BuzzFeed heaped scorn on the cops’ explanation and the investigation. Citing a battery of unnamed intelligence officials and FBI agents “whose assertions cast new doubts on the US government’s official explanation of his death,” BuzzFeed determined that “Lesin was actually bludgeoned to death.”
None of these officials were directly involved in the government’s investigation, but they said they learned about it from colleagues who were. “Lesin was beaten to death,” one of the FBI agents said. “I would implore you to say as much. There seems to be an effort here to cover up that fact for reasons I can’t get into.”
He continued: “What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died. Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”
In another previously unreported revelation, the two FBI agents said it was the Department of Justice that paid for the hotel room where Lesin died. DOJ officials had invited the Russian to Washington to interview him about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that Lesin founded, they said. But Lesin never made it to the interview. He died the night before it was scheduled to take place.
It was a reckless story — we’re talking about BuzzFeed, after all, so that’s essentially a tautology — but, what the hell, editor-in-chief Ben Smith must have concluded, we already published the famously inaccurate Trump dossier when no other news outlet would, we can get away with peddling this yellow journalism too. And in the current news climate, you can accuse Putin — a dictator not above killing his enemies, to be sure — of stealing the Washington Monument and the U.S. press would run a story without confirming if it was still there.
Sadly for BuzzFeed, the Washington Post, which has published its own fair share of Fake News, obtained the 58-page D.C. police report on the investigation and it obliterated the case for Lesin being murdered (and cast doubt on the rest of BuzzFeed’s “explosive” series, whose key findings were provided almost entirely by unnamed sources whose veracity is impossible to evaluate.)
Here’s an excerpt of the Post‘s story, which ran yesterday:
He left the Four Seasons about 5 a.m. on Nov. 4 and checked into the hotel at Dupont Circle at 5:30 a.m. He then returned to the Four Seasons, where for several more hours he went back and forth to his room, once with more alcohol from a convenience store. The hotel locked him out of his room and he took a taxi back to Dupont Circle.
The report notes that video surveillance from him entering that hotel shows “the only visible injury is to the left eye” and that it appeared Lesin was not in pain, although a desk clerk noted he “appeared to be very intoxicated.”
About 2 p.m. that day, a security guard visited Lesin’s room and described him as “stumbling drunk.” Another guard returned at 2:23 p.m. and asked Lesin whether he needed medical help. The report says Lesin put his arm on the guard’s shoulder and said, “Nyet.” At 8:16 p.m., another guard went into his room and found Lesin facedown on the floor, but breathing. The guard couldn’t wake him.
At 11:30 a.m. Nov. 5, police said a security guard again went to his room, this time to remind him to check out. The report says Lesin was still facedown on the floor. The guard called 911. Lesin was pronounced dead.
Police reported finding numerous empty bottles of liquor from the minibar, and also three full bottles of Guinness beer and two unopened bottles of red wine.
Whacked? This guy was pickled.
After this debacle, BuzzFeed should go back to publishing kitty pix and listicles. It’s just as mindless, but at least there’s no pretense that the website is reporting the news.