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NBC News retracted its report that the phones of President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had been wiretapped on Thursday, amending its report to indicate that Cohen's phone lines were instead being monitored by federal agents.
“Three senior U.S. officials are telling us that this was not a wiretap,” reporters for the news agency said on air.
“Instead, it was what is referred to as a pen register. That means it is a log of phone calls that were made from a specific phone line or a specific phone lines.”
NBC corrects Cohen wiretap report on air: “Three senior US officials are telling us that this was not a wiretap. Instead it was what is referred to as a pen register. That means it is a log of phone calls that were made from a specific phone line or a specific phone lines."
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) May 3, 2018
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara explained on Twitter that a pen register is “much easier to get and much less intrusive than a wiretap,” noting that it provides a real-time log of calls rather than recordings of phone conversations.
NBC has now retracted its “scoop” about a wiretap. A pen register is much easier to get and much less intrusive than a wiretap. No actual phone call content is listened to. Basically it's a real-time log of calls. https://t.co/KZxZrkF9Kb
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) May 3, 2018
Bharara had noted earlier in the day, prior to NBC releasing its correction, that wiretaps were incredibly difficult to get and usually “signify proof of an ongoing crime.”
“You don't tap a president's attorney lightly,” he said.
In an editor's note published with the online version of its story, NBC said it had originally reported the wiretapping report based on information provided from “two separate sources with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen” and had since revised it to reflect a more accurate version of events.
According to the updated story, federal investigators were monitoring phone calls in the weeks leading up to the raid on Cohen's office, hotel room, and home last month. The phone calls were listed on a call log but were not recorded in any way.
The report also states that, according to one person, “at least one phone call between a phone line associated with Cohen and the White House was logged.”
It is not known when a federal judge authorized the monitoring of Cohen's phone calls.