Issues ››› Government
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Newspaper Editorials Slam McCain For Unprecedented Pledge To Block Any Clinton Nominee For Supreme Court

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Newspaper editorial boards are sharply criticizing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for promising that he and his fellow Republican senators would block any and all nominees for the Supreme Court put forth by a President Hillary Clinton, noting that McCain’s promise upends the GOP’s stated reasons for refusing to even hold a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

  • 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?’ ”

  • Chris Wallace Changed His Stance On Fact-Checking At Debates. Why?

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Chris Wallace

    Fox News host Chris Wallace has said his role is to be “a timekeeper,” not a “truth squad” who fact-checks the candidates when he moderates the final presidential debate of this election on Wednesday. But that statement stands in stark contrast to Wallace’s previous effort to fact-check eventual Republican nominee Donald Trump while serving as a moderator of Fox News’ March Republican primary debate. Wallace even explained after that debate that because Trump frequently repeats the same lies, he had taken steps to ensure he could “fact-check him” “in real time.”

    Shortly after Wallace was announced as the moderator of the final general election debate, Fox News host Howard Kurtz asked Wallace what he planned to do if the nominees “make assertions that you know are untrue.” Wallace replied, “That's not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that.” He later added that such “truth squading” is “a step too far.” He reiterated during an October 16 interview that he believes the proper role of a moderator is to merely act as “a timekeeper,” not “a participant.”

    That stance undeniably helps Trump, who has an unparalleled history of telling lies throughout the campaign. Indeed, Trump praised Wallace’s comments, saying, “I think the candidates should police themselves.”

    Wallace’s assertion contradicts his performance as a co-moderator of the March 3 Fox News Republican primary debate. During one exchange with Trump over the candidate’s economic plan, Wallace repeatedly said that Trump’s “numbers don’t add up,” stated that Trump was incorrect to say that one of his proposals would cut the deficit by “hundreds of billions of dollars,” and explained to the candidate -- and the audience -- that it “doesn’t cut the federal deficit.” Wallace’s exchange with Trump relied on what Washington Post media reporter Callum Borchers called “instant, graphical fact-checks” and “full-screen graphics” that “cast serious doubt over the feasibility of Trump’s [economic] plans.”

    Borchers praised Wallace for producing “a memorable TV moment that will likely have people talking about his fact-checks after the debate.” The Post’s Erik Wemple similarly wrote that the “revolutionary” fact-checking graphics forced Trump to “look at the data” without being able to spin the facts.

    Wallace himself even noted the importance of fact-checking Trump after the March 3 debate. During a March 10 interview on Fox host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show, Wallace described the thinking behind the video fact checks, saying that “the only way you could catch [Trump] is in real time, in effect what the newspapers do the next day or the blogs do hours later, … fact-check him”:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): You held his feet to the fire there, and it never added up.


    CHRIS WALLACE: Here was the deal -- and I’m glad you liked it, I must say a lot of people did -- when you’re talking to Trump, he throws around a lot of numbers and you know, I thought, it was funny, there is a tremendous amount of planning that goes into these debates and I thought the only way you could catch him is in real time, in effect what the newspapers do the next day or the blogs do hours later, is fact-check him. There were about three or four things I knew he might say, like cut these departments, or we could negotiate a better deal on drugs, so I had these four full screens made up.

    Chris Wallace is still moderating the debate. Donald Trump is still one of the candidates. The only difference between when Wallace thought fact-checking was vital and when he decided it was improper “truth squading” is that Trump’s opponent is no longer a group of Republicans, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

    This debate may be the last chance a journalist has to ask questions of Trump before a national audience. But as Wallace’s own comments make clear, without vigorous, “real time” fact-checking, Trump will be able to lie to that audience with impunity.

  • The NY Post Lies About The Clinton Foundation And Haiti

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The New York Post editorial board claimed that the Clinton Foundation “isn’t even denying” the claim that foundation donors got “special treatment” from Hillary Clinton’s State Department during the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. But the story the editorial cites as evidence quotes the chairman of the Foundation’s board explicitly saying that donors received “no special treatment.”

    The editorial board writes:

    Long-secret e-mails just caught Team Hillary in another blatant lie — namely, the claim that Clinton Foundation donors got no special treatment from Clinton’s State Department. In fact, ABC’s “case study” of the 2010 Haiti-relief feeding frenzy may be the most damning foundation scoop yet.

    And the foundation isn’t even denying it.

    ABC News got the e-mails via a Freedom of Information lawsuit. They show that, after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, a top Hillary aide repeatedly gave special attention to “Friends of Bill” looking to cash in.

    The Post is lying. The ABC News story the paper links to does include a denial of the claim that donors received special treatment:

    Bruce Lindsey, the chairman of the board of the Clinton Foundation, told ABC News in a written statement that “no special treatment was expected or given.”

    “This was a time of dire need, and we mobilized our network and wanted to make sure that any help offered was put to good use,” Lindsey said. “Many had been involved in disaster response before, in New Orleans after Katrina or after the tsunami, and again sought to help.”

    In his October 11 press briefing, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the department had reviewed the issue and found “no evidence that preferential treatment was given to any particular entity or organization with respect to contracts” with regard to Haiti:

    QUESTION: There’s a report that just came out a little while ago, an ABC report based on the – some emails. And I haven’t had a chance to read it closely enough yet to know if it actually makes the allegation or just suggests that there might have been – there might be some impropriety. So let me just ask the question that I think it hints at: What’s – in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, did the department give preference to people or companies that donated – that had donated to the Clinton Foundation in terms of contracts to help Haiti recover from the earthquake?

    MR KIRBY: No, we looked into this with this – when ABC was working this story. We found no evidence that preferential treatment was given to any particular entity or organization with respect to contracts.

    QUESTION: So in other words, you’re saying that although these emails show that people were flagged as being friends of the former president or their companies were – they – your – you looked – your review found that that didn’t actually translate into any favoritism?

    MR KIRBY: Right, right. In preparing our response for that story, we looked into that and didn’t find any evidence that preferential treatment or – in a – for contracts was given.

    QUESTION: All right.

    MR KIRBY: But I don’t think it should – with President Clinton being the – designated by the United Nations as a special envoy for Haiti, I don’t think it would come as a shock to anybody that the people associated with or friends of him or the Clinton Foundation would also in a time of great need want to contribute. But I see no evidence of any preferential or special treatment.

  • CNN Commentator Demands Paul Ryan Resign As House Speaker

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN political commentator and American Spectator writer Jeffrey Lord called on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to “Resign the Speakership immediately.” In an open letter to Ryan, Lord claimed that by “refusing to defend” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Ryan has “refused outright to perform [his] job as a senior party leader.”

    After Ryan announced on October 10 that he would no longer defend or campaign with Trump, the Republican nominee lashed out at the House Speaker, calling him “weak,” “ineffective,” and “disloyal.” Trump’s biggest right-wing media defenders also criticized Ryan, claiming that he is in “survival mode” and slamming the House Speaker and like-minded Republicans as “weak, feckless, timid,” and “spineless.”

    Lord has done his fair share of carrying Trump’s “fetid water,” from defending his attacks on the Khan family as mere “politics,” to claiming Trump was within his rights to criticize former Miss Universe Alicia Machado for her gaining weight because she may have been “in violation of her contract.” Lord even argued that Trump should not release his tax returns because his “political opponents are going to go through there and look to make issues out of things.”

    In his latest defense for the Republican nominee, Lord writes to Ryan that it is time for him to “do the honorable thing and resign as Speaker of the House.” Lord concluded, “your most recent statement about Donald Trump makes it vividly clear that with less than a month to go before a major presidential election — an election that will determine the fate of the Supreme Court, the economy, and America’s role in a world where it faces a mortal enemy — you are refusing to lead and cannot follow the voters of your own party.” From the October 11 American Spectator post:

    Dear Mr. Speaker:

    I like you.

    We both admired and worked for Jack Kemp at different stages of his career. I agree with much of your Kemp-style agenda. So it gives me no pleasure to say what is now abundantly obvious.

    It is time for you to do the honorable thing and resign as Speaker of the House.

    Your views on Donald Trump — and for that matter anything else — are between you and your constituents in Wisconsin. But most certainly what you do as Speaker of the House — which is to say as the leader of the Republican Party in the House and a senior leader in the national Republican Party — is to support the Republican presidential nominee elected by the voters. Amazingly, you have dragged your feet repeatedly on one of your central responsibilities as a party leader. Now, with your latest statement refusing to defend Donald Trump — the Republican nominee and the elected leader of the Republican Party — you have refused outright to perform your job as a senior party leader.

    With that in mind, it is time to do the right thing — and the honorable thing: Resign the Speakership immediately.


    Your most recent statement about Donald Trump makes it vividly clear that with less than a month to go before a major presidential election — an election that will determine the fate of the Supreme Court, the economy, and America’s role in a world where it faces a mortal enemy — you are refusing to lead and cannot follow the voters of your own party. Which leaves only one honorable choice: get out of the way.

    I say this with great respect and great regret.

    It is time for you to resign as Speaker of the House.

  • Fox News Debunks Its Own Attempt To Prop Up False Trump Claim Of New Clinton Email Scandal

    Minutes After Catherine Herridge Supports Trump’s Claim Of “Collusion” In DOJ Investigation, Andrew Napolitano Explains That She And Trump Are Wrong

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano debunked Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that a stolen email from a Clinton campaign staffer showed “collusion” in the Justice Department’s investigation into Clinton’s use of private email during her time as secretary of state, just minutes after Fox’s chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge supported Trump’s claim.

    After an NBC News reporter drew attention to stolen emails belonging to Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon, which were released by WikiLeaks, Trump’s campaign charged that one of the emails “reveals ‘collusion’ between Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Justice Department that tainted the criminal investigation into Clinton’s private email set-up.” The email in question, dated May 19, 2015, states: "DOJ folks inform me there is a status hearing in this case this morning, so we could have a window into the judge's thinking about this proposed production schedule as quickly as today." As Politico explained about an hour before the Fox segments, Fallon’s message “predates that probe.”

    Despite the impossibility of the Trump campaign’s claim, Fox’s Herridge repeated the claim. Appearing on Your World, Herridge said, “[T]here's another hacked email that shows former Justice Department staffer Brian Fallon, who is now a senior member of the Clinton campaign team, was working with his former Justice Department colleagues about an upcoming hearing in the email investigation.” She continued, “Trump's campaign called it collusion and wants all the communications to be released from the Clinton campaign. That's obviously not realistic, but for a point of context, at the height of the email investigation, any kind of communication between the Clinton campaign operatives and the Justice Department was clearly inappropriate by either side.”

    But just six minutes after Herridge’s irresponsible and erroneous assertions about that email, Fox’s Napolitano explained that both she and Trump were wrong:

    ANDREW NAPOLITANO: You know, the email that we're talking about has to do with the Freedom of Information Act cases, and not with the criminal investigation. If Donald Trump's allegation were true, and the Justice Department had been tipping off the Clinton campaign about the criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton, that tip itself would be a crime, but that's not what the emails that Catherine Herridge was referencing reveal. In fact, those emails were about the Freedom of Information Act cases, which are civil cases, which anyone can get access to. So I don't see the impropriety here that Trump is concerned about.

    Herridge made sure to note the date of Fallon’s email, but she neglected to inform Fox’s audience that the email was sent two months before the FBI’s investigation began -- making her concern about improper communications in support of the Trump campaign’s claim completely baseless. Herridge has a long history of getting details of the investigation into Clinton’s use of email wrong, thanks to her tendency to rely on anonymous sources that end up burning her.