Government

Issues ››› Government
  • Fox’s Bret Baier Walks Back Flawed Reporting About “Likely” Clinton Indictment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ Bret Baier walked back his November 2 claim, which was based on two unnamed sources, that FBI investigations relating to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will “continue to likely an indictment.” On the November 3 edition of Fox’s Happening Now, Baier described his comments as “inartful,” acknowledging that “that’s not the process.” Baier’s uncritical reporting of anonymous, unvetted sources has been parroted by a stream of Fox hosts and correspondents, as well as right-wing blogs

    The Daily Beast has reported on a pipeline between conservative FBI agents (both active and retired) -- angered by FBI Director James Comey’s conclusion in July that there was insufficient evidence to recommend any indictment in the review of Clinton’s use of private email as secretary of state -- and Fox News. According to The Daily Beast, “Trump supporters with strong ties to the agency kept talking about surprises and leaks to come -- and come they did.” From the November 3 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now:

    MARTHA MACCALLUM (CO-HOST): The FBI sources that you spoke with suggest that an indictment is likely. That would prove -- go ahead.

    BRET BAIER: I want to be clear -- I want to be clear about this, and this was -- came from a Q and A that I did with Brit Hume after my show and after we went through everything. He asked me if, after the election, if Hillary Clinton wins, will this investigation continue, and I said, “yes absolutely.” I pressed the sources again and again what would happen. I got to the end of that and said, “they have a lot of evidence that would, likely lead to an indictment.” But that’s not, that’s inartfully answered. That’s not the process. That’s not how you do it. You have to have a prosecutor. If they don't move forward with a prosecutor with the DOJ, there would be, I'm told, a very public call for an independent prosecutor to move forward. There is confidence in the evidence, but for me to phrase it like I did, of course that got picked up everywhere, but the process is different than that.

  • The Daily Beast On How FBI Alumni Are Using Fox News To Attack Hillary Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Kallstrom on Fox News

    Writing at The Daily Beast, Wayne Barrett takes note of the pipeline between conservative FBI agents (both active and retired) and Fox News. Figures like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and current Donald Trump surrogate, as well as James Kallstrom, the former head of the New York City FBI office, have appeared on the network and used its air to amplify the grievances of these agents.

    Barrett reports that Kallstrom has “been on an anti-Comey romp for months, most often on Fox, where he’s called the Clintons as a ‘crime family.’” Appearing on The Kelly File, Kallstrom claimed that agents involved in the Clinton investigation were “P.O.’d” that President Obama said the Clinton emails weren’t a national security issue and compared the statement to “someone driving another nail in the coffin of the criminal justice system.”

    After FBI Director James Comey cleared Clinton of wrongdoing in the email investigation, Kallstrom made more appearances on Fox News and alleged that agents “both on the job and off the job” were “worried about the reputation of the agency they love.” Kallstrom again used Fox as a platform for his views, endorsing Trump on Stuart Varney’s Fox Business show, describing Clinton as a “pathological liar.”

    Kallstrom responded to Comey’s letter to congressional leaders telling them that the agency would be reviewing newly discovered emails with yet another Fox appearance.

    Kallstrom’s victory tour this weekend also included an appearance on Fox with former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, another close associate of Pataki’s, who complained on air that she’d been the victim in 2006 when word emerged that the U.S attorney and FBI were probing her in the midst of a race she eventually lost to Andrew Cuomo to become New York Attorney General.

    Her concern about the political impact of law enforcement leaks, though, didn’t extend to Democrat Hillary Clinton. “He couldn’t hold on to this any longer,” Kallstrom said of Comey. “Who knows, maybe the locals would’ve done it,” he added, a reference to leaks that elicited glee from Pirro, who echoed: “New York City, that’s my thing!”

    […]

    He declined to explain why Megyn Kelly stated as a fact that he was in contact with agents “involved” in the case. Asked in a follow up email if he suggested or encouraged any particular actions in his exchanges with active agents, Kallstrom replied: “No.”

    “Now, I’m supporting Comey,” Kallstrom told me on the phone, adding that he can’t do or say anything else before election day. “He can’t characterize” what the bureau has from the Weiner emails. “The FBI can’t say anything without having all the information,” Kallstrom contends, just after telling me he supports the FBI director who’s under fire for having done just that.

    [..]

    It’s clear enough, though, why when Comey sent a note to FBI staff on Friday explaining his decision to inform Congress about the renewed Clinton probe, the scoop about that internal memo went to Fox News. Why Kallstrom gets booked to talked about the Clintons a “crime family.” Why Clinton Cash author Peter Schweitzer, caught in a web of Breitbart and Trump conflicts, would announce on Fox that he was asked in August to sit down with New York office FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation (with The New York Times reporting this week that the agents were relying largely on his discredited work when they pitched a fullscale probe).

    Fox is the pipeline for the fifth column inside the bureau, a battalion that says it’s doing God’s work, chasing justice against those who are obstructing it, while, in fact, it’s doing GOP work, even on the eve of a presidential election.

  • Bret Baier Is Serving As A Mouthpiece For Unknown Sources On FBI Stories

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Amid an unprecedented stream of leaks from anonymous FBI sources to various media outlets, Fox News’ Bret Baier is reporting unverified but explosive allegations about bureau investigations involving Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton based on extremely sketchy sourcing, escalating the scandalized tenor of the campaign just days before its climax. Baier’s unsubstantiated claims based on anonymous sources contradict reports from other media outlets and public FBI statements and are overplaying what is reportedly a common dispute between law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

    In a November 2 report, Baier cited “two separate sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations into the Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation” to claim that the investigation “into possible pay-for-play interaction between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Foundation” is a “‘very high priority'” and that “agents are actively and aggressively pursuing this case.” Baier said FBI agents “had collected a great deal of evidence” to suggest wrongdoing -- though his reporting did not indicate what the alleged evidence concerned or who it suggested committed a crime.

    Baier also alleged, per his anonymous sources, that the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server has turned up “new emails, not duplicates, that have been transported … [through Clinton’s] server,” and that FBI officials are claiming with “99 percent accuracy” that the server “had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies.” Baier ultimately claimed that the investigation “will continue to likely an indictment.” Since Baier broke the news, a steady stream of fellow Fox hosts and correspondents have been furiously hyping his claims.

    Baier’s uncritical reporting of anonymous sources first and foremost calls into question the veracity and motivation of the allegations being made. Who are Baier’s sources? They could be disgruntled FBI agents pursuing the investigations. But the description of “sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations” doesn’t require that the sources have firsthand knowledge -- Baier’s sources could include partisan congressional Republicans seeking to influence the election or even someone like Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly has “illicit FBI sources” who “[circumvent] bureau guidelines to discuss a case with a public partisan.”

    Regardless of the source, Baier has decided to parrot their claims with no scrutiny, turning him into a mouthpiece for these unknown actors.

    Having accepted that role as a de facto spokesman for whomever is leaking information, Baier is effectively turning what is reportedly a common dispute between intelligence agencies into an election scandal on the cusp of Election Day. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Senior officials in the Justice Department and the FBI didn’t think much of the evidence [related to the Clinton Foundation investigation], while investigators believed they had promising leads their bosses wouldn’t let them pursue.” Thus, agents and officials in the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) have become “increasingly frustrated with each other, as often happens within and between departments” (emphasis added). As the Journal previously reported, “It isn’t unusual for field agents to favor a more aggressive approach than supervisors and prosecutors think is merited.”

    Baier’s reporting on the Clinton Foundation investigation is taking one side of a two-front battle, and thus leaving out critical context that senior DOJ and FBI officials believe there to be no case in the Clinton Foundation investigation and that disputes like this are common. His reporting also ignores context reported by the Journal that FBI agents have repeatedly been told to drop the investigation specifically because information gathered was “weak” and unimpressive.

    Baier’s decision to trumpet these claims is reminiscent of Fox’s endless flogging of the New Black Panthers Party pseudoscandal. In 2010, the network devoted hours of coverage to generating a scandal around the decision by senior career Justice Department officials to overrule a push from lower-level attorneys to seek more charges in the case. An internal investigation ultimately cleared DOJ officials of any wrongdoing or misconduct in that case.

    Moreover, Baier’s allegations about the Clinton email investigation raise more questions than answers about the claims. In choosing to parrot his sources, Baier is willingly ignoring the obvious holes in the story. His claim that FBI officials are “99 percent” sure that the server “had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies” flies in the face of the FBI’s public statements that there is “no evidence” Clinton’s server was hacked -- leading to question why Baier didn’t raise that contradiction. While Baier reports that his sources think the email investigation will “likely” result in "an indictment," he doesn’t bother to answer the questions of who is supposedly going to be indicted, and for what?

    Baier is essentially taking information already known about a dispute over the significance of the Clinton Foundation investigation, uncritically amplifying one side of that dispute with shaky claims, and parroting anonymous leaks that are likely overblown to further cast an aura of scandal right before the election. The reports leave little doubt that Fox News is acting as “the pipeline for the fifth column inside the bureau” that is publicly seeking to influence the election.

  • VIDEO: Strict Voter ID Laws Are The New Jim Crow Laws

    Right-Wing Media Falsely Cry “Voter Fraud” To Keep Citizens From Voting

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH, COLEMAN LOWNDES & JOHN KERR

    Thirty-four states currently have voter ID laws, and 32 will be in effect on Election Day. These laws require voters to present some form of identification document when going to vote -- a step beyond the "non-documentary" identity verification requirements used across the country. Right-wing media have played an important role in making it hard for certain Americans to vote. They tout the necessity of the most restrictive voter ID requirements to supposedly thwart voter fraud, while dismissing the risk of voter disenfranchisement that accompanies these strict voter ID laws as a “myth.”

    Just as Jim Crow laws denied the right to vote through literacy tests, poll taxes, the grandfather clause and violence, strict voter ID laws unfairly target minorities, especially Latinos and African-Americans. Communities of color are more affected than other groups by these unnecessary and redundant voting restrictions because many Latinos and African-Americans disproportionately lack access to the required form of photo IDs or the personal documentation needed to obtain them, or they just don’t have the necessary information on how to get them. This is how strict voter ID laws harm voters:

    1. Strict voter ID laws target the poorest voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice: “More than 1 million eligible voters [in states with the most restrictive laws] fall below the federal poverty line. … Birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20,” compared with the poll tax during the Jim Crow era, which “cost $10.64 in current dollars.”

    2. Strict voter ID laws target minorities, the Brennan Center reports: “In the 10 states with restrictive voter laws, ... 1.2 million eligible black voters and 500,000 eligible Hispanic voters live more than 10 miles from their nearest ID-issuing office open more than two days a week.” Plus, many of these offices that issue IDs maintain limited business hours, making it harder for those “in rural regions with the highest concentrations of people of color and people in poverty” to get there during open hours.

    3. Strict voter ID laws can cause serious confusion. For example, in Texas, “half of the residents who said they didn’t vote in 2014 because they lacked a voter ID actually had an acceptable ID and didn’t know it.”

    Lawmakers in states with voter ID laws echo right-wing media by claiming they are preventing voter fraud, but many have openly admitted that these laws are just meant to prevent people from showing up, so as to sway an election. In addition, these photo requirements would prevent only voter impersonation -- a type of in-person voter fraud that is virtually nonexistent. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted to protect voters from barriers to voting and was used to challenge these overly restrictive laws, but it’s been under attack, and those efforts have drawn support from Chief Justice John G Roberts and a conservative majority of the Supreme Court. Roberts questioned the necessity of the act, claiming that “nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.”

    Expanding the right to vote to include all Americans has been a long process, requiring excluded communities to clear countless barriers and hurdles to ensure that all people can make their voice heard on Election Day.

    Video transcript:

    It's almost Election Day, so let's talk about the right to vote in the United States.

    Right-wing media have long claimed that the integrity of elections in the U.S. is at stake due to rampant voter fraud and have called for more requirements to vote, like voter ID laws, for example.

    Voting is a right, but it’s not always easy for some people to get to the voting booth.

    As you might know, the right to vote began in America as a legal privilege exclusively available to white, property-owning Protestant men.

    And all white men would gain the right to vote with the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868.

    The 15th Amendment passed in 1870, giving freed male slaves the right to vote.

    However, many states enacted Jim Crow laws, which were a formal, codified system of racial apartheid that also systematically denied the right to vote through the use of literacy tests, poll taxes, the grandfather clause and other racially motivated criteria.

    People also threatened black voters with violence if they tried to enter a polling station.

    Or worse, acted on these threats.

    Women gained the right in 1920, and it wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act was signed, which helped strike down Jim Crow laws and enforced the 14th and 15th amendments.

    But while states can no longer force people to take literacy tests, they can still pass voter ID laws.

    And just like Jim Crow laws, strict voter ID laws intentionally and unfairly target communities of color, because, more often than other groups, they lack the resources to get proper IDs.

    Today, 34 states have voter identification laws requirements on the books.

    Lawmakers in states with additional identification requirements claim they are preventing voter fraud, but many have openly admitted that these laws are just meant to prevent people from showing up -- as a way to sway an election.

    Former North Carolina GOP precinct chair Don Yelton: “The law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt. If it hurts a bunch of college kids that’s too lazy to get up off their bohunkus and go get a photo ID, so be it. If it hurts the whites, so be it. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that wants the government to give them everything, so be it.”

    In-person voter fraud -- which strict photo voter ID laws are supposed to stop -- does not exist. A recent study found 31 incidents of in-person voter fraud out of more than 1 billion ballots cast.

    Another study from the Brennan Center for Justice found that the chance of someone impersonating someone else to vote is less likely than you getting struck by lightning.

    Attacks on the Voting Rights Act have drawn support from Chief Justice John G Roberts, who questioned the necessity of the act, claiming that, quote, “nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.”

    Strict voter ID requirements are dangerous, misguided and a step backward. These laws present substantial barriers to voting and negatively affect voter participation.

    The history of the United States is characterized by a gradual expansion of voting rights.

    As democracy continues to evolve, the right to vote has been expanded to include more and more Americans.

    Don’t take your right to vote for granted.

  • The FBI Was Basing A Potential Clinton Foundation Case On This Garbage Right-Wing Book

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The FBI was reportedly trying to build an investigation into the Clinton Foundation around claims made in a right-wing book riddled with errors written by a Republican activist with a history of bogus reporting. The author’s organization is headed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign chief executive and is funded by one of Trump’s top campaign supporters.

    The FBI in August was considering whether to expand investigations into both Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s “secretive business dealings in Ukraine” and Democratic presidential nominee “Hillary Clinton’s relationships with donors to her family foundation,” but, following longstanding precedent, decided not to proceed for fear of impacting the election, according to The New York Times. The paper further reported that the Clinton Foundation inquiry “had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book ‘Clinton Cash,’ according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case.”

    Clinton Cash: The Untold Story Of How And Why Foreign Governments And Businesses Helped Make Bill And Hillary Rich is a 2015 book authored by Peter Schweizer, a Republican activist and consultant who has worked for Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, and Breitbart News.

    Schweizer has a disreputable history of reporting marked by errors and retractions, with numerous reporters excoriating him for facts that "do not check out," sources that "do not exist," and a basic failure to practice "Journalism 101." Clinton Cash is similarly a trainwreck of bogus research that included more than 20 errors, fabrications, and distortions, according to a Media Matters review. On the campaign trail, Trump has pushed conspiracy theories from the book, leading reporters to note that the book has been “discredited” and features “lies” and claims that “fell apart under scrutiny.”

    Schweizer is also the president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a right-wing group that purports to investigate “government corruption.” Stephen Bannon, who is taking a leave of absence from his role as chief executive of Breitbart News to serve the same role with the Trump campaign, is also the executive chairman and co-founder of GAI. The group has been heavily funded by the Mercer Family Foundation, which is run by Rebekah Mercer.

    Mercer’s father, the hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, is one of the nation’s largest Republican donors and a major investor in Breitbart News, and the father and daughter were reportedly key to Bannon’s ascension to a leading role in the Trump campaign. Robert Mercer has also donated millions to a pro-Trump super PAC that Rebekah Mercer controls.

    UPDATE: Schweizer disclosed during an August Fox News appearance that "earlier this year at [the FBI's] request," he had met with "two people from the bureau to talk about some things related to the Clinton Foundation, specifically things that were in Clinton Cash." From the August 24 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

  • Network Morning Shows Barely Acknowledge Trump’s Possibly Illegal Tax Avoidance

    ABC, NBC, And CBS Morning Shows Cover Days-Old Clinton Email Story 15 Times More Than New Report On Trump’s Tax Avoidance Scheme

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & ALEX KAPLAN

    The network morning shows spent nearly half an hour covering the four-day-old story that the FBI found emails that may be pertinent to an investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but less than two minutes on a new report detailing possibly illegal actions Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump took in the 1990s to avoid reporting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxable income.

    On October 28, FBI Director James Comey defied Justice Department rules and precedent to issue a short and vague letter informing Congress that the bureau had obtained and was seeking to review emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. Comey’s decision drew criticism from media figures from across the political spectrum and former federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials. Yet during the morning of November 1, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning spent a combined total of nearly 30 minutes on this story and the impact it might have on election polls.

    Just yesterday, The New York Times explained that “thanks to a” possibly illegal tax maneuver Trump used in the early 1990s, he “potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes” (emphasis added):

    [N]ewly obtained documents show that in the early 1990s, as he scrambled to stave off financial ruin, Mr. Trump avoided reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income by using a tax avoidance maneuver so legally dubious his own lawyers advised him that the Internal Revenue Service would most likely declare it improper if he were audited.

    Thanks to this one maneuver, which was later outlawed by Congress, Mr. Trump potentially escaped paying tens of millions of dollars in federal personal income taxes. It is impossible to know for sure because Mr. Trump has declined to release his tax returns, or even a summary of his returns, breaking a practice followed by every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate for more than four decades.

    Tax experts who reviewed the newly obtained documents for The New York Times said Mr. Trump’s tax avoidance maneuver, conjured from ambiguous provisions of highly technical tax court rulings, clearly pushed the edge of the envelope of what tax laws permitted at the time. “Whatever loophole existed was not ‘exploited’ here, but stretched beyond any recognition,” said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center who helped draft tax legislation in the early 1990s.

    Yet Good Morning America was the only broadcast morning show to cover this detailed reporting on the Republican presidential nominee possibly committing a crime, devoting two interview segments to the issue for a scant airtime of 1 minute and 47 seconds. The other two morning shows did not mention the Times report or Trump’s tax avoidance at all.

    The networks’ Sunday shows have demonstrated a pattern of ignoring investigative reporting about Trump in favor of hyping any recent news about Clinton. Now the networks’ weekday morning shows seem to be following the same pattern.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream transcripts for ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and CBS’ CBS This Morning, with the keywords “Clinton,” “FBI,” “email,” and “Comey” for any comments about the Clinton email story, and the keywords “tax” and “taxes” for any comments about the Trump tax story. Any comments on either subject were then measured for time. At least one discussion covered both topics simultaneously.

  • Why Is Meet The Press Asking The Clinton Campaign To Release Emails In FBI’s Custody?

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    NBC’s Chuck Todd and his guests on Meet the Press suggested that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign could end the media freakout over the FBI’s announcement that it has discovered emails on a device belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband that may or may not be significant in the bureau’s probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server by simply releasing Abedin’s emails themselves. This inane request ignores the fact that the computer is in the FBI’s custody, and not Abedin’s.

    FBI Director James Comey released a letter to congressional leaders on October 28 stating, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be 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.”

    As The Washington Post explained on October 29, the emails were found on a device that belonged to Abedin’s estranged husband, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is the target of an investigation unrelated to Clinton’s emails. According to the Post, law enforcement officials “said it was possible the messages could be duplicates to others already recovered.”

    On the October 30 edition of Meet the Press, Todd, CNBC’s Larry Kudlow, and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence all asked why the Clinton campaign couldn’t simply release the emails themselves, despite reporting that explained that the FBI seized the device in question.

    During an interview with Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, Todd stated: “There’s an easy way for you guys to clear some of this up. Huma Abedin is a vice chair of the campaign. Does she have access to her emails now? ... Can you guys release all of Huma’s emails yourselves? Why wait for Comey to do it?”

    Later in a panel discussion, Kudlow asked, “Why doesn’t Huma have a press conference, and say here are the emails?” While Todd expressed amusement at the idea of a campaign staffer holding a press conference, he didn’t question the idea of Huma releasing emails that are currently in FBI custody.

    And during an interview earlier in the program, Pence asked, with no pushback from Todd, why doesn’t Clinton “ask her senior aide to release all these emails?”

  • NY Times Floods Front Page With FBI Letter Stories While Acknowledging It Didn’t “Reopen” Clinton Server Inquiry

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Over the past two days, The New York Times has devoted five of its six above-the-fold articles to FBI director James Comey’s letter to congressional leaders indicating that the Bureau is reviewing additional “emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state. By providing such prominent coverage, the Times has indicated that the letter is news of the highest possible significance -- in spite of the Times’ own reporting that FBI agents have yet to read the emails and determine if they are significant and the letter “did not reopen” the investigation.

    In his October 28 letter, Comey wrote that the FBI has “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” while investigating an unrelated case and is taking “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.” He added that the “FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete.”

    Despite the paucity of information Comey indicated was available, the letter triggered a firestorm of speculative media coverage.

    The Times, which has both a responsibility as the leading national newspaper to put the story in appropriate context, and a long history of applying excessive and disproportionate scrutiny to news about Bill and Hillary Clinton, led the media’s feeding frenzy.

    On Saturday, the entirety of the Times’ front page above the fold was dedicated to three separate articles about Comey’s letter. The lead story declared, “New Emails Jolt Clinton Campaign In Race’s Last Days; FBI Looks at Messages Found During Inquiry.” But as that article noted, it is not clear whether the emails are “new” or duplicates of emails previously reviewed by the FBI; the FBI “had not yet examined” the emails.

    The front page also featured articles on Trump’s response to the news and on Republican and Democratic lawmakers’ criticism of Comey in light of the letter.

    The Times front page drew criticism for providing such prominent coverage before it was clear whether the emails in question were even relevant to the investigation.

    Two of the three above-the-fold articles on the front page of the Sunday New York Times also dealt with the FBI letter, one of which stated that Comey’s letter “did not reopen” the inquiry into Clinton’s private server.

    The Times has been frequently criticized during this election season for overplaying stories that suggest scandal on the part of Hillary Clinton, including publishing 16 articles on its front page that referenced the Clinton Foundation between July 2015 and September 2016 and botching key reports on Clinton’s email server.

  • 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 to be 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.

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

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & MATT GERTZ

    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.