Politico

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  • US Officials Report No Evidence Hillary Clinton Broke The Law, Will Right-Wing Media Listen?

    Conservative Media Conspiracy Theories Doused By The Facts

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    U.S. officials say they have not yet found evidence that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton willfully broke the law with use of her private email or that her server was hacked, according to two new reports, undercutting the conservative witch-hunt for a bombshell in the Democratic presidential front-runner’s email setup.

    Prosecutors and FBI officials “have so far found scant evidence that [Hillary Clinton] intended to break classification rules,” according to a May 5 Washington Post report. The article noted that “prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not”:

    Prosecutors and FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server have so far found scant evidence that the leading Democratic presidential candidate intended to break classification rules, though they are still probing the case aggressively with an eye on interviewing Clinton herself, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter

    [...]

    The involvement of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not indicative that charges are imminent or even likely. One official said prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not.

    CNN underscored the findings in the Washington Post article, reporting that “The investigation is still ongoing, but so far investigators haven't found evidence to prove that Clinton willfully violated the law.” The reports join the growing chorus of legal experts and government officials who have undermined claims made by right-wing media figures, who have repeatedly scandalized Clinton’s use of a private email server by arguing that she broke the law using her server for State Department emails.

    Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge, who has a history of hyping evidence-free claims, most recently reported on May 4 that “the infamous Romanian hacker known as ‘Guccifer’ … easily – and repeatedly – breached former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email server,” a claim parroted by various right-wing media figures.

    But U.S. officials “dismissed claims [by “Guccifer”] that he was able to breach Clinton’s personal email server,” according to the Post, noting, “investigators have found no evidence to support the assertion.” NBC News also reported that the hacker “could provide no documentation to back up his claims,” and Politico reported that an “internal FBI review of Clinton’s email records did not indicate traces of hacking.”

    Fox also alleged that the Obama administration is “slow-rolling” the Select Committee on Benghazi Committee’s investigation into Clinton’s email use, scandalizing the fact that a “special unit to review Benghazi documents” was convened later than expected.

    The Department of Defense recently criticized the committee, slamming it for “straining the department's resources” chasing “documents and interviews” often based on “speculative or hypothetical” queries, according to Politico. A letter sent by Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger derided the Republican-led committee’s “multiple and changing requests,” some of which have been “unfair … unproductive … [and] unnecessary,” and implored the committee to “remain focused on obtaining facts rather than encouraging speculation.”

    Since Clinton’s use of private email was revealed, conservative media figures have made multiple baseless allegations, only to be burned by facts. The new revelations that investigators have not yet found evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton only add to the growing list of debunked myths spuriously pushed by right-wing media.  

  • Right-Wing Media Run With Imprisoned Hacker’s Evidence-Free Claim That He Breached Clinton’s Server

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are credulously reporting claims from the extradited Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer,” who is currently in prison in Virginia, that he “breached” Hillary Clinton’s email server. The hacker has provided no documentation to prove his claims, and the FBI’s security review of Clinton’s emails has reportedly found no evidence of hacking.

  • Pentagon Criticizes Benghazi Committee For Straining DOD Resources, Partly Over “Speculation”

    Right-Wing Media Has Hyped False Claims And Speculation Into Benghazi That Continue To Fuel The GOP Investigation

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    The Department of Defense criticized the investigation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, saying repeated requests for documents and information have strained DOD resources and that they’re often based on, as Politico put it, “speculative or hypothetical” queries. Right-wing media have created many of the baseless conspiracy theories that helped create and fuel the Benghazi committee.

    In an April 28 letter to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger explained the strain the House investigation has had on the DOD, which has spent “millions of dollars on Benghazi-specific Congressional compliance, including reviews by four other committees.” Hedger specifically took issue with the ever-expanding investigation -- and its speculative nature -- noting that “DoD interviewees have been asked repeatedly to speculate or engage in discussing on the record hypotheticals posed by Committee Members and staff.” Politico reported on the letter:

    The Pentagon is pushing back against the House Benghazi Committee, saying its repeated requests for documents and interviews are straining the department's resources — and, to make matters worse, many of the queries are speculative or hypothetical.

    Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger complained in a letter to the committee on Thursday about its continued demands for information, and implied that the panel is grasping to make assertions based on theory rather than facts.

    “[W]hile I understand your stated intent is to conduct the most comprehensive review of the attack and response, Congress has as much of an obligation as the executive branch to use federal resources and taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently,” the letter reads. “The Department has spent millions of dollars on Benghazi-specific Congressional compliance, including reviews by four other committees, which have diligently reviewed the military’s response in particular.”

    Hedger also complained that Defense Department interviewees “have been asked repeatedly to speculate or engage in discussing on the record hypotheticals.”

    “This type of questioning poses the risk that your final report may be based on speculation rather than a fact-based analysis of what a military officer did do or could have done given his or her knowledge at the time of the attacks,” he wrote.

    Fox News was central to the launch and perpetuation of false information that led to the establishment of the Benghazi Select Committee. By May 2, 2014 -- 20 months after the attack -- Fox had devoted 1,098 segments to Benghazi, with 97 percent of its congressional and administration interviews featuring Republicans. In fact, House Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) repeatedly used Fox News as a platform to push speculation and false claims about Benghazi. And Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge bragged that Fox News helped spur the House investigation.

    Right-wing media have repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories in order to scandalize the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks. Conservative media have claimed to have uncovered multiple “smoking gun[s]” proving that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration committed wrongdoing in responding to the attacks. By May 2, 2014, Fox had compared Benghazi to Iran-Contra, Watergate, and other controversial actions by the Nixon administration 120 times.  And conservatives continue to promote the false claim that the Obama administration issued a “stand down” order to soldiers responding to the Benghazi attacks.

    Right-wing media continue to fuel the Benghazi dumpster fire in an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton, and conservative Republicans seem all too happy to use the Benghazi Select Committee to investigate the right-wing media’s theories.

  • Gun Industry And Conservative Media Team Up To Falsely Attack Clinton For​ Challenging Legal Immunity For Negligent Gun Dealers

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservative media and Politico are citing new polling that purports to show voters oppose Democratic presidential front-runner​ Hillary Clinton’s call to repeal a federal immunity law which largely shields negligent gun sellers from legal liability when they sell guns to people they know or should know are dangerous. The poll question -- which was commissioned by the gun industry’s trade group and conducted by a Republican polling firm -- is dishonest because it misrepresents Clinton’s position on the law, suggesting that it was designed as a push poll rather than an accurate snapshot of public opinion.

  • Media Highlight The “Misleading” Evidence Used During Congressional Panel’s Attack On Planned Parenthood

    Second Select Panel Hearing Was Just Like “A Bad House Of Cards Plotline”

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives’ second hearing, multiple media outlets heavily criticized the Republican members’ continued lack of objectivity. The select panel was established by Republicans in October 2015 based on discredited allegations against Planned Parenthood from the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Despite claiming to be “impartial,” Republican members during both hearings have relied on CMP’s deceptive work as evidence.

  • Congressional Hearing On Fetal Tissue Again Relies On Discredited Anti-Choice Propaganda As Evidence

    How The Select Investigative Panel Recycled More Of CMP’s Deceptive Work To Attack Planned Parenthood

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On April 20, Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives held its second hearing: “The Pricing of Fetal Tissue.” Republicans in Congress established the panel following baseless allegations from the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) against Planned Parenthood. During the second hearing, the panel again relied on evidence taken directly from CMP’s videos and website to attack abortion providers and fetal tissue research.

  • Politico: Precedent Is On Clinton's Side Regarding Email Investigation

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico’s Senior White House Reporter Josh Gerstein reviewed “dozens of federal indictments for mishandling of classified records” and then reported that an indictment of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server is “highly unlikely.” He also noted that the cases that did lead to an indictment “almost always” included "a deliberate intent to violate classification rules" and “aggravating circumstances that don’t appear to be present in Clinton’s case.”

    Right-wing media have repeatedly attempted to muddy the facts surrounding the investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Clinton’s private email server by falsely comparing the case to that of Gen. David Petraeus, speculating on the implications or hidden motives of every new turn in the investigation, and even suggesting that the Department of Justice would handle the investigation “on political grounds, not legal grounds.”

    In the April 11 article, Gerstein wrote that “former prosecutors, investigators and defense attorneys generally agree that prosecution for classified information breaches is the exception rather than the rule, with criminal charges being reserved for cases the government views as the most egregious or flagrant.” Moreover, Gerstein highlighted interagency disputes over what is considered classified in Clinton’s emails. He noted that the State Department “has publicly disputed some of the intelligence community’s claims that information in Clinton’s account was highly sensitive,” and that it “seems doubtful that prosecutors would pursue charges if State Department officials are likely to contradict an intelligence agency’s assessment about the sensitivity of the records.” From the April 11 article:

    It’s the most explosive question of the 2016 presidential campaign: Could Hillary Clinton get indicted for her handling of sensitive materials through her home email server?

    A POLITICO review of dozens of recent federal investigations for mishandling of classified records suggests that it’s highly unlikely — but not impossible.

    The examination, which included cases spanning the past two decades, found some with parallels to Clinton’s use of a private server for her emails, but — in nearly all instances that were prosecuted —aggravating circumstances that don’t appear to be present in Clinton’s case.

    The relatively few cases that drew prosecution almost always involved a deliberate intent to violate classification rules as well as some add-on element: An FBI agent who took home highly sensitive agency records while having an affair with a Chinese agent; a Boeing engineer who brought home 2000 classified documents and whose travel to Israel raised suspicions; a National Security Agency official who removed boxes of classified documents and also lied on a job application form.

    Clinton herself, gearing up for her FBI testimony, said last week that a prosecution is “not gonna happen.” And former prosecutors, investigators and defense attorneys generally agree that prosecution for classified information breaches is the exception rather than the rule, with criminal charges being reserved for cases the government views as the most egregious or flagrant.

    […]

     

    In addition, attorneys noted that mishandling of diplomatic information that doesn’t have an obvious national security component to it probably couldn’t be prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which is the felony statute most widely cited in discussions of the potential legal fallout of the Clinton email flap.

    So, the real focus is likely to be a narrower set of messages: 65 deemed “Secret” and 22 deemed “Top Secret.” Because of the nature of email, the actual amount of highly sensitive information is more limited than those numbers suggest. The 22 “Top Secret” messages consist of seven “threads,” presumably with the same classified subject matter discussed in each email in the thread.

    Using some of those exchanges to build a criminal case would also run into another challenge: the State Department has publicly disputed some of the intelligence community’s claims that information in Clinton’s account was highly sensitive. It seems doubtful that prosecutors would pursue charges if State Department officials are likely to contradict an intelligence agency’s assessment about the sensitivity of the records.

    […]

    However, some experts on national security law said Clinton’s intent is far more important than the volume of emails at issue or how long they spent on her server. They noted that none of the information was marked classified and that there’s no indication she was trying to send classified information to anyone not authorized to look at it.

    “The law treats the intentional disclosure of one piece of classified information to someone not entitled to receive it far more seriously than the accidental communication of dozens of pieces of classified information to people who were not supposed to get it,” American University law professor Stephen Vladeck said, citing explicit and implicit requirements that a person charged with violating the laws relating to classified information know that the information they mishandled was classified.

    […]

    Several experts told POLITICO that in light of the legal obstacles to a case and the Justice Department’s track record in such prosecutions they are confident Clinton won’t face charges.

    “Based on everything I’ve seen in the public media, not only don’t I see the basis for criminal prosecution, I don’t even see the basis for administrative action such as revoking a clearance or suspending it,” said Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office.

    “Looked at as a potential criminal case, this would be laughed out of court,” said William Jeffress, a Washington attorney on the defense team for former Bush White House aide Scooter Libby during his trial for lying in a leak investigation. “There hasn’t been any case remotely approaching a situation where someone received emails that were not marked classified, who simply receives them and maybe replies to them and a criminal prosecution is brought,” Jeffress said.

  • A Timeline Of The Anonymously Sourced FBI Agent Numbers That Distorted The Clinton Email Server Investigation

    The Numbers Have Changed From 150 To 12

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Since January, numerous outlets, including Fox News and The Washington Post, have cited anonymous or discredited sources to claim that up to 150 FBI agents were investigating Hillary Clinton's private email server. But the number of agents has been a moving target, with the Post later correcting itself to say it was "less than 50" and NBC saying March 30 that the number is closer to 12. NBC's source -- also anonymous -- called the earlier figures "ridiculous" and said, "You need an act of terrorism to get 50 agents working on something."

  • The NY Times' Shoddy And Sexist Attacks On Hillary Clinton

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Following former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson's acknowledgment that The New York Times gives an unfair "level of scrutiny" to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, Media Matters takes a look back at some of the Times' most ludicrous, false, and sexist attacks on Clinton.

  • Former NY Times Executive Editor Tells Politico: David Brock Is Right, The Times Gives Hillary Clinton Unfair Scrutiny

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to Politico's Glenn Thrush, Jill Abramson, the former New York Times executive editor, said in a recent interview that she agreed with Media Matters founder David Brock that the Times has given an unfair "level of scrutiny" to Hillary Clinton.

    Over the past year, the Times has repeatedly bungled reporting on Hillary Clinton's use of email, falsely claiming in a July report that Clinton was under criminal investigation, a story for which they issued numerous corrections. The Times' public editor Margaret Sullivan criticized the paper for publishing a "sensational" story with "major journalistic problems." In response to that report and several other issues with the paper's journalism David Brock called on the Times to commission a review of its reporting on Clinton.

    Politico's Glenn Thrush reported March 21 that Abramson, in an interview, said she "agree[d]" with Brock that the Times gave the Clintons "an unfair 'level of scrutiny,'" saying Hillary Clinton "'does get more scrutiny" than other candidates - especially male candidates.'" From Politico:

    A couple of years back, a friend of Hillary Clinton's told me the candidate-to-be was "disappointed" that the first woman to edit the New York Times -- veteran investigative reporter Jill Abramson -- wasn't more sympathetic to her plight as a feminist pioneer in politics.

    In fact, both the candidate and her more volatile spouse went a lot further, venting to people around them that they saw the country's most powerful paper as a kind of special prosecutor in a blue plastic bag, whose top editors were bent on scouring them with an alacrity not directed at other politicians ("They are out to get us," the former president told a friend more recently).

    No way, says Abramson, whose personal association with the Clintons goes back nearly 40 years. (Little-known fact: the woman who led coverage of the Clintons at the Times for a decade -- as Washington bureau chief, and then as executive editor -- briefly worked as a consultant on one of Bill Clinton's campaigns in Arkansas.) But Abramson lingers on the larger point of media fairness to Hillary Clinton, and gingerly concedes something few editors would ever admit. 

    "She does get more scrutiny" than other candidates - especially male candidates, Abramson told me during a 50-minute interview for POLITICO's "Off Message" podcast last week. When I asked her if Clinton's arch-defender David Brock had a point when he lashed the Times for giving the Clintons an unfair "level of scrutiny," she interrupted - to agree. 

    "Yeah, I do," said Abramson - who was ousted in 2014 after reportedly complaining that her compensation package was inferior to that of her male predecessor, Bill Keller. 

    "[W]e, for some reason, expect total purity from a woman candidate," added Abramson, who rose to the top job in 2011. "I did not feel, during my regime, that we were giving her way more scrutiny than anyone else." But, she said, "Where I think Hillary Clinton faces, you know, certainly more of a burden is that the controversies she's been in are immediately labeled, you know, Travel-gate or Email-gate... if you actually asked people what about any of these controversies bothers them, they don't know anything specific about any of them." 

    [...] 

    And Abramson isn't overly impressed by the one Clinton storyline getting the most attention: the lingering probe into the former secretary of state's "homebrew" email server during her Foggy Bottom tenure. Like Whitewater, the scandal was uncovered by a New York Times reporter; like Whitewater, it is regarded as a deus ex machina by Republicans facing political gloom; and like Whitewater, it will likely turn out to be more froth than flood, in Abramson's view. "I won't say nothing - but very little," she said, referring to the sum significance of Clinton's scandals. 

    When I asked if the Times email stories (executed after her departure, in 2015) were "a big deal," Abramson - who has taken pains not to criticize her former paper or its current editors - paused. 

    "It depends on, you know, what your definition of "big deal" is, but I'm not going to play Bill Clinton for you here," she said, referring to the former president's infamous what-is-is monologue during his Monica Lewinsky deposition. "The issue, to me, that's at the crux is that everything that we know that was classified was classified after the fact, after the emails were sent. And so, why is that a big deal? And the fact that she had this private email is something that, you know, I've read widely, a lot of people in the government - Colin Powell, let's face it, got much bigger speaking fees than Hillary did."

  • Reminder To Media: The Judicial Crisis Network Is Still Not To Be Taken Seriously

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    In the weeks leading up to the March 16 nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, media outlets uncritically featured discredited conservative group the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) and its debunked talking points attacking Garland and other potential nominees. Following Garland's nomination, some mainstream outlets continue to credulously cite the group and its false claims, even though JCN has a history of injecting misinformation into judicial nomination fights.

  • Media Echo Inaccurate GOP Talking Points To Blame Obama And Biden For Republican SCOTUS Obstructionism

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media inaccurately equated President Obama's 2006 Senate filibuster vote of then-Judge Samuel Alito and Vice President Biden's 1992 comments on the Senate floor about a Supreme Court nomination in an election year to Senate Republicans' unprecedented attempts to block the president's nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland.

  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • Myths And Facts On The Nomination Of Judge Merrick Garland To The Supreme Court

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT, TIMOTHY JOHNSON & PAM VOGEL

    Since the lead-up to President Obama's March 16 nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the judge has faced misleading and false attacks, as well as a concerted push for continued obstruction of any Supreme Court nominee chosen by Obama. Here are the facts about the nominee, previous lines of right-wing attack, and information on the nomination and confirmation processes going forward.