Pulitzer Prize board knocks down Trump complaints about Russiagate coverage

Pulitzer Prize board knocks down Trump complaints about Russiagate coverage
New York Times and Washington Post received awards for coverage of Russia investigation

The board of the centre that awards the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in US journalism, released a statement on Monday which rejected criticism of its decision to award a past iteration of the prize to news outlets that covered the Trump-Russia investigation.

The organisation, part of Columbia University’s journalism school, in 2018 awarded Pulitzers to reporters at the Washington Post and New York Times involved in the effort to report out the investigation launched by the Justice Department into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Donald Trump or his campaign had anything to do with it.

That investigation, eventually headed up by special counsel Robert Mueller, concluded without any criminal charges being filed against Donald Trump (though a number of his close allies were charged with a variety of finance-related crimes). It also did not establish any true link between the Trump campaign and the Russian efforts to spread disinformation and damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

Despite this, the two newspapers ran a number of stories as the investigation progressed, exposing various revelations that investigators had uncovered such as the fact that ex-Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn personally misled Vice President Mike Pence when asked about his contacts with Russian officials. The journalists also exposed how Mr Trump essentially admitted that he fired his FBI director, James Comey, to thwart the investigation.

On Monday, the Pulitzer Center defended those awards, stating that Mr Trump’s continued criticism of the media’s focus on the very-real investigation was baseless given that reporters had no way of predicting the outcome.

Mr Trump’s complaints “prompted the Pulitzer Board to commission two independent reviews of the work submitted by those organizations to our National Reporting competition. Both reviews were conducted by individuals with no connection to the institutions whose work was under examination, nor any connection to each other,” stated the board.

“The separate reviews converged in their conclusions: that no passages or headlines, contentions or assertions in any of the winning submissions were discredited by facts that emerged subsequent to the conferral of the prizes,” the board’s statement concluded. “The 2018 Pulitzer Prizes in National Reporting stand.”

The former president has long blamed the FBI and Justice Department for supposedly trying to sabotage the first half of his presidency with the now-defunct investigation and spread claims about a supposed “deep state” conspiracy against him.

In 2018, he famously made the shocking claim that FBI officials may have prevented the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre had the agency not been devoting resources to the Mueller investigation.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!” wrote Mr Trump on his now-defunct Twitter at the time.