After Obama Says He Is Not Influencing Email Investigation, Conservative Media Claim President Is “Tipping The Scale” For Clinton

After Obama Says He Is Not Influencing Email Investigation, Conservative Media Claim President Is “Tipping The Scale” For Clinton

››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

Right-wing media, including several Fox figures, accused President Obama of “tipping the scales” in favor of Hillary Clinton in the ongoing investigation into her email practices after Obama responded to a question posed by Fox’s Chris Wallace about his influence in the matter. During a Fox News Sunday interview, Obama said he guaranteed that “there is no political influence” in the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s private email server, and right-wing media responded by criticizing Obama for even answering the question.

In Fox Interview, Obama Guaranteed “No Political Influence” In Investigation Into Clinton’s Emails

President Obama: “I Guarantee That There Is No Political Influence In Any Investigation Conducted By The Justice Department Or The FBI,” Including The Clinton Case. On the April 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, President Obama answered questions from host Chris Wallace on the Hillary Clinton email investigation, saying he guaranteed that “there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI,” including the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices. Obama added that Clinton will not be treated differently because, “Nobody is above the law”:

CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Can you guarantee to the American people, can you direct the Justice Department to say, Hillary Clinton will be treated as the evidence goes, she will not be, in any way, protected?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I can guarantee that. And I can guarantee that not because I give Attorney General Lynch a directive -- that is institutionally how we have always operated. I do not talk to the attorney general about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line, and always have maintained it. Previous presidents --

WALLACE: So, just to button this up --

OBAMA: I guarantee it. I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case. Full stop. Period.

WALLACE: And she will be treated no differently?

OBAMA: Guaranteed, full stop. Nobody gets treated differently when it comes to the Justice Department, because nobody is above the law.

WALLACE: Even if she ends up as the Democratic nominee?

OBAMA: How many times do I have to say it, Chris? Guaranteed. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 4/10/16]

Right-Wing Media Assert That Obama Is “Tipping The Scales” In Favor Of Clinton By Responding To Wallace’s Question

Fox’s Hegseth: Is The President “Already Meddling?” On the April 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest co-host Pete Hegseth pointed to Obama’s Fox News Sunday interview to ask whether the president is “already meddling” in the investigation:

PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): Bret, on another topic, your colleague Chris Wallace this weekend had a fascinating interview with President Obama. The president revealing some comments, especially about Hillary Clinton and her emails. I want to play a quick exchange, get you to react to that.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

CHRIS WALLACE: In October, you were prepared to say you were prepared to say she hadn't jeopardized. And the question is, can you still say that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security.

WALLACE: Can you guarantee to the American people, can you direct the Justice Department to say, Hillary Clinton will be treated as the evidence goes, she will not be, in any way, protected?

OBAMA: I can guarantee that. I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case. Full stop. Period.

[END VIDEO]

HEGSETH: Bret, he went on to say that there's classified and then there's classified. Is the president setting the table here? Is he already meddling?

BRET BAIER: Well, listen, the question was generated by his first comments, which happened in 60 Minutes back in October in which he said there was no security threat, this was basically no big deal, and it was ginned up politically is what he told 60 Minutes in October. Well, obviously this FBI investigation is not over. And if you listen to critics of the administration, and of Hillary Clinton, that this personal server opened up all kinds of possible problems for hacking by foreign entities of one kind or another. So for the president to say there was no national security threat definitively, that's a problem. But he then went on to say, full stop, "I guarantee there won't be any influence."

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Nobody's above the law he said. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/11/16]

Fox Business Panel: The President Could Be “Sending A Message” To The FBI To “Lay Off” The Clinton Investigation. On the April 11 edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell asked if Obama was “sending a message to the FBI” to “lay off” their investigation, and the panel agreed that Obama should not have answered Wallace’s question, saying he “cannot comment on an ongoing investigation”:

MARIA BARTIROMO (HOST): President Obama also addressed the scandal on Fox News Sunday this weekend, guaranteeing that there would be no political influence in the Justice Department’s investigation.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case. Full stop.

CHRIS WALLACE: And she will be treated no differently?

OBAMA: Guaranteed, full stop. Nobody gets treated differently when it comes to the Justice Department, because nobody is above the law.

[END VIDEO]

BARTIROMO: Joining me right now Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano. Judge, good to see you. He was pretty adamant about that answer.

ANDREW NAPOLITANO: Good morning. Yeah, he was. And he’s facing a lot of speculation because information is leaked from the FBI and from sources around the FBI that the evidence against [Clinton] is compelling, strong, forceful. Clearly enough to present to a grand jury, and probably enough to get an indictment. So if that doesn't happen, that means that somebody way high up at main Justice, probably the attorney general herself or, worse yet, someone in the West Wing of the White House decided we don't want to indict Hillary Clinton right now. Now the president has said that's not going to happen. The president also revealed, I think you might have a tape of this, an alarming disinterest or ignorance about the classification of documents as confidential, secret, or top secret.

BARTIROMO: Do we have that soundbite? Let’s run it and then we’ll get your comment on it.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

OBAMA:  There's classified, and then there's classified. There's stuff that is really top secret, top secret, and there is stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you can get.

[END VIDEO]

BARTIROMO: There you go, there’s classified and then there’s classified, Judge.

NAPOLITANO: OK, so, confidential information, the three categories of classification: confidential, secret, top secret. Confidential means that if it’s revealed, it could embarrass the country. Secret means if it’s revealed, it could harm the country. Top secret means if it’s revealed, it could gravely harm the country. He took an oath to uphold the federal laws, the federal laws put these things in those three categories. Not because somebody put a stamp on them with one of those three words or phrases, but because of the essence of what’s in the document itself. Mrs. Clinton on her first day in office signed a statement under oath recognizing her obligation to recognize this stuff whether it’s marked confidential, secret, or top secret or not.

[...]

KEVIN KELLY: What’s most fascinating about what just happened is, shouldn’t the president be saying he cannot comment on an ongoing investigation?

NAPOLITANO: Precisely.

BARTIROMO: I think that’s even more important. You’re right, he’s not supposed to comment on an active investigation.

DAGEN MCDOWELL: And is he sending a message to the FBI?

BARTIROMO: By commenting, exactly.

NAPOLITANO: You know, I don't know what kind of message he would be sending.

BARTIROMO: Lay off.

NAPOLITANO: I mean, the FBI works for him, but the FBI is going to go where the evidence takes it no matter what the president and political people around him may want. Can he stop an indictment from happening? Absolutely. Could he pardon her? Of course he could pardon her. But he could also say to the attorney general I don't want her prosecuted in this time period, in this era, for a variety of public policy reasons, even political reasons. And you’re my attorney general, you’re going to follow me. Yes, he can do that. If he does that, the FBI will leak a sample indictment and it will leak all the evidence that it has supporting that indictment.

KELLY: This is his secretary of state. He should not be commenting on this ongoing investigation. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 4/11/16]

MSNBC’s Scarborough: Obama Is “Actually Tipping The Scales Right Now” In Favor Of Clinton. On the April 11 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough claimed that by commenting on the impartiality of the investigation, President Obama was essentially talking to the attorney general about the investigation and was “actually tipping the scales” in favor of Clinton. Scarborough also called the investigation “a rigged process”:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): President Obama stood by his former secretary of state, as we mentioned, and guaranteed she would be treated no differently when it comes to investigations, even if she ends up being the party’s nominee.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hillary Clinton was an outstanding secretary of state. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy. And what I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are -- there's classified, and then there's classified. There's stuff that is really "top secret" top secret, and there is stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you can get in open sources. I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America's national security. Now, what I've also said is that -- and she's acknowledged -- that there's a carelessness in terms of managing emails that she has owned. And she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective.

CHRIS WALLACE: Can you guarantee to the American people, can you direct the Justice Department to say, Hillary Clinton will be treated as the evidence goes, she will not be, in any way, protected?

OBAMA: I can guarantee that. And I can guarantee that not because I give Attorney General Lynch a directive, that is institutionally how we have always operated. I do not talk to the attorney general about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line, and always have maintained it.

WALLACE: So, just to button this up --

OBAMA: I guarantee it. I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case. Full stop. Period.

[END VIDEO]

JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Wait. Can you guys believe what you just heard?

BRZEZINSKI: He said "believe me." Like someone else.

SCARBOROUGH: He said he wasn't going to talk to the attorney general about the pending investigation, but he just did, as he did back in October when he said no national security issues here, nothing to see, move along. The FBI complained, there was a New York Times article back in October saying the president of the United States should really let us finish our investigation before he starts drawing conclusions that we have scores of agents studying on. And he just did it again. And then in the same interview, Mark Halperin, said, "But I'm not talking to my attorney general about it." Talk about a rigged process.

MARK HALPERIN: It seemed ill-advised to say,

BRZEZINSKI: These are the rules.

HALPERIN: “I got no connection to this, but here’s what I know about it. And here’s my conclusion.”

BRZEZINSKI: I guarantee it.

HALPERIN: It just seemed ill-advised. He just should say, “I shouldn’t talk about it. There’s a pending investigation. I want to keep myself away from it in every way and leave this to the independence of the Justice Department.” I don't know why he went on at such length defending her, because in theory he shouldn't really know the facts of the case.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, exactly. But he suggested now in October and again this weekend, John Heilemann, that he knows the facts of the case. That someone has been reading him in on the facts of the case. And he has drawn the ultimate conclusion, which is national security was not jeopardized. That is why the FBI is putting, I don't know, is it 40? Is it 50? Is it 60? We've heard it’s over 100, then they kept -- but put on scores of people to investigate this -- and then the guy that at the end of the day runs the entire government says, “Oh, there's nothing to see here.”

HALPERIN: In Alice In Wonderland, we call that verdict first.

SCARBOROUGH: That is verdict first, while he is at the same time saying I guarantee there's going to be a fair investigation.

BRZEZINSKI: Are these the rules? You're gonna like the way you look.

JOHN HEILEMANN: It seems ill-advised to me on two different levels. One is that, by saying this, he's undermining if the attorney general decides that there's nothing, that there’s no problem, he's undermining that conclusion by having pre-judged it. He's also just in a purely political context, he's also implicitly putting his finger on the scale in terms of Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders.

BRZEZINSKI: Absolutely, campaigning, campaigning for Hillary. May as well endorse her.

HEILEMANN: He should be -- again, if I were a Bernie Sanders supporter I would not appreciate the president of the United States doing something that as Bernie Sanders criticizes her judgment on the email thing, having the president weigh in on her side on national television, if I were a Bernie Sanders supporter, I’d find that inappropriate.

BRZEZINSKI: Why doesn't he just endorse her?

SCARBOROUGH: And Nicolle, what if you were the director of the FBI and you had been killing yourself to run a fair investigation?

BRZEZINSKI: And the president just made a fool of you.

SCARBOROUGH: And twice the president of the United States has made a fool of you by saying his investigation doesn't matter because the scales, the lady’s not blindfolded. I'm actually tipping the scales right now as the guy that runs this government telling you, “No problems at all. No national security problems at all.”

NICOLLE WALLACE: Yeah, and I don't know if his day shapes up anything like George W. Bush's, but the first person George W. Bush saw in the morning was the FBI director, so I don't know how that's going to go this morning. As a staffer, I would have prepared him for the question by saying, I know Hillary Clinton, I know what kind of person she is, I think she has good judgment. And I would have told him to leave the investigation alone. So I don't know if he got that advice, he has some smart people around him, and ignored it. I don't know if he got requests from the Clinton campaign to throw her a lifeline. She's lost eight of the last nine contests. But again, you go back to the backdrop on which this campaign is being waged.

SCARBOROUGH: It’s rigged.

WALLACE: And it certainly felt like someone putting their finger on the scale for someone for whom the investigation has not been wrapped up.

SCARBOROUGH: A criminal investigation is being rigged. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 4/11/16]

WSJ Editorial Board: Obama Has Opened The FBI And DOJ “Up To Reasonable Criticism That They Were Publicly Steered By His Comments.” On April 10, the Wall Street Journal editorial board criticized Obama’s comments, asserting that “saying anything was bad enough,” but now Obama’s response opened the FBI and Department of Justice “up to reasonable criticism that they were publicly steered by his comments”:

President Obama chooses his words carefully, so it was startling on Sunday when he chose to opine on the Justice Department’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. All the more so in the way that he phrased his defense of the Democrat he wants to succeed him as President in January.

[...]

Mr. Obama replied: … “Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy.”

[...]

A more scrupulous President would have begged off the question by claiming that he can’t comment on an ongoing investigation in a department he supervises. So saying anything was bad enough.

But even more notable was Mr. Obama’s use of the word “intentionally” regarding Mrs. Clinton’s actions. As a lawyer, the President knows that intent is often crucial to determining criminal liability. And he went out of his way—twice—to suggest that what Mrs. Clinton did wasn’t intentional but was mere “carelessness, in terms of managing emails.”

Why would Mr. Obama discuss the emails in those terms? He certainly isn’t helping Attorney General Loretta Lynch or FBI Director James Comey, who must decide how to assess Mrs. Clinton’s actions. If they now decide not to prosecute based on a judgment that Mrs. Clinton was merely careless, President Obama has opened them up to reasonable criticism that they were publicly steered by his comments. [The Wall Street Journal, 4/10/16]

Hosts On Fox’s Outnumbered: “The President Is Providing [Clinton] With A Level Of Cover When He Goes Out And Blows This Dog Whistle.” On the April 11 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, co-host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery asserted that Clinton knows that “the president is providing her with a level of cover when he goes out and blows this dog whistle,” co-host Andrea Tantaros claimed that the real question is whether “will Loretta Lynch be corrupted? Will [Obama] influence her” in the investigation, and Sandra Smith stated that Obama is “sending a message” to the FBI and DOJ by answering Wallace’s question:

SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): President Obama defending Hillary Clinton as the email scandal continues to dog her campaign. The president suggesting to our own Chris Wallace that Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state did not make the nation’s secrets vulnerable to hackers.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America's national security. Now, what I've also said is that -- and she's acknowledged -- that there's a carelessness in terms of managing emails that she has owned. And she recognizes.

[END VIDEO]

SMITH: And despite openly giving his opinion about the case, the president maintains politics will not play a role in the investigation.

[BEGIN VIDEO]

OBAMA: I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI, not just in this case, but in any case. Full stop. Period.

WALLACE: And she will be treated no differently?

OBAMA: Guaranteed, full stop. Nobody gets treated differently when it comes to the Justice Department, because nobody is above the law.

WALLACE: Even if she ends up as the Democratic nominee?

OBAMA: How many times do I have to say it, Chris? Guaranteed.

[END VIDEO]

SMITH: But hold on, congressman, he gives us his opinion on the case and what went down, but then yet he says there will be no political influence on the investigation.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY): The fact is, as the president of the United States, he is talking to the Justice Department, he's talking to the FBI--

SMITH: Sending a message.

KING: To me that is clearly a signal he does not want Hillary Clinton to have any -- be indicted or have any legal issue at all, even have  the FBI make a report or a recommendation or a referral. But Jim Comey is a pretty independent guy and they are taking this seriously.

[...]

LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY(CO-HOST): It goes beyond carelessness, because, you know, you're talking about the top, very top level of classification on 22 of those emails. You know, when the president talks about there's classified, then there is classified, I would think that those 22 emails fall into the latter of being classified. You know, if he's making the distinction -- and also, what is the president seeing on his desk? How is he being briefed? What does he have access to? Is this the reason that Hillary Clinton cackles like a hyena every time she is asked about the email scandal and she says nothing it going to happen with it? You know, it's ridiculous. It's a Republican witch hunt because she knows that the president is providing her with a level of cover when he goes out and blows this dog whistle with Chris Wallace? It's really offensive.

[...]

ANDREA TANTAROS (CO-HOST): It's troubling because this is the second time in an interview the president given her cover. And even though he says, “No, the investigation's going to be fair,” he's saying the investigation. I agree, I think the FBI, I think that group that's investigating her will be fair. That's the not question. The question is, will Loretta Lynch be corrupted? Will he influence her? Forget the FBI. Only thing that matters is whether or not the DOJ will recommend those charges. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 4/11/16]

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