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.”