Emails With Eichenwald 10/12–10/17
Below is a formatted copy of my emails with Kurt Eichenwald between October 12 and October 17.
These emails are also available with email keys at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4awlsf3ehf9akp1/AACc_dTpe6cgah7BPVHLltYya/Eichenwald%20Emails%201.pdf?dl=0
10/12/2016 at 3:35PM: William Moran to Newsweek (Cease & Desist)
I am writing this letter to notify you of the intent to pursue legal action on behalf of myself — William Moran II — from damages occurring as a result of false statements and material misrepresentations with and without malice by Mr. Kurt Eichenwald in his recent editorial piece — “Dear Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, I am not Sidney Blumenthal.”
I also request that Newsweek’s legal team contact me immediately at (208)242 — 8413 to discuss the settling for the damages in tort that have been rendered against me personally — forced termination of employment — and I am also providing you notice that I will be sending a similar message in my own personal capacity to the Trump organization and Trump campaign so that they can determine what legal damages, if any, they incurred as a result of inaccuracies in the reporting,
To put this very succinctly, “Dear Mr. Eichenwald, I am not Vladimir Putin.” Instead I am a US citizen born in Houston, Texas who grew up in Arizona who graduated from Georgetown Law in 2014 and who has never once been told what to write or how to write it — far from receiving direction from a foreign government which is a very serious charge of treason against me and my former co-workers.
Despite that reality, the controversy that has surrounded the story led to my forced termination from employment this afternoon — the same day that my wife and I went on an inspection for our first home purchase no less. Thanks guys.
Statement of Facts as Known
- I was the only employee of Sputnik News working at the DC Bureau office on Monday, October 10 — there was no other staff because it was Columbus Day.
- I wrote twelve articles that day in addition to managing social media, web presentation, and reporting
- I received zero input from supervisors as the Weekend/Holiday page editor until I contacted the Bureau Chief upon noticing Mr. Eichenwald’s story which was published two hours after our retraction.
- At 3:23PM EDT, I posted an article incorrectly attributing a quote from Mr. Eichenwald to Sidney Blumenthal.
- At approximately 3:40PM EDT, I erased the article from our website and social media feed after scheduling out social media for the next two hours when I stopped outside, smoked a cigarette, and thought — that story seems too good to be true. This can be documented. Other sources put the article being posted at arrays of time between 3:36pm (Bellingcat) and 5pm (Washington Post), but these are clearly erroneous as their screen shots show the time stamp as 22:23 (with the content management system set to Moscow Time — 3:23pm when converted). I know it was removed around 3:40PM because of when other content was posted, memory, and a record is accessible in the metadata from the Sputnik CMS which I will gladly request on discovery for a legal case).
- I copied and pasted the quote into the Google search box and Mr. Eichenwald’s previous story appeared after that cigarette and proceeded to delete.
- I did not receive any calls or emails from Newsweek’s office personally. My former boss is not aware of any call received from Newsweek either as is noted in Mr. Eichenwald’s piece. At minimum, this statement constitutes a material misrepresentation that implies causation — that we deleted it after notification from Newsweek, but no such notification was ever received
- (NOTE: Potentially you called a phone with no answer or left a voicemail that was never listened to — I don’t believe so and the time a call was received and voicemail listened to can be time time stamped in theory.)
- During my tenure as an employee at Sputnik, I have never (and do not even possess the contacts — I’ll have to research them) contacted Mr. Trump or any entity associated with him. I do not believe any former co-workers have at any time ever.
- The article was posted in a rush — and it is an embarrassing mistake for which I am ashamed of — after seeing numerous viral tweets that pre-dated the article with a similar misrepresentation. I glanced through the document and did a control-f. I did not control-f Newsweek because I had no reason.
- While the mistake was embarrassing, it has been stated to me by my supervisor before firing that the reason for my employment was not the mistake itself — to which he said he could have seen himself making based on the short staff and rush — but rather the fallout resulting from Mr. Eichenwald’s gross misrepresentations of facts.
Viral Tweets Pre-Dating My Article
Several have been removed after inclusion in an article by Washington Post’s Philip Bump and Buzzfeed regarding the matter;
Material Misrepresentations and False Statements in Eichenwald’s Article
- I as the sole writer at Sputnik’s DC Bureau (or anybody) had advance access to the WikiLeaks documents — how would I make the mistake if I had them beforehand, there is no evidence, and you say “probably” based on zero fact. This is a false statement/material misrepresentation.
- “The Russians faked it all” — I am a US-born individual based out of DC. This is a false statement/material misrepresentation.
- “Altered” a WikiLeaks document — we provided a link to the original despite our misread, I believe. We certainly don’t have the capacity to alter WikiLeaks cache of emails. This is a false statement/material misrepresentation.
- Intelligence agency said it is absurd — this may be true, but Jesus Christ get yourself some more reliable sources. Jesus.
- The “high-level” Russian official who reviewed was me — a writer who has been employed at Sputnik since the back end of February — everybody from our office was on vacation and no, we don’t talk to Vlad over our morning coffee. Again, get a more reliable source. Jesus Christ.
- “Manipulated documents” — there were misread documents. But I am not a hacker, I don’t even deal with social media all that well… ummm, how exactly were the documents “manipulated” from original form in WikiLeaks email display or in the attached link? I am guilty of sloppiness in a hurry, but that’s about it.
- “Release fake documents” — I did not release any documents… I wrote a story and quoted a part… in error… very embarrassing error… but that’s it.
- “Manipulated record” again — it was not manipulated. It was incorrectly reported on — which is embarrassing, but this is crazy.
- Putin and Kremlin cronies dancing with delight — I am a weekend/holiday web writer/editor who pumps out 12 to 14 stories a day, am from the US, and made $50k a year until getting fired which isn’t a whole lot in DC. This is beyond inaccurate as well.
- I did not read through 75 pages only to pick and misrepresent your two quotes. I spent approximately the time from posting the first social media post at 3:10PM at the shift transition to 3:23PM on the entire story… and I just got it wrong.
- That Newsweek called us and that was the time we pulled the story. This was not included in Mr. Eichenwald’s story that has been ghost edited numerous times now (and has since been removed from a version that appeared this morning). Mr. Eichenwald’s first story did not mention this and noted that the story had been pulled quickly upon realizing the mistake without reference to Newsweek or suggestion of causation.
- I tweeted Mr. Eichenwald from my personal Twitter account last night detailing a similar recitation of facts. Mr. Eichenwald blocked my account and as of this afternoon (I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it is weird), I can no longer log-in to that account. Maybe that is a glitch on Twitter’s end.
You have to be wondering why I worked at Sputnik, an outlet that has been slandered a lot, coming from a Georgetown Law background. I’m a good, fast writer who had a tough time getting a job in a rough economy, I wanted to be a journalist when I was in college, and the place is short-staffed to the point that I got to do a lot of work I would never be able to do anywhere else and was able to become a weekend editor in just my few months of working.
I also started working before things took a very harsh turn between the US and Russia, but now there is just an incredible amount of hysteria — I won’t represent what I believe the causes for that are, but it’s something like I’ve never seen before.
On Syria, although that isn’t the topic of this, it should also be known that as a weekend writer at Sputnik I was responsible for exposing an instance of firebombing by the Russian Aerospace Forces in Idlib that was subsequently ran by the UK papers and by Bellingcat. I just do the news contrary to popular opinion.
I can’t believe I made such an embarrassing mistake in a hurry, but now I’ve lost my job at a time when my wife and I are in the lead up to closing on a new home which is scary and should be a good warning to any journalist that words matter.
Again, while that error was mine and mine alone, I removed it as quickly once I realized the error so that people are getting accurate, not inaccurate, information and by the admission of my boss this morning I was fired as a result of the buildup that has followed Mr. Eichenwald’s story that is riddled with inconsistencies, errors, and just crazy things said by an “intelligence” official.
I would be happy to sit down with Mr. Eichenwald and/or that intelligence official to educate them about the realities in the office — at least in my experience.
That said, in closing, I personally have been harmed by Mr. Eichenwald’s false content, material misrepresentations, ghost editing, and some of the misstatements rise to the legal level of malice (which would not even be required for me as an individual to win a case in tort based on the above fact pattern).
I can imagine ways that this issue could be resolved without taking the matter to court on behalf of myself — I do not speak for Sputnik as I was terminated from there — and the first would be to retract this story. It should be very telling to you that even the Washington Post and Bellingcat have called it out as absurd.
William Moran II
10/12/2016 at 3:56PM: William Moran to Newsweek (Cease & Desist)
On a separate somewhat comical note… I actually worked fundraising for Hillary earlier in this cycle and voted for Obama both terms and am as worried about Trump’s bigotry as anybody — does not justify that article written by Mr. Eichenwald or what happened to me personally and professionally as a result. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
10/12/2016 at 6:13PM: Kurt Eichenwald to William Moran
Sorry I blocked you last night. Was blocking 1000s as the attacks on my family started.
Are you saying, while being so rushed to write 12 stories a day, you read a 10,000 word email that prints out to 75 pages long, found two sentences on page 19 which had been preceded by 22 mentions that it was from newsweek, wrote them up into a story proclaiming them to be an october surprise, and it was just something you overlooked? Or did you just pull unattributed junk off the internet and printed it as fact?
Also, you need to know — Sputnik has been publicly identified by DNI as a source of Russian disinformation for campaigns against other countries, and was specifically identified as being part of the current hacking/rumor spreading campaign targeting the United States. Not something I made up.
10/12/2016 at 6:25PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
1. I explain in the email sir. Saw the viral tweet. Read through tons of pages in a few minutes (too fast) and just completely botched it. That is separate from what was implied. By quite some distance. I was trying to be first, it was sloppy, and I realized it about 15 to 20 minutes later.
2. That does not make what you wrote in regards to the story, me, or the outlet in that specific instance right. And I can tell you having worked there, they couldn’t be more wrong.
10/12/2016 at 6:46PM: Kurt Eichenwald to William Moran:
Let me give you a call later this evening. We can talk through your situation (not aninterview, a helping hand)
10/12/2016 at 6:51PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
Can we speak tomorrow? Long time friend in town, phone dead, and wife circling me right now. I look forward to talking.
10/12/2016 at 6:54PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
Note: charging my phone right now in case you are only free tonight. I know the realities of the job.
10/12/2016 at 7:02PM: Kurt Eichenwald to William Moran:
10/12/2016 at 7:02PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
Note: If you want a good story that actually harms Trump — Google search John Oliver and Creflo Dollar (pastor who got his church to buy him a 2nd private jet). The religious TV network that Trump did his black outreach with features Creflo Dollar on their front page as their top show. Like everything, even that was a fraud. Also goes to ademographic, predatory behavior, etc.
At least it is an idea for what it is worth.
10/13/2016 at 1:12PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
Free all day. Call me when convenient.
10/13/2016 at 3:27PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
(William Moran’s phone number).
10/13/2016 at 3:32PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
And my world has been flipped upside down in the past week because of statements in your story that are material misrepresentations or outright false statements as was established in the cease and desist letter. So this isn’t something where I intend to shrug my shoulders and just move on.
What you did impacted my family and I and we did not deserve to be collateral damage in your grudge.
10/13/2016 at 4:19PM: Kurt Eichenwald to William Moran:
Again, I want to reach a hand out to you and talk. But not if this is what we are going to be discussing.
You screwed up — massively. You took an altered document and printed it as fact on a Russian website that was named publicly not four weeks ago by the Director of National Intelligence as being one of two key players in an ongoing Russian hacking/disinformation campaign. You need to ask yourself — how does someone like me who is deeply wired into the intelligence community know so fast that you had posted this? It’s not like I was sitting around reading Sputnik. Others are though, and they are not reading it 24-hours a day in real time for the purpose of keeping abreast of the news.
If you are who you claim to be — just some naive American working in what you think is just a harmless foreign news site — then your departure from there is the best thing that can happen to you. I guarantee you one thing: there is already a file on you in one of the security intelligence divisions of the FBI. You have been playing in a sandbox surrounded by very large, and mostly unseen, players, engaged in games you don’t recognize. Here’s a simple one: I forget if it was Sputnik or another one, but recently there was a photo of Polish schoolchildren meeting with a Ukranian officials. That’s all. Sounds harmless right? Except now it has been used to drive a wedge between Poland snd Ukraine — that is not me saying so. US Intel operatives just revealed it. Spy craft is not what you see in a James Bond movie.
This has nothing to do with a “grudge.” I’m not even sure who you think I have a grudge against. All of the folks in the “I dont know reporting or intelligence” world are playing Scoobie-Doo mystery connect the dots. There are some things I know but I can’t tell you, but what I will say is that, as far as American intelligence agencies are concerned, the event involving this manipulated document is far from over. America is in the middle of a large-scale cyberwar with Russia; if you don’t know this, you need to read the coverage of what is going on, including the statements from the White House.
As for you…Continuing to work for an organization that has been designated by US intelligence as a primary player in intelligence disinformation campaigns could only serve to destroy your reputation. In truth, you should have resigned on September 26, when Sputnik was identified by the DNI for its role. Other reporters have left RT for that very reason; again, if you are just some innocent caught up in events larger than you understand, I would advise that you say the same thing.
But, if your story is true, you have to accept a reality: you were not fired because of me. You were fired as the result of making a huge mistake on a very high-level playing field of massive current controversy, declaring an October surprise, then not correcting it.
What I was going to discuss with you was places you should consider working in Washington — ones that won’t serve to taint your reputation for the rest of your career. But I think we have to have that conversation after you take a realistic look at what you did, the circumstances in which it happened, and accept responsibility for your own actions. And if you don’t understand what you did wrong in snagging anonymous information off of the internet without reading the entire document, then reporting “an October surprise,” you need to think it through again. Then, if you want to move forward in a way that will actually provide you with future opportunities in journalism, I will talk to you about them. But whether you believe it or not, or understand it or not, Sputnik was a very dangerous place for you to be career-wise.
Let me know when you want to talk. But I think you need to take a few days.
10/13/2016 at 4:32PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
You are still misrepresenting reality. I did make a mistake on my story. That is true. And I removed the story within 20 minutes because I wanted to make sure people were receiving accurate information.
You know elements of your story are material misrepresentations of fact or are completely false but you do continue to keep it up in its present form.
So there is a distinction there. A substantial one. I can also tell you that I have been told, even in writing, that I was fired because of the firestorm, not because of the underlying act. My former editor today wrote me exactly that today and said, and I quote:
“If he doesn’t feel ashamed of himself and doesn’t retract the story, we will go public. I don’t think we have any other choice. I would go public now, because he clearly lied about contacting us. They never did. Not just that, he blocked you when you tried to give him actual facts.
And now he knows exactly what happened and still wouldn’t apologize? This is just beyond any norm of decency.”
He didn’t want to fire me and almost cried about it because he knows how hard I work and that I try to do a stand-up job. Somebody’s head had to roll after the false narrative that was put out.
And there are some parts — the claim of calling us, the claim that the story only came down after you reached out to us, the claim that we were the only possible source for the error, the claim that it was some broad conspiracy citing an intelligence source even though you now know otherwise (this latter point, since you have a quote, was fair until you knew otherwise, but also should be updated to reflect actual facts in the public interest), and everything else that I laid out in the previous email.
My hunch is this — You hate Trump (a fair thing), you aren’t all too thrilled about anything with even a tangential connection to Russia (maybe a fair thing, too), and you don’t want to retract this thing even though you know it lacks veracity — the only person who is getting hurt as a result is me.
So I don’t mean to be rude nor do I need to calm down (I don’t think I was rude) and it is not a threat — I just want you to know, no, I do not intend on backing away from this matter.
Something should be done to make this whole thing right or at least better than it is now because there were real people impacted by what you did.
Again, I am embarrassed that I messed up a story. I had the good sense to look back at it 20 minutes later and pull it — I should have issued a more thorough retraction perhaps, but I didn’t have authority to write editorials.
I own that. That was not why I was fired. The fact that this was held up, with false facts and innuendo to be some piece of intentional agit-prop — and you calling me basically Vladimir Putin (which is ironic given the play on words from your title) — that’s why I was fired. You know it, I know it, and my old boss just flat out said it to me multiple times now.
So, I hope very much you reflect on the following. Otherwise, again, I will have to go public and pursue legal action to remedy the harms that were incurred against me.
(208)242 — 8413
10/13/2016 at 4:41PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
And as an additional note: Please do not bludgeon me with everything anybody in Russia or with any outlet, organization, entity, or otherwise has ever done wrong in the history of ever.
I’m not Vlad, Kurt. You know, I come from a legal background actually and things like that are deemed irrelevant in that field — I believe the same is true in journalism. So there’s that as well.
Anyhow, I do expect something to happen to fix this — the part that sure isn’t my doing and you know it — because it is nowhere within the boundaries of fairness for me to have been caught as collateral damage in this.
There are a lot of different ways that can look and I prefer to focus on positive and future, but I was harmed and I plan to pursue this comes to some sort of conclusion — be it legal, be it finding some other avenue or outlet for a career, or any number of things.
My concern is that what happened be fixed.
NOTE: The story that I wrote and then pulled had only received 1,000 views at the time it was removed 20 minutes later (actually, 1,061). How many views, listeners, and viewers do you think you received by contrast? Apples and oranges there.
10/13/2016 at 5:02PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
Anyhow, I think it may not be me who needs some time to think about things, but perhaps it might be you. I imagine that there were human consequences is something that you, even as a very excellent and experienced research journalist, were not prepared for.
With just a light glance in your bio, even if you were working for a much more prestigious outlet at the time, I think you may have a hunch how I feel and what I am going through as a result — in just the past few days I would say that I have aged in hyper-speed, am depressed a good bit, and feel almost instantly unhealthy.
Frankly, I didn’t deserve it man. I should have been reprimanded for an error, not wondering how I’m going to make my mortgage before I even closed on the place with my wife.
Everybody and their mother thinks you should pull the story like I at least had the sense to do — even Washington Post and Bellingcat which is just beyond telling — but I know you have other considerations in mind, too.
So, anyhow… something. Something has to give. I shouldn’t be in this bind.
10/13/2016 at 5:02PM: Kurt Eichenwald to William Moran:
Ok, William. I guess the idea of helping you find other work through folks I know in Washington is pointless. Now let me respond.
1. Since you insist on trying to make this a legal issue, I have to turn over all conversations from here on to Newsweek’s lawyers.
2. I did not lie about trying to contact Sputnik. There is no indication of where internet contacts go; I do not know if they are in Washington or not.
3. As I said on twitter on the night when I apparently blocked you — I was rapidly blocking 1000s of people based on short assessment of who they were because huge numbers were going after my kids and my wife. After publication of an article, I receive up to about 200 notifications a minute on my twitter feed, and there were people sharing information about how to reach my wife and kids, and how to harm my wife. I actually issued an apology that night to people who may have gotten caught up in the block-storm inadvertently. Since then, both Newsweek and I have filed multiple reports to twitter on people who threatened me and my family. I never saw your tweet, something that should be obvious given that I responded to you once I heard from you directly and saw your tweet (from another account? I dont know how I am seeing what you tweeted yesterday if I blocked you.)
4. If you want to say you were fired not because of printing unconfirmed stuff that you pulled off the internet, then failing to correct it, but because it was written about in the context of ongoing events, so be it.
5. If you want to argue that the DNI and all of American intelligence is wrong about Sputnik, feel free.
6. You also have created a fantasy in your mind that this was about going after Trump. Astory about the altered document went up online before we had any idea Trump had spoken about it. His role was added later.
I’m sorry you have shut down my ability to help you out. Finally, I would strongly advise you not to make false accusations against me based on what you think happened.
(1 hour and 6 minute phone conversation thereafter — I took notes, but not fair for me to comment on content — would be a matter of he said-he said).
10/14/2016 at 10:28AM: Rosie McKimmie to William Moran:
I have been passed your emails sent to Newsweek. I am the General Counsel for Newsweek. If you would like to get in contact with me please do.
10/14/2016 at 3:28PM: William Moran to Rosie McKimmie:
Dear Miss McKimmie,
I will have an attorney contact you in the next two weeks regarding this matter unless you can think of some manner in which this situation can be equitably addressed and the harms remedied appropriately. I frankly need to take a little bit of time to digest the shock and horror that this situation engenders.’
I laid out inconsistencies and material misstatements in the email that have approached the level of “actual malice.” In addition to those, since that time, Mr. Eichenwald has written to me to claim that he tried to reach out to us, but he said “there is no indication where internet contacts go” when he claimed in his story without correction that he called us.
I also spoke with Mr. Eichenwald at length via the phone yesterday. There were suggestions by Mr. Eichenwald that the story was flagged and sent to him by the intelligence community, made suggestions that the narrative was pushed along further by the intelligence community (these are things I don’t even want to know).
That there is a “file” on every employee at my workplace, a veiled threat about not being able to acquire a visa if you leave the country if I do the “wrong thing on this” which can’t even apply to me because I am only a citizen of the US but would apply to my wife who is a foreign national proceeding through the immigration process to become a citizen here, asking me if I made any calls to a foreign country, and an offer to “help” me get a job somewhere else.
I took extensive notes during that conversation.
In large part, I find the whole situation very spooky, threatening, and manipulative. There are other more sensitive matters that were discussed that the internet is not the appropriate venue for. I am seriously concerned about the safety and well-being of myself and my family if I move forward with this, but something is very wrong here.
William Moran II
10/17/2016 at 10:56AM: William Moran to McKimmie & Eichenwald:
Dear Miss McKimmie and Mr. Eichenwald,
I intend on proceeding forward in the public about things that I know beyond equivocation to be true — that I was the sole writer and editor at the DC Bureau for Sputnik on Columbus Day, that I made an honest mistake, smoked a cigarette, and pulled the story 19 minutes later without having received any phone calls or other transmissions from Mr. Eichenwald spurring that decision. Also, that I am not Vladimir Putin as this is precisely what Mr. Eichenwald’s article implied… I am actually a random 29-year-old American journalist who grew up in Arizona.
Mr. Eichenwald, I considered much of what you said — some of which when I replayed in my head (the visa story, the “file”, and the question about me making foreign phone calls could be perceived as a threat of sorts mixed into a broader tapestry of a conversation with a variety of mixed motivations that I am not sure you have even come to grips with — wanting to help, but wanting the story to go away, wanting to warn but also wanting to intimidate.
I have not decided, but in a response piece I likely will not get into that second paragraph. That puts memory versus memory and I don’t think it is fair to cast somebody in their most negative light.
My greatest desire is not to attack you or make you experience any amount of the stress that I have over the past week, but rather to have the record be correct. That’s my biggest instance.
I have not decided, but I imagine such a piece will have some qualifying statement to say that I don’t accuse Mr. Eichenwald of malpractice in his initial reporting despite such an obscenely incorrect end point — at least to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if you had a source that is normally reliable who told you something wrong. That is simply what happens during times of hysteria.
I am sure that I will be attacked and vilified — if not by you certainly somebody else — by taking this harder road. This situation may very well — in fact, I bet it will — ruin my life. I have considered that reality and your words, Mr. Eichenwald, but a harsh reality does not make fact out of fiction. People deserve to know the truth — which is neither good nor bad, just not hysterical.
You may ask why I would do this for an outlet — I am, frankly, not doing I for the outlet at all. My colleagues have been blistered with claims of treason, physical threats, and pictures of dead children sent to them. These are just ordinary reporters living in fear.
There are a lot of good journalists working in good faith for these outlets. The broader question of foreign news outlets, even with local staff, is a good one for society to have, but one that again does not require vilification, assuming bad faith, and hysteria.
Further, I have gone through hell in the past week and the result of it was a report that you should have known was outside of bounds and to which you were informed of the true story, but refused inclusion of.
Conversely, a CORRECTION can be made to the story. It would make my life considerably easier and you could control the PR surrounding it. That would be a good thing because it would be a pursuit in furtherance of the truth.
I will likely be sending a piece this afternoon or tomorrow morning so time in this regard is precious.
You would then also be in a position to control whether it takes the form of an apology or simply that new information was learned subsequent to the initial reporting of your article and that inevitably sometimes sources are wrong and when new, conflicting facts are learned they are reported to further the public interest.
If you pursue that latter route and should need to confirm my identity I would be happy to visit with you to further that end.
Miss McKimmie, my attorney will contact you on Friday to follow up on this matter in the event that hat I am forced to go heavily into the public to correct the record. I thank you both for your time.
William Moran II
10/17/2016 at 1:03PM: Kurt Eichenwald to Moran & McKimmie:
I give up.
Ok, this is my last communication on this. From here on out, it will be with Newsweek’s lawyer.
William, I will start off by saying that as I promised, I took you at your word that the events were as you described and reached out to The New Republic on your behalf. They have a political reporter’s job open. But at this point, I can’t attest to your wisdom anymore nor do I completely trust you. So I’m washing my hands of being a go-between with the New Republic. I would urge you to apply for the job yourself. If you want to be in Washington journalism, coming out of the New Republic is a lot more credible than coming out of Sputnik which, based on what Western governments are doing today with RT (described below) might not be around in the near future.
Until now, I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and try to protect you from your determination to commit an act of permanent career suicide. But you seem more dedicated to clearing the name of Sputnik — which is the only thing mentioned in the story — than yourself, who was NOT mentioned in the story. In fact, for the benefit of Sputnik, you want to announce to the world that YOU snagged anonymous propaganda off the internet and published it as fact. In other words, you seem willing to destroy your reputation by publicly identifying yourself as someone who performed an incredibly incompetent act, pay a lawyer to prove it, and accomplish nothing other than insure you will never work in journalism again. And again, as I told you, this will just circle around to force me to disclose that the original source of all this was a Russian disinformation campaign. I have been trying to protect you from yourself on the belief that you could be telling the truth.
I will go down what I told you one more time. Based on all of what I am about to say, I will show you at the bottom what I can write into the story. If this is what you want me to say, I will. But first:
1. Sputnik is a Russian news agency controlled by the government. Whether you choose to accept that or not, as I told you, it was cited as such by the Director of National Security, along with RT. Perhaps you did not notice, but the British today shut down the bank accounts of RT because of this designation, which are the financial transfer point for its english language operations. Sputnik is probably next. But if you wish to go to court and argue that the DNI is wrong, feel free. Everyone who works at a Russian controlled entity is not told about it — this is spy craft, not rumor mill.
2. As I told you, the reporting I have from the intelligence community is that the original snipped document came out of a Russian social media feed. It was propaganda. There is now a full trace-down going on spreading out to the connections.
3. That you picked up a Russian-based distribution and put it into a Kremlin controlled publication, which is exactly the path followed by Russian disinformation campaigns, is undeniable.
4. The story deemed the publication as an act of incompetence by Sputnik. Taking the Russian feed off the internet — even if, as you say, you did not know what it was — and printing it is an act of incompetence. I did not cite you as the one who performed the act of incompetence. It is you who wants to step forward and say you were the one who took unattributed anonymous stuff off of the internet and printed it. In terms of damage to your reputation, which is the standard under the laws you are citing, it is YOU who will be doing the damage, since at no point was your name mentioned. If you wish to argue in a court that publishing unattributed, anonymous and false snippets off of the internet is not cause for termination, you can do so.
5. Somehow you seem to believe that the references to Putin and the Russians meant — and that everyone would believe — that Putin himself was sitting at a keyboard typing. A Russian-government controlled news agency is the Russians. Just like the Voice of America is the Americans.
6. Let’s take the relevant paragraphs one at a time, from what I have to remind you is an opinion column:
“I am Sidney Blumenthal. At least, that is what Vladimir Putin — and, somehow, Donald Trump — seems to believe. And that should raise concerns not only about Moscow’s attempts to manipulate this election but also about how Trump came to push Russian disinformation to American voters.”
As I told you, the info came out from Russian disinformation campaign, I am not saying Putin himself did it, and there is a russian effort to manipulate the election.
The third paragraph:
The latest emerged thanks to the incompetence of Sputnik — the Russian online news and radio service established by the government-controlled news agency Rossiya Segodnya — which took words written by me and attributed them to Blumenthal.
This is indisputable. Printing the false information — no matter how you claim it was done — was incompetent. If you wish to argue that it is you who performed the incompetent act, that is your choice and I will publish it, using the paragraph I have near the end of this email.
But the Russians had faked it all, taking a real document released by WikiLeaks and altering it to create a bogus story
Again this is fact, whether you wish to say the faking took place at Sputnik or from the document feed.
A classified report submitted last summer to the congressional intelligence committees and a September 23 letter from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence specifically identify Sputnik as a central participant in a Russian disinformation campaign designed to use hacking and other techniques to interfere with the American election while strengthening Moscow’s global influence.
Again this is fact
Because of its important role in the Russian effort, Sputnik does not simply publish whatever it chooses, the government official tells Newsweek. Articles pertaining to politics in the United States and Europe require high-level review. It is not clear if Russian authorities conduct that review, the official says, but no article directly related to American politics would just be sloppily thrown into public view without careful consideration.
Here is your sole argument. You are saying, no, the article was thrown into public view without careful consideration — by you. This does not change what I was told.
American officials have recently been predicting that manipulated documents would soon be appearing in outlets like Sputnik, which, until now, has been a source of some real records.
Again this is fact
“Altering stolen documents and introducing them to the public is not the stuff of spy movies. It is a proven tactic of Russian intelligence, and we expect it will happen here.”
Again this is fact. Your best argument against this statement from national security experts is “I fell for it” when no one else in journalism anywhere in the world did.
Other altered documents have already been the basis of articles on Sputnik, the government official with knowledge of the intelligence agencies’ inquiries tells Newsweek
Again this is fact
You wrote: In an email titled “The Truth” from Hillary’s top confidante Sidney Blumenthal, the adviser writing to undisclosed recipients said that “one important point that has been universally acknowledged by nine previous reports about Benghazi: The attack was almost certainly preventable” in what may turn out to be the big October surprise from the WikiLeaks release of emails from the account of Clinton Campaign Chair John Pedestal.
Again this is fact. You are saying, “I wrote “october surprise” based on an anonymous piece of manipulated information floating around the internet with provenance I did not know.” In other words, your argument is, “Not only did I do something that violated every journalistic rule, but then I pushed it far beyond what the document actually said.”
This false story was reported only by the Russian-controlled agency (a reference appeared in a Turkish publication, but it was nothing but a link to the Sputnik article).
Again this is fact
Now, there is one alternative here. I can write:
“William Moran, the writer for Sputnik, said he based his article not on directives from the Russian government but on an anonymous tweet that used a clip of the image of the document. He said he accepted the anonymous tweeter’s description that this was from Blumenthal, and did so because he was rushed. However, as the government official with knowledge of the intelligence inquiry said, the original altered document that was tweeted onto the internet came from a location that has been identified as being connected to the Russian disinformation campaigns, and only the news outlet controlled by the Russian government published an article based on it.”
That’s all I can say. Are you telling the truth? I have no idea. But you seem so eager to destroy your reputation forever, I doubt it more every day. You are even willing to shut down opportunities for other jobs by declaring yourself as having made an incompetent mistake merely so you can say Sputnik is not controlled by the Russian government, which the DNI has publicly said it is. My choices are, you are a fool who I am trying to protect or you are lying.
From the first moment you contacted me, what I have been doing is trying to protect you from wrecking any chance you have of ever obtaining a job in journalism again by avoiding having you publicly state that you fished anonymous propaganda off of the internet and published it as fact. Had you not done so, you would not have been fired. If you wish to say that the publication of your act is what led to your termination, it makes no difference. Had you not performed the act, there would have been nothing to write about.
So, tell me what to do: I will write the above statement into the article if that is what you want. The only reason I haven’t is because I want to believe you are telling the truth, and did not want to destroy your ability to get another job by identifying you as the person who made a gargantuan error that reflects terrible journalistic practices merely so you could clear Sputnik’s name. Or you can go forward yourself, announce this, destroy your reputation, and I will be compelled to print the above paragraph.
Ms. McKimmie — if your client is telling the truth, please urge him not to force me to print that paragraph, something that will destroy his reputation forever. But if everyone insists, I will do it.
10/17/2016 at 1:38PM: William Moran to Eichenwald & McKimmie:
I read your email. I will think about what you wrote and check back in soon. Thank you.
10/17/2016 at 1:40PM: Kurt Eichenwald to William Moran:
One last friendly piece of advice: I wouldn’t waste time on the New Republic job. You’re qualified for it and these jobs disappear fast.
10/17/2016 at 1:49PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
I will check back within an hour or two
10/17/2016 at 1:51PM: Kurt Eichenwald to William Moran:
Wait…I dropped a word in my last email. When I say “I wouldn’t wast time on New Republic” it was supposed to say “I wouldn’t waste time on applying for” — I mean do apply soon, because the job is great and it will disappear fast.
10/17/2016 at 1:53PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
Thanks, Mr. Eichenwald.
10/17/2016 at 1:59PM: William Moran to Kurt Eichenwald:
Note: If you are wondering on the delay to respond more fully — my wife decided to give me an errand at really the most god awfully bad time. Sort of funny, really.
10/17: Moran writes Op-Ed at Georgetown Law Library (Moran is a 2014 Alum) on incident and makes emails available to journalists and Twitter (Moran requests The Intercept & The Nation to publish his Op-Ed, but after delay law school friend suggests Moran just ask Sputnik to publish it)
10/18 — 10/19: Sputnik writes several articles based on emails Moran provided to confirm the accuracy of his Op-Ed.
10/19: Paste Magazine writes article based on emails Moran provided and interview of both Moran and Eichenwald.
10/20/2016 at 4:26PM: Kurt Eichenwald to William Moran
At this point, Newsweek is preparing to print an article about you and your propaganda campaign to deceive reporters based on a series of lies, misrepresentations and deceptions. Before present this to other reporters to what it is not: This is not a threat, this is not a bribe, this is not anything untoward. I am seeking comment for the story that will be appearing soon.
Here are the questions I have for you:
1. Why did you tell other reporters that you made no attempt to play on my sympathies when you said, both in our phone call and in writing, that you having lost your job was hurting your marriage and was going to stop you from buying a new house?
2. Are you actually buying a new house? If so, what is the address so I can check the records.
3. Why did you pretend in our phone call that you had no reason to believe that Sputnik was a Russian government disinformation site when you were personally informed of this by the former Russian ambassador?
4. Why was your piece, “I am not Vladimir Putin” (and interesting play from “I am Vladimir Putin”) get removed from the Sputnik site?
5. You have stated you made no errors in 800 stories other than this one, but it is clear from the tweets from McFaul makes it clear that you have printed falsehoods before, and that he said you were not a real journalist. Why did you lie about the number of errors you have had?
6. Why, after proclaiming how damaged you were financially by supposedly being fired, why did you refuse to take your job back when you were supposedly offered a chance to return?
7. What money are you now surviving on?
Regarding the “bribe”:
8. Why do you say my statement that I whelp you with the New Republic constituted an offer to bribe you with a job at the New Republic?
9. What exactly did I say I wanted in exchange for this “bribe”?
10. Since I said nothing in that regard, if you believed I was offering you a bribe, what do you think I was bribing you to do?
11. Why did you not respond to the email where you said the “bribe” was offered and where I said I would print a paragraph which I showed you, but I wanted to make sure you really wanted to destroy your career by proclaiming you are incompetent and print anonymous junk off the internet?
12. Why, after writing in Sputnik that you had been offered your job back and turned it down, did you attempt to once again earn my sympathies by tweeting at me that you had lost your job?
Why did you immediately start feeding my twitter storm at you — in part to notify other reporters what you are, in part to see what you’d do — to other reporters and to Newsweek?
Why do you maintain two separate twitter account, the second in the name of “Babushka,” and use it largely to retweet your own tweets?
Finally, why would you blow up your own career, exposing yourself to be incompetent as a journalist, just to portray Sputnik as not being a Russian disinformation site, which it is?