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CNN accepts resignations of 3 involved in retracted story

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6/27/2017 By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer
FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2017 file photo, Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. CNN isn't commenting Monday, June 26, as to what led it to retract a story about a supposed investigation into a pre-inaugural meeting between an associate of Trump and the head of a Russian investment fund. The story posted Thursday on CNN's website said Senate investigators are looking into the meeting 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. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2017 file photo, Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. CNN isn't commenting Monday, June 26, as to what led it to retract a story about a supposed investigation into a pre-inaugural meeting between an associate of Trump and the head of a Russian investment fund. The story posted Thursday on CNN's website said Senate investigators are looking into the meeting 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. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — CNN accepted the resignations Monday of three journalists involved in a retracted story about a supposed investigation into a pre-inaugural meeting between an associate of President Donald Trump and the head of a Russian investment fund.

The story was posted on the network's website on 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, according to 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.

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 intelligence committee was looking into a January 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."

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This story has been amended to correct congressional committee's name to Senate intelligence committee.

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