The latest right-wing media ‘scandal,’ has completely fallen apart after The Wall Street Journal and others debunked several facets of the story. Fox News spent the day pushing Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) claim that a text message between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and agent Peter Strzok referring to preparing talking points that then-FBI Director James Comey would use to brief then-President Barack Obama, implied an interference by Obama in the FBI’s investigation into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server. Right-wing media, heavily led by Fox News, and other mainstream outlets ran with the claim, despite the fact that there was no active investigation into Clinton’s emails at the time the text message in question was sent.
Senate committee releases text between FBI officers, claim texts prove Obama personally involved in the Clinton email Investigation
Senate homeland security committee releases texts between FBI officers to claim they point to Obama being personally involved in the Clinton email investigation. On February 7, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee published an interim report titled “The Clinton Email Scandal And The FBI’s Investigation Of It” prepared by committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). The report pointed to a text FBI lawyer Lisa Page sent to agent Peter Strzok about preparing talking points for then-FBI Director James Comey, writing “Potus wants to know everything we’re doing.” The report claimed this text actually “raises additional questions about the type and extent of President [Barack] Obama's personal involvement in the [then-Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton email scandal and the FBI investigation of it." [HSGAC.senate.gov, 2/7/18]
Outlets ran with the Fox News-fueled narrative that Obama was involved in the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s emails
Fox & Friends’ hosts suggest Obama and FBI were “trying to rig the election.” While discussing the text messages on the February 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, hosts Ainsley Earhardt and Steve Doocy suggested the texts could indicate then-President Barack Obama was involved in “a little club” that was “exchanging information” and “trying to rig the election”:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Those new messages now raising even more questions about what the FBI and former President Barack Obama knew about the Clinton investigation and when.
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Griff Jenkins live in Washington with the very latest. Griff, it looks as if it appears this leads to the Oval Office.
GRIFF JENKINS (FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT): One thing is for sure, reaching President Obama, his office in this is brand new. And there’ll be more on that.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (HOST): That is the shocking part. Thank you so much, Griff. Yeah, he is talking about the first text Griff talked about, it was “POTUS wants to know everything we're doing.” The question is, was there a little club going on? Did they all -- were they all exchanging information? Were they trying to rig the election?
DOOCY: But it just suggests that, if that's true, and there was an animus at the FBI against Donald Trump, ultimately was the president involved? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/7/18]
Fox News contributor Guy Benson: The texts “might suggest undue presidential interest and/or influence” and suggests Obama might’ve been putting “thumb on the scale” in Clinton email investigation. While appearing as a guest on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Townhall’s Guy Benson claimed that the texts indicated, “Obama was really interested in hearing details about the investigation into Hillary Clinton at the time. That might suggest undue presidential interest and/or influence.” From the February 7 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:
GUY BENSON: The text messages in this new trove that we've seen, I think, is revealing, the trove, that is, on a few levels. We didn't learn anything all that new. We knew already that Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were deeply hostile to the president, didn't want him to win, may have been siding with Hillary Clinton, certainly in the election. What we saw and they also love the man they worked for, James Comey. That becomes very clear in the new text messages that we're seeing. The ones that are intriguing to me and Griff touched on them, the first apparently President Obama was really interested in hearing details about the investigation into Hillary Clinton at the time. That might suggest undue presidential interest and/or influence. And I think the inspector general, I'm sure, is looking at that angle to it. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 2/7/18]
Charles Hurt on Fox’s Outnumbered: the text “raises serious questions that President Obama should answer.” Fox News contributor Charles Hurt pushed the accusation that Obama was interfering in the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails while appearing on the February 7 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:
CHARLES HURT: Yeah, so as an ignorant hillbilly, I find these things to be absolutely astonishing. But, I mean, aside from the fact that they read like some sort of -- some Spanish novella soap opera that is just unbelievable that people are actually talking like this, saying all this stuff. It is terrifying. And it does go to the -- and people who are talking about it, they're not attacking the law enforcement, the FBI. They care about the FBI, they care about this institution, they care about constitutional rights. And the idea that you would have -- that one email about the president, involving the president, the president has clearly stated, he told Chris Wallace in no uncertain terms that he does not get involved in particular cases. And for him to -- that email raises serious questions that President Obama should have to answer. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 2/7/18]
FoxNews.com: A text between Strzok and Page “raises questions about Obama’s personal involvement in the Clinton email investigation.” On February 7, FoxNews.com reported that among the “thousands of texts” reviewed by Fox News, a September 2, 2016, text “raises questions about Obama’s personal involvement in the Clinton email investigation.” [FoxNews.com, 2/7/18]
[Drudge Report, 2/7/18]
The Daily Mail: Texts reveal Obama “wanted to be briefed on EVERYTHING” regarding the investigation into Clinton’s emails. The Daily Mail ran a report claiming that Page’s text to Strzok meant “then-president Barack Obama wanted updates on the Hillary Clinton email investigation.” [The Daily Mail, 2/7/18]
Townhall’s Leah Barkoukis: New text between FBI lovers says “Obama wants to know everything.” Townhall’s Features Editor Leah Barkoukis claimed that the text message “references former President Barack Obama in relation to the Clinton email investigation”:
The latest text messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page show one exchange that references former President Obama in relation to the Clinton email investigation.
The text, which was sent from Page to Strzok, discussed preparing talking points for former FBI Director James Comey, who was going to give them to Obama. [Townhall, 2/7/18]
Breitbart.com “The latest round of released texts” between FBI officials show “Obama wanted ‘to know everything’ about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s secret email server.” Breitbart.com’s John Nolte cited Fox News to report that the “latest round of released texts” unequivocally revealed that Obama wanted to be briefed on “everything” regarding “Clinton’s secret email server.” [Breitbart.com, 2/7/18]
Breitbart News Daily: Republican National Committee’s Kayleigh McEnany says this is the “first indication that perhaps President Obama himself was involved” in FBI investigation. During her appearance as a guest on Sirius XM Patriot Channel’s Breitbart News Daily, Republican National Committee spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said:
KAYLEIGH MCENANY: “Today is our first indication that perhaps President Obama himself was involved in this. These text messages are so disturbing. Let’s remember that Peter Strzok was the lead investigator into Russia and into Hillary Clinton’s emails and he received a text in September of 2016 that said President Obama ‘wants to know everything we are doing.’ Let’s remember, one month earlier, this same individual Peter Strzok sent a text about creating an ‘insurance plan’ about President Trump in Andy’s office, presumably Andy McCabe, the now former Deputy FBI Director. So, did he brief President Obama on this ‘insurance plan’? Obama wanted to know everything. Was he involved in it? These are deeply, deeply disturbing questions—and when you look at the history of the Obama administration with the IRS and the gunrunning scheme and the lying about Benghazi, this might be another instance where President Obama himself was caught up in it.” [Breitbart.com, 2/7/18]
Wash. Examiner: Text between Page and Strzok “was in reference to” Comey briefing Obama about “the probe into” Clinton. The Washington Examiner also reported that the text referred to the Clinton email investigation:
FBI agent Lisa Page told her fellow agent that President Obama “wants to know everything we're doing” related to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, according to a newly released text.
“Potus wants to know everything we're doing,” Page texted Peter Strzok on Sept. 2, 2016. That text was in reference to then-FBI Director James Comey, who had been preparing talking points for Obama regarding the probe into the former secretary of state. [Washington Examiner, 2/7/18]
TheBlaze: Obama “was possibly involved in the FBI’s investigation” into Clinton’s emails. The Blaze cited Fox news to report on February 7:
Newly released text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and his mistress, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, reveal former President Barack Obama was possibly involved in the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
According to text messages reviewed by Fox News, Page wrote to Strzok on Sept. 2, 2016: “Potus wants to know everything we’re doing.” [TheBlaze, 2/7/18]
The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti: Texts “reveal possible involvement” by Obama in FBI investigations. Saagar Enjeti also linked to Fox News to report that the text referred to Comey briefing Obama on “the details of a particular investigation” and that “[t]he ongoing high profile investigations at the time involved the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and an inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.” [The Daily Caller, 2/7/18]
The Washington Times: Text shows “Obama wanted updates on Clinton investigation.” From a February 7 Washington Times report:
A new batch of text messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page revealed President Barack Obama wanted updates on the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, according a report released Wednesday. [The Washington Times, 2/8/18]
Rush Limbaugh says the texts show “the corruption that was the Obama presidency.” During the February 7 edition of his show, host Rush Limbaugh claimed that the texts between the FBI agents show “this is all about Obama:”
RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): We have now more evidence via the text messages from Strzok and Lisa Page that this is all about Obama. That everything here is about protecting Obama, not just Hillary, in order to protect Obama. And I’m talking about the corruption that was the Obama presidency and specifically the corruption of the intelligence agencies and the FBI, well, the entire DOJ.
And I think one of the primary reasons they all wanted Hillary to win was to make sure we never knew any of what we now do know. That was the primary goal of having Hillary Clinton win was to be able to continue to mask and cover up and hide what Obama and his administration had been doing. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/7/18]
Even the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is among outlets debunking the narrative Fox News ran with all day
WSJ: Texts show FBI preparing Obama for “briefing on Russia,” not “the federal Hillary Clinton email investigation.” According to The Wall Street Journal, the text messages which have been used to suggest Obama was “meddling” in the Clinton email investigation were actually referring to briefing him about “Russia’s interference in that year’s election.” The Journal points out that the text in question “occurred just days before Mr. Obama met Russian President Vladimir Putin,” and adds, “In August and September 2016, the FBI was no longer actively investigating the Clinton matter.”
Text messages from 2016 show preparation to brief Barack Obama about Russia’s interference in that year’s election, according to associates of the FBI employees involved in the exchange, not, as a Republican senator suggested, meddling by the then-president in the federal Hillary Clinton email investigation.
In his Wednesday report, Mr. Johnson pointed to a Sept. 2, 2016, exchange in which Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page were discussing talking points for then-FBI Director James Comey to deliver to Mr. Obama.
“Potus wants to know everything we’re doing,” Ms. Page said, using the acronym for President of the United States. Mr. Johnson said the text raises questions about “the type and extent of President Obama’s personal involvement” in the Clinton investigation.
But associates of Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page said that exchange referred to the president’s wanting information on Russia election meddling, which the FBI was heavily involved in over that period. That exchange occurred just days before Mr. Obama met Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in China. Mr. Obama said in December 2016 that he had addressed the issue of tampering with the election process with Mr. Putin at that September meeting.
In August and September 2016, the FBI was no longer actively investigating the Clinton matter, after Mr. Comey had said that July that he was recommending no criminal charges be filed. [The Wall Street Journal, 2/7/18]
Vox: Fox News “has the timeline all wrong.” As explained by Vox, the FBI had closed the Clinton investigation by July 5, 2016, “nearly two months before Page’s supposedly explosive text” (emphasis original). According to Vox, the bureau did not “learn about the new Clinton emails” until September 28, “weeks after Page’s message to Strzok” (emphasis original). From the February 7 Vox report:
Comey closed the Clinton email investigation on July 5, 2016 — nearly two months before Page’s supposedly explosive text. On top of that, the newly revealed texts show that the FBI didn’t learn about the new Clinton emails later found on Anthony Weiner’s computer until September 28, 2016 — weeks after Page’s message to Strzok.
This means it’s actually unclear what Obama wanted to know, and not the nefarious move Fox News alleges. And it also continues the conservative campaign to discredit Mueller before his probe ends.
That invites the question: Why have the texts become such a big deal?
The answer lies perhaps in the timing of the Fox News piece, which comes just days after a Republican effort to make look Trump look good failed — and days before Trump could squash a Democratic effort that could make him look bad. [Vox, 2/7/18]