Student journalist scores big scoop in Trump-Ukraine story

Associated Press

Phoenix – A 20-year-old student at Arizona State University broke the news that a key State Department official who was involved in talks between President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian government had stepped down from his post, The New York Times reported.

Andrew Howard, a managing editor of The State Press student newspaper, reported Friday that Kurt D. Volker stepped down from his role as the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine. Volker told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday of his decision to leave the job, following disclosures that he had connected Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani with Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family over allegedly corrupt business dealings.

FILE - Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO caught in the middle of a whistleblower complaint over President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine, has resigned from his post as special envoy to the Eastern European nation. A U.S. official says Volker told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, of his decision to leave the job.

Volker also is executive director of the McCain Institute, a think tank in Washington that is run by Arizona State University.

Once reporters at The State Press discovered the connection, they began looking into Volker and, by Friday evening, confirmed with an unnamed school official that Volker had resigned, the Times reported.

Howard said he was just doing his job.

“I didn’t take a different approach to this story than any other,” Howard said. “Everyone’s looking for an ‘aha’ moment that I don’t think was there.”

Howard told the Times that the student paper “decided to take an approach to the story that a national outlet might not, and reach out to the university. I’m not sure we ever expected to get the scoop that we did.”

When the story went online about 6:15 p.m., Howard was working in the newsroom of the Arizona Republic, where he is an intern. He told the Times that he apologized to his editors there for working two jobs at once.

The State Press website received more than 100,000 hits for the story, the Times reported.

Prominent Washington journalists praised the State Press on Twitter. “Hell of a scoop,” wrote Times White House reporter Maggie Haberman.

Howard, who grew up in Phoenix, said his mother studied journalism in college and he worked for his high school newspaper.

The State Press is his main focus at Arizona State.

“What do I do outside of it? I feel like I spend a lot of time at The State Press,” Howard told the Times.