Cabinet & Agencies

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  • Media Freak Out At FBI Letter, Disregard Facts And Run With GOP's False Description Of Clinton Email Review

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) claimed that a letter from FBI Director James Comey indicated that the FBI had “reopened” its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, triggering a media firestorm. But Comey’s letter says no such thing, and according to CBS News, it’s “premature” and “going too far” to say the investigation has been “reopened.”

    This afternoon, Comey released a letter to congressional leaders stating, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear pertinent to the investigation” and “I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.” Comey noted that he was not sure how long the review will take and the FBI “cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.”

    In other words, all the FBI has announced is that they have found new emails that “appear” related to their investigation and may contain classified information and they are looking at them, but as of yet they don’t even know if the emails are significant.

    Rep. Chaffetz, who serves as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, announced “case reopened” around the time Comey’s letter became public:

    Chaffetz’s spin doesn’t come as a surprise. In an interview with The Washington Post this week, he announced plans to launch years of investigations in the event Clinton is elected president, telling the paper in an interview, “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

    Chaffetz’s spin has triggered an avalanche of breathless coverage. Many news outlets quickly reported that the FBI had “reopened” their investigation, including Politico, Fox News, NPR, USA Today, among others. All three cable news networks have covered the story non-stop since it broke, often adopting the “re-opening” framing and suggesting the news is a major election bombshell. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump himself subsequently echoed that language, adding that Clinton’s actions were “worse than Watergate.”

    But despite the coverage that echoed Rep. Chaffetz’s characterization of Comey’s letter, CBS Justice/Homeland Security correspondent Jeff Pegues reported that sources told him that it was both “premature” and “going too far” to declare that the investigation had been reopened. (While Pegues delivered his report, CBS on-screen text declared “Clinton Investigation Reopened.”

    On MSNBC Live, NBC Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams reported that Comey’s July announcement that there would be no charges in the case effectively concluded the case but there are remaining “evidentiary matters” to be resolved before it can be considered fully closed.

    But Williams noted that if the review is pertaining to the amount of classified emails sent, it would not change the earlier determination that a chargeable offense had not occurred. Williams also reported that “senior officials” have told him that it doesn’t appear that the Clintons, the Clinton campaign or the State Department had failed to hand over emails to the FBI and that the agency had found them some other way.

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Year-Old Story To Baselessly Claim Obama Lied About Clinton's Private Server

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Several right-wing media outlets have breathlessly scandalized a stolen email released by WikiLeaks showing President Obama received emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state. These outlets claim the email proves Obama lied when he claimed to have learned about her private email server from news reports about it, even though the White House clarified over a year ago that while the president knew her email address, he did not know about the server.

  • WSJ Botches Its Latest Attempt At Scandalized Clinton Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    The Wall Street Journal botched its latest attempt to scandalize the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails by tying political donations made by Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee to the wife of an FBI official. The FBI said it was not a conflict of interest because the FBI official wasn’t part of the investigation until after his wife’s run for office. Journalists took to Twitter to mock the Journal’s report, calling it “embarrassing.”

    In an October 23 article titled “Clinton Ally Aided Campaign of FBI Official’s Wife,” the Journal reported, “The political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an influential Democrat with longstanding ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave nearly $500,000 to the election campaign of the wife of an official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who later helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use.”

    The piece went on to explain:

    Campaign finance records show Mr. McAuliffe’s political-action committee donated $467,500 to the 2015 state Senate campaign of Dr. Jill McCabe, who is married to Andrew McCabe, now the deputy director of the FBI.

    The Virginia Democratic Party, over which Mr. McAuliffe exerts considerable control, donated an additional $207,788 worth of support to Dr. McCabe’s campaign in the form of mailers, according to the records. That adds up to slightly more than $675,000 to her candidacy from entities either directly under Mr. McAuliffe’s control or strongly influenced by him. The figure represents more than a third of all the campaign funds Dr. McCabe raised in the effort.

    While the headline suggests scandal, the reporting in the piece fails to support any claim of impropriety. The article notes that McCabe’s involvement in the Clinton email case “wasn’t seen as a conflict or an ethics issue” by the FBI “because his wife’s campaign was over by then and Mr. McAuliffe wasn’t part of the email probe.” The piece also acknowledges an FBI statement that said McCabe “‘played no role, attended no events, and did not participate in fundraising or support of any kind’” for his wife’s campaign. Additionally, the article notes that according to the FBI statement, it was “‘months after the completion of her campaign’” that “‘then-Associate Deputy Director McCabe was promoted to Deputy, where, in that position, he assumed for the first time, an oversight role in the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails.’”

    The piece was widely derided by journalists on Twitter for its flimsy claim and its attempt to implicate McAuliffe:

    The Journal has a history of hyping non-stories about Clinton, particularly regarding the Clinton Foundation. This piece comes shortly after Politico’s Joe Pompeo reported that many in the Journal’s newsroom, which is owned by the Rupert Murdoch-chaired News Corp., are disappointed with the “‘galling,’” “‘absurd,’” and “‘flattering’” treatment the paper has given Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

  • CNN And Fox Push Trump’s Baseless “Pay To Play” Accusation Against Clinton For Morocco Speech She Didn’t Give


    CNN’s Jake Tapper and Fox News’ Chris Wallace pushed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s baseless accusation that stolen emails released by WikiLeaks shows former secretary of state Hillary Clinton engaged in “pay to play” with the Moroccan government.

    The two January 2015 emails in question show a discussion between aides Robby Mook and Huma Abedin about whether Clinton would participate in an upcoming Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) summit in Morocco. Abedin expressed concern about Clinton cancelling her appearance, saying that Moroccan king Mohammed VI pledged $12 million to the Clinton Foundation’s charitable efforts and was expecting Clinton’s participation.

    On October 21, Trump said during a rally in North Carolina, “Now from WikiLeaks, we just learned she tried to get 12 million (dollars) from the king of Morocco for an appearance. More pay for play." On October 23, Tapper and Wallace questioned Mook, who is now Clinton's campaign manager, about the emails released by WikiLeaks. On State of the Union, Tapper, although noting that Clinton didn’t go to Morocco, insisted that “this is a real issue ... pay to play.” And on Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked, “why wasn’t that classic pay to play?”

    The suggestion that Clinton’s activities with regard to Morocco are a corrupt pay to play are dubious for three reasons.

    First, there is no evidence that Clinton offered Morocco’s leadership any government action. In fact, she was in no position to do so, as the summit was scheduled for more than two years after she stepped down as secretary of state.

    Second, in spite of Abedin’s concerns, Clinton did not actually attend the summit and it went forward anyway.

    Third, according to ABC News, “Clinton Foundation records do not show any direct pledge of funding from the king or government of Morocco to the charity.” ABC suggests that this is because the $12 million pledge was actually a commitment to CGI, which are “agreements only to aid the program's international projects, not to directly fund the Clinton Foundation itself.”

    CNN’s own report of Trump’s remarks shows why his accusation is baseless (emphasis added):

    The accusation is just the latest Trump has leveled against Clinton as he's argued she engaged in "pay for play" schemes involving the Clinton Foundation during her time as secretary of state. But the Clinton Global Initiative summit in Morocco that Clinton was set to attend in exchange for the $12 million pledge took place in May 2015 and was discussed in emails by Clinton's top aides in November 2014, after her tenure as secretary of state ended.

    Clinton did not end up attending the summit.

    Because Clinton did not attend the summit, was not in the employ of the government at the time, and the funds would not have gone to the Clinton Foundation directly, there is no “pay for play” here, despite claims by Trump and some in the media. Instead, this is just the latest in a string of reporting failures regarding Clinton Foundation donations.

  • NRA Offers Double The Falsehoods With New $5 Million Ad Buy Targeting Clinton On Both Emails And Second Amendment


    The National Rifle Association is misrepresenting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s past statements on both the landmark Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller and the investigation into Clinton’s private email server in order to falsely brand her a liar on both accounts.

  • The Washington Examiner’s Claim That Clinton Lied In Sworn Testimony Falls Flat

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    The Washington Examiner claimed that new Hillary Clinton emails released by Judicial Watch “appear to contradict her sworn testimony” that she did not recall discussing her private email server with former State Department IT specialist Bryan Pagliano. But the email chain merely showed that four years ago, Clinton asked Pagliano for help receiving emails, not discussing an email server.

    The Examiner’s claim comes in the wake of the latest batch of emails released by the conservative and anti-Clinton Judicial Watch on October 19. Singling out two innocuous email chains where Clinton discussed email issues with Pagliano, the Examiner claimed that Clinton lied to the FBI about not recalling her conversations about her email server with Pagliano:

    "Secretary Clinton states that she does not recall having communications with Bryan Pagliano concerning or relating to the management, preservation, deletion, or destruction of any emails in her email account," Clinton testified through her lawyer, David Kendall, after raising objections to the question.

    But emails provided to conservative-leaning Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act show Clinton included Pagliano in discussions about her Blackberry, iPad and server when her network experienced problems in 2012.

    The two email chains included among 15 pages of documents published by Judicial Watch on Wednesday, show Pagliano wrote directly to Clinton and copied Justin Cooper, a former Clinton Foundation aide who also provided assistance for the email system, in March 2012.

    "Let me take a look at the server to see if it offers any insight," Pagliano wrote in an email to Clinton after she complained to him and Cooper of the "troubles" plaguing her Blackberry.

    Clinton’s failure to remember a handful of email conversations four years prior discussing a technical issue with an IT specialist does not contradict her sworn testimony to the FBI. The email chain similarly does not show Clinton discussing anything “concerning or relating to the management, preservation, deletion, or destruction of any emails” with Pagliano, but simply discussing her attempting to receive emails to her mobile device. In the email chain, Clinton explained she’s having trouble receiving emails on her BlackBerry and that she took out the battery in an attempt to fix the problem. In replies, Justin Cooper suggested the problem could be with AT&T’s wireless network and suggested she use an iPhone instead. Nowhere in the chain does Clinton say anything that contradicts her sworn testimony.

    The Washington Examiner’s race to scandalize seemingly banal email conversations follows the media’s obsession with false Clinton controversies.

  • Wash. Post Fact-Checker Debunks Trump's Claim Of A "Quid Pro Quo" Over Clinton Email Classification

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler debunked claims from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and right-wing media that the FBI and State Department engaged in a “quid pro quo” in order for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to face less scrutiny for her use of a private email server as secretary of state. Kessler asserted “there is no evidence” of any alleged “collusion” between the two agencies.

    Trump and his campaign baselessly claimed that transcripts released by the FBI relating to their investigation into Clinton’s email use show that a top State Department official proposed a “quid pro quo” wherein the FBI would agree to lower the classification level of one of Clinton’s emails if the State Department would agree to allow the posting of more FBI officals in Iraq. Right-wing media asserted that the FBI documents “bolster Donald Trump’s criticism of corruption.” The same flawed analysis made its way to mainstream media and GOP lawmakers, who are using it to call for a State Department official to be fired. But as NBC’s Andrea Mitchell pointed out, there “was no quid pro quo, there was no linkage” and “there was nothing at all nefarious” that happened between the two agencies. Even the FBI official involved in the alleged collusion disputed the pejorative characterization of the interaction, telling The Washington Post it is “a reach.”

    In the October 19 fact-check, Kessler explained that “‘quid pro quo’ was a secondhand description of a conversation — and both people who engaged in the conversation insist there was no collusion. Moreover, there is no evidence that anything happened as a result of the conversation.” Kessler added that summaries of the exchanges between the officials show “that whatever was said in the conversation, nothing happened to change the classification of the emails,” which “certainly undercuts Trump’s claim of ‘collusion.’” From the fact-check:

    Trump rushed out a video statement to supporters claiming that there was “collusion” between the State Department, FBI and the Justice Department “to make Hillary Clinton look less guilty” after news reports that an FBI official spoke of a “quid pro quo” between the FBI and State regarding the classification status of some of Clinton’s emails.

    “Quid pro quo” certainly sounds bad. But as more information has come in, there’s much less to the story than Trump claims.


    The statement about “quid pro quo” comes from an FBI summary of an interview (known as a 302) with a third, unidentified FBI official during the criminal investigation of Clinton’s private email account. But there are other interviews as well, including with [then-FBI director for international operations Brian] McCauley and [then-State Department undersecretary of state for administration Patrick] Kennedy. Moreover, even the summaries with the unnamed official shows that whatever was said in the conversation, nothing happened to change the classification of the emails.

    That certainly undercuts Trump’s claim of “collusion.”


    To sum up, “quid pro quo” was a secondhand description of a conversation — and both people who engaged in the conversation insist there was no collusion. Moreover, there is no evidence that anything happened as a result of the conversation. The FBI did not back down from its contention that the email should to labeled as classified.

  • REPORT: FBI Official At Center Of Trump-Fueled “Quid Pro Quo” Scandal Confirms It Never Happened

    FBI Agent Who Discussed Clinton Email Classification With Top State Department Official Debunks Right-Wing Media Smear

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an October 18 interview, a retired FBI official explained to the Washington Post how recent accusations about a “quid pro quo” agreement between the FBI and the Department of State over the classification of a Hillary Clinton email are false.

    On October 17, media outlets began reporting on interview transcripts released by the FBI concerning the now-closed FBI investigation into the private email server used by Democratic presidential nominee Clinton while serving as secretary of state.

    Based on the transcripts and a previous article in The Weekly Standard that suggested an “attempted Hillary email cover-up,” claims began to circulate that a “quid pro quo” was proposed by government officials where the FBI would agree to lower the classification level of one of Clinton’s emails if the State Department would agree to allow the posting of more FBI agents in Iraq. Although both the FBI and State denied that characterization of events, reporters nonetheless ran with the story, leading to sometimes sloppy reporting.

    Furthering the smear about a “Hillary cover-up,” right-wing media claimed that the “quid pro quo” was proposed by a top official at the State Department, Patrick Kennedy, even though the FBI official who spoke to Kennedy indicated in the transcripts that the issue of agents in Iraq was brought up by him, not Kennedy.

    The Trump campaign was even blunter, baselessly tweeting “corrruption confirmed.”

    Now Brian McCauley, the FBI official who had the conversation with Kennedy and whose name was redacted in the transcripts, has confirmed that there never was a “quid pro quo” proposed by either McCauley or Kennedy. The Post also noted that “There is no evidence that Clinton knew about Kennedy’s and McCauley’s discussion, and McCauley said Kennedy never even invoked Clinton’s name.”

    From the October 18 article:

    FBI official Brian McCauley had been trying for weeks to get his contact at the State Department to approve his request to put two bureau employees back in Baghdad.

    Around May 2015, Patrick Kennedy finally called back.

    “He said, ‘Brian. Pat Kennedy. I need a favor,’ ” McCauley recalled in an interview Tuesday. “I said, ‘Good, I need a favor. I need our people back in Baghdad.”

    Then Kennedy, a longtime State Department official, explained what he wanted in return: “There’s an email. I don’t believe it has to be classified.”

    The email was from Hillary Clinton’s private server, and Kennedy wanted the FBI to change its determination that it contained classified information. McCauley and others ultimately rejected the request, but the interaction — which McCauley said lasted just minutes over maybe two conversations — has become the latest focal point of the bitter 2016 presidential campaign. The Democratic candidate’s critics have suggested that the conversation between the State Department and the FBI demonstrated inappropriate collusion to benefit Clinton.

    In an hour-long interview with The Washington Post, his first public comments on the matter, McCauley acknowledged that he offered to do a favor in exchange for another favor, but before he had any inkling of what Kennedy wanted. The FBI and the State Department have denied that McCauley and Kennedy ever engaged in a “quid pro quo.”

    McCauley, who has since retired from the FBI, said he asked Kennedy to send him the email in question and then inquired with another bureau official about it because he had only a partial understanding of the request. McCauley said that when he learned the missive concerned the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, he told Kennedy he could not help him.

    “I said, ‘Absolutely not, I can’t help you,’ and he took that, and it was fine,” said McCauley, who was the FBI’s deputy assistant director for international operations from 2012 to 2015.


    McCauley said in an interview that when he agreed to look into the matter, he “was just being kind and polite.” And he said “there was no contingency” binding his looking into the email classification to Kennedy’s agreeing to approve his request for FBI personnel in Iraq.

    “He had a request. I found out what the request was for. I absolutely said emphatically I would not support it,” McCauley said.

    But one of his colleagues at the FBI’s records division told investigators that McCauley relayed his conversation with Kennedy in a way that suggested Kennedy had offered a “quid pro quo,” according to a summary of that official’s interview. McCauley disputed that characterization.

    “That’s a reach,” McCauley said. “I said, ‘Hey, what is this about?’ ”

  • Three Missteps To Avoid When Reporting On Clinton Email "Quid Pro Quo"


    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and other Republicans are trying to use newly released FBI documents from the agency’s closed investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state to generate a scandal around a purported “quid pro quo” between the FBI and State Department, raising new issues for political journalists who have records of getting the facts wrong on email stories. In one such case, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post’s The Fix politics blog made a series of missteps regarding who issued the proposed “quid pro quo,” whether it occurred, and the meaning of a classification marking.