joe’s booking producer said that Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the O’Donnell report [ensuing emphasis ours].

“The information came from a single source who has not seen the bank records,” Michael Del Moro said. “NBC has not seen those records and has not been able to verify the reporting.”

UPDATE: O’Donnell retracted the report and apologized on his Wednesday night show.

“Last night on this show I discussed information that wasn’t ready for reporting. I did not go through the rigorous verification and standards process here at MSNBC before repeating what I heard from my source,” O’Donnell said. “Had it gone through that process I would not have been permitted to report it. I should not have said it on air or posted it on Twitter. I was wrong to do so.“

“Tonight we are retracting the story. We don‘t know whether the information is inaccurate. But the fact is, we do know it wasn‘t ready for broadcast, and for that I apologize,” he said.

[Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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