James Comey

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  • Media Reports Contradict Top Trump Aide: FBI Director Briefed Trump On Alleged Russian Dossier

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN and CBS are now reporting that FBI Director James Comey did, in fact, brief President-elect Donald Trump on unsubstantiated claims that Russians have a dossier of information against him. The information corroborates earlier CNN reporting that intelligence chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him. According to The Hill:

    FBI Director James Comey briefed President-elect Donald Trump on a two-page summary of an unverified dossier claiming Russia had compromising information on the real estate mogul, CNN reported Thursday.

    That contradicts claims by members of Trump’s transition team and other news outlets that intelligence officials never briefed Trump on the two-page addendum to a classified report given to President Obama and leaders in Congress about Russian efforts to interfere with the presidential election.

    From the January 12 edition of CBS' CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley:

    SCOTT PELLEY (HOST): Sources tell CBS News that F.B.I. Director James Comey personally briefed President-elect Trump last Friday about scandalous tales about Mr. Trump that were never proven, and were nonetheless attached to an official U.S. intelligence report. Major Garrett has been looking into this.

    MAJOR GARRETT: CBS News has confirmed that Christopher Steele, seen in this photo, produced the memo containing unsubstantiated claims that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about President-elect Donald Trump. Steele is a former British intelligence officer who works for Orbis Business Intelligence, a private investigation firm in London. Orbis was originally hired by Fusion G.P.S., a D.C.-based research firm working for an unknown client. The unverified claims circulated widely in political and media circles. Last week, the U.S. intelligence community included a summary of the information in a classified briefing with Mr. Trump, who said the memo was phony.

    DONALD TRUMP: I think it's disgraceful, disgraceful, that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. And that's something that Nazi Germany would have done, and did do.

    GARRETT: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper phoned Mr. Trump last night. In a statement, Clapper said he expressed his "profound dismay" at the leaks and emphasized the unverified document is not a U.S. intelligence community product. President Obama and Vice President Biden also received the briefing. On MSNBC, the vice president was asked if including the claims was appropriate.

    JOE BIDEN: It was their obligation to inform not only us, but the President-elect that this was out there, so that it didn't come out of the blue and have any impact on-- on the conduct of our foreign policy.

    GARRETT: House Speaker Paul Ryan told CBS News he understands Mr. Trump's frustration, calling the leaks and subsequent media frenzy unfair. But, Scott, the speaker said he would not have suggested U.S. intelligence agencies used Nazi tactics in this or any other matter.

    From the January 12 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront:

    ERIN BURNETT (HOST): We begin with breaking news. U.S. Officials tell CNN the FBI director James Comey personally briefed Donald Trump on unsubstantiated claims that the Russians may have compromising information on Trump. Now, Comey had a brief, one-on-one conversation with the President-elect last Friday during an intelligence briefing.

    The FBI Director at that time presented Trump with a two-page synopsis of the Russian claims. The nation's top intelligence chiefs have decided that Comey would be the one who would handle this sensitive discussion. Now, this is a very significant development because it appears to contradict what Trump's senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, has been saying over the past several days.

    [...]

    BURNETT: Evan Perez is part of the team that broke this story, he's OutFront tonight. As Evan, as we said, a significant development because you heard Kellyanne, they said that this briefing didn't happen. You are reporting it was a one-on-one conversation between James Comey and the president-elect, and it did happen.

    EVAN PEREZ: It did, and this helps correct the record, really, of what exactly happened here. Now, we know there were four intelligence chief who is met with the President-elect last Friday. The purpose of this briefing overall was to bring him up to date on the findings of the Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, the 2016 presidential election.

    Now, at the end of this, the four chiefs were finishing their work and Comey decided to do a one-on-one with the President-elect. The chiefs had decided that Comey should be the one to handle this, after all, it's the FBI counterintelligence division that is doing the investigation to take a look at these claims, and it's also their job to -- to take a look at what foreign intelligence services are up to in this country. In this case Russia, if the Russians are targeting or trying to target the President-elect, it was very important for the President-elect to know about this. That was the purpose of this.

    We're told that this was a cordial briefing, that Trump appreciated the information that he was given, and so we're a little puzzled, really, by the reaction over the last couple days in various stages of denial by the Trump transition team about what really was the FBI and the intelligence chiefs doing their job to make sure he was informed before he took office.

    BURNETT: Right, because Evan, just to underline this, they are -- you've heard them repeatedly say this briefing did not happen.

    PEREZ: Right. We've heard various different versions,I mean, we don't really know where they're at at this point, but we know this information was brought to the briefing and of course we also know from Vice President Joe Biden today, he met with reporters at the White House there, and mentioned that he and president Obama were both briefed on this information, that they got this information from the two-page -- synopsis.

    He even said that he read the entire 35-page document this thing was based on, Erin, and so he said that the intelligence chiefs told him that the reason was they were going to make sure that Donald Trump knew about this very important information.

  • Echoing Trump, Fox Casts Doubt On FBI's Probe Into Clinton's Emails

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News personalities are echoing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, which claimed that the FBI would not have been able to “review 650,000 emails in eight days” to cast doubt on the bureau’s probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. However, experts point out that the FBI is able to do so using technology such as “automated search and filtering tools.”

  • After Press Ran Wild With First FBI Letter, Comey Announces No Change Following Review

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    FBI Director James Comey informed Congress that upon review of emails related to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server, the FBI has “not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July ”that no criminal charges are appropriate. The FBI’s conclusion of the email review comes after the media breathlessly hyped extensive, doomsday-like coverage about the email investigation.

    Comey notified Congress on November 6 that the FBI has “reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State,” and that the review of related emails “obtained in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation” has led to no changes in the FBI’s “conclusions that we expressed in July,” when the FBI found that “no charges are appropriate in this case.” NBC’s Pete Williams reported that “nearly all the documents … were duplicates that the FBI had already seen in its investigation of the Clinton email server or were personal emails that had no bearing on the question of classification.”

    When Comey first informed Congress on October 28 that the FBI planned to examine new evidence related to Clinton’s email server, media outlets irresponsibly ran with Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) misleading claim that the FBI had “reopened” its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server. However, as the facts started to trickle in, outlets scrambled to walk back their headlines to more accurately portray the development. Cable news pundits hyped the news as “damaging” and called it “a dramatic new twist” and “an exclamation point on the end of a horrible week for Clinton and the Democrats.”

    Though Comey’s letter received harsh criticism from across the political spectrum, it has generated a flood of coverage over the past nine days. Five of the nation's top national newspapers national newspapers produced 100 news articles that mentioned the Clinton email story in a week, 46 of which were placed on their front pages; the same newspapers published only 49 articles total with “Trump” in the headline that didn’t mention the story over the same period. The Clinton email story dominated cable airwaves for several days following Comey’s initial letter, as pundits churned out mountains of speculative coverage hyping the political implications of an otherwise vague update from the FBI.

    The FBI update was followed by a “dangerous” and “unprecedented” flow of leaks from the FBI regarding the investigations related to Clinton, leading to false, anonymously sourced claims of pending indictments and calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

    With the election only days away, journalists owe it to their readers and viewers to give Comey’s letter again clearing Clinton and her staff as much coverage as they gave his initial letter.

  • FBI Director’s Advisor Says Media “Failed, Utterly” In Their Reports On James Comey’s Letter To Congress

    Daniel Richman: “We Don’t Know What’s In [The Emails], And It’s Entirely Possible That There’s Nothing In Them”

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Daniel Richman, a Columbia Law School professor and adviser to FBI Director James Comey, criticized the media’s poor coverage of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails taking Comey’s recent letter announcing the FBI’s review of possible new emails out of context.

    Richman criticized the media for sensationalizing Comey’s letter to Congress on newly found emails from Clinton adviser Huma Abedin without explaining that “We don’t know what’s in them, and it’s entirely possible that there’s nothing in them.” In an interview with the Huffington Post Richman said that the letter sent by Comey on the FBI’s review of new emails “was pretty clear, and that media outlets had ‘failed, utterly’ in placing the letter in the proper context.” Richman continued:

    “Everybody has their own views on what the letter said,” he continued. “In my view, as just a simple reader of the English language, it was dialed down as far as possible to convey the very odd position of there being emails that appeared to be related to this, without conveying anything about the contents, which of course he didn’t know at the time.”

    “Could he have added an extra sentence saying, ‘I really mean it’? I guess,” Richman said. “It would be really nice if members of the media and members of the public realized that there’s a real possibility that there will be duplicates. Since they haven’t been checked, the bureau can’t say, but we can guess from the outside.”

    Comey’s vague letter to Congress received heavy criticism from both journalists and experts for violating FBI precedent and meddling in the election. In an interview with CNN, Richman described the letter as “incomplete” and “innuendo,” and said the media had jumped to conclusions on its meaning. The New Yorker criticized Comey’s letter as “a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials.”

    But Media outlets -- especially those on the right -- have used Comey’s letter to attack Clinton and push flawed reporting on the email review by claiming it would result in a “likely” indictment of Clinton. These false claims have even made their way to Donald Trump’s campaign speeches, despite being walked back by Fox News.

    Fox’s reporting, based on two anonymous sources, has been disputed by law enforcement officials who say “there have been no developments” in the case. An ABC News report directly debunked Fox, calling it “inaccurate and without merit,” while MSNBC’s Pete Williams reported that FBI officials have told him the report “is just not true.”

  • Journalists Blast The FBI For Meddling In 2016 Election

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Media outlets and journalists sharply criticized the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for interfering in the presidential election after Director James Comey violated precedent and policy by sending a letter to Congress saying the agency is reviewing newly discovered emails surrounding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state. That announcement was followed by a series of additional leaks from the FBI.

  • FBI Director's Letter Receives Criticism From Across The Political Spectrum

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media figures from across the political spectrum are criticizing FBI Director James Comey for defying 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 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. The journalists and pundits called the timing of Comey’s letter “unfortunate, given its potential to affect a democratic process in which millions of people are already voting,” with some going so far as to say Comey’s letter “both disgraces and politicizes the FBI.”