Conservatives have just lost their excuse to question the results of the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server, which legal experts say lacks a “legitimate basis” to charge Clinton with crimes. Right-wing media figures have ignored those experts to suggest that if the investigation does not result in a Clinton indictment, it must be politically tainted. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch affirmed that she will “be accepting the recommendations” made by “career agents and investigators” and FBI Director James Comey in the case, and conservative media have spent months lauding Comey’s “impeccable integrity” and ability to impartially conduct the investigation.
Private Meeting Between Attorney General Lynch And Former President Clinton Draws Bipartisan Criticism
Lynch And Bill Clinton’s Meeting “Sparked Rebukes From Republicans And Concern Among Some Democrats.” A June 27 private meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former president Bill Clinton “sparked rebukes from Republicans and concern among some Democrats about the perceptions it created,” and raised questions “whether [the meeting] might undermine public confidence into the e-mail investigation.” Bloomberg reported that “The encounter renewed calls by Republicans for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail account when serving as secretary of state.” [Bloomberg, 6/30/16]
Lynch Announces That She Will Be “Accepting The Recommendations” From Career Prosecutors, The F.B.I., And Director Comey In Clinton Email Investigation
Attorney General Lynch: “I Fully Expect To Accept” The “Recommendations” From The F.B.I. And “Career People In The Department Of Justice.” During a July 1 speech at the Aspen Ideas Festivals, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “I fully expect to accept [the] recommendations” of the F.B.I. and “career agents and investigators,” and the “FBI Director” James Comey regarding the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s use of a email server while she served as secretary of state. Though she said she would not recuse herself from the case, Lynch did say she won’t “have a role in those findings, in coming up with those findings, or making those recommendations as to how to go forward, I'll be briefed on it, and will be accepting the recommendations”:
LORETTA LYNCH: As I've always indicated, the matter is being handled by career agents and investigators with the Department of Justice. They've had it since the beginning. They are independent.
JONATHAN CAPEHART: Which predates your tenure as attorney general.
LYNCH: It predates my tenure as attorney general. It is the same team and they are acting independently. They follow the law, they follow the facts. That team will make findings, that is to say will come up with a chronology of what happened, the factual scenario. They will make recommendations as to how to resolve what those facts lead to. The recommendations will be reviewed by career supervisors in the Department of Justice, and the FBI, and by the FBI director. And then, as is the common process, they present to me, and I fully expect to accept their recommendations.
CAPEHART: What's interesting here is you say you fully expect to accept the recommendations. One thing people were saying this morning the news broke was that you were, quote, “recusing yourself” from having any kind of role in the final determination. Is that the case? Is that what you're saying?
LYNCH: Well a recusal would mean that I wouldn't even be briefed on what the findings were or what the actions going forward would be. And while I don't have a role in those findings, in coming up with those findings, or making those recommendations as to how to go forward, I'll be briefed on it, and will be accepting their recommendations.
CAPEHART: And when you say -- again, this must be the journalist in me and the linguist in me, accepting means, “here, Madame Attorney General, here are our findings,” and you completely accept them wholeheartedly and then issue them to the public, or you accept them, look them over, and then make your own determination as to what the final determination will be?
LYNCH: No, the final determination as to how to proceed will be contained within the recommendations in the report and whatever format the team puts it together, that has not been resolved, whatever report they provide to me. There will be a review of their investigation, there will be a review of what they have found and determined to have happened and occurred, and there will be their determination as to how they feel the case should proceed.
CAPEHART: And when you say there will be a review, you mean the review will be done by you once you accept the recommendations and determinations, or you're talking about the process of the review getting to that point?
LYNCH: No, I understand. I'm talking about the initial process of how this case will be resolved. This case will be resolved by the team that's been working on it from the beginning. Supervisors always review matters. In this case, that review will be career people in the Department of Justice, and also the FBI will review it, up to and including the FBI director, and that will be the finalization of not just factual findings, but the next steps in this matter. [Fox News, Happening Now, 7/1/16]
Right-Wing Media Have Praised Comey’s Reputation And Ability To Investigate The Case With Impartiality
Rush Limbaugh: “James Comey … Really Is A Guy With Impeccable Integrity.” On the April 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh praised FBI Director James Comey, saying he “really is a guy with impeccable integrity, especially measured against most people in Washington.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 4/12/16]
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle: “I Trust In Jim Comey Completely.” When asked about the State Department Inspector General report on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state, The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle said she believes the FBI is going to do a “really thorough job” in their investigation and that she trusts in FBI Director James Comey “completely.” From the May 25 edition of Fox News’ The Five:
DANA PERINO (CO-HOST): Kimberly, do you think there’s any connection or any information that can be gleaned from today's IG report that might tell us what the FBI is thinking or doing?
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE (CO-HOST): I think the FBI has all of that already, so it shows you that they’re on the track, you know, they're proceeding forward. Because if the IG has it, then so does the Justice Department and the FBI. So I think this is very bad news for Hillary Clinton. And no surprise to the Justice Department. They're on top of this. You know, the FBI is really going to do a thorough job, I trust in Jim Comey completely to make sure -- and this really flies in the face and shows, lying, lying, better strip it off of Mr. Cruz, poor Mr. Cruz, and apply it to Hillary Clinton. Because she lied when she said she had the authority, and that she did nothing wrong. [Fox News, The Five, 5/25/16]
Fox Contributor George Will: “Comey Is A Big Boy.” Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will lauded Comey as a “big boy” who Will said will move “quickly” on the FBI investigation into Clinton’s email server. From the June 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:
BRET BAIER (HOST): We don't have the timing, George, but we do have these nuggets about the actual emails and the classified nature of them, and what they discussed, and the CIA personnel, and the drone operations, and more and more every day we seem to get little things that suggest that maybe there is more there.
GEORGE WILL: And we don’t have a timetable, but Director Comey of the FBI is a big boy and he’s vastly experienced in Washington, and he knows this is taking place in the context of the selection of the next chief executive, so it's inconceivable to me that they’re not going to act with more than deliberate speed on this. So much attention has been focused on this, however, that I think she stands to win big if nothing happens. That is if there is no criminal referral sent to the Justice Department, people will say this took a long time, it was extremely thorough, they found nothing. That’s the way it will be presented, this is a binary choice, yes or no. And the way it comes out is potentially very good for her. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 6/12/16]
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly: I “Trust Director Comey” And “Believe An Honest Investigation Is Being Done By The FBI.” On the March 2 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly said, “some Americans don’t trust Director Comey. Talking Points does. I believe an honest investigation is being done by the FBI.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 3/2/16]
Fox Guest David Bossie: “I Trust” Comey And “He’s A Very Squared-Away Individual.” On the May 11 edition of The O’Reilly Factor, Fox guest and president of Citizens United David Bossie said that Comey “seems like he's a very squared-away individual and I trust him.” Host Bill O’Reilly also said, “he’s an honest guy, yes.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 5/11/16, via Nexis]
Fox Contributor Arthur Aidala: “James Comey, By All Accounts, Is A Very Decent Man, He’s Very Even-Keeled.” On the April 1 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, Fox News contributor Arthur Aidala referred to FBI Director James Comey as “a very decent man, he’s very even-keeled.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 4/1/16]
Fox Legal Analyst Peter Johnson Jr.: “James Comey [Is] A Straight-Shooter And A Guy That’s Got A Great Reputation For Integrity.” Fox legal analyst and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes’ personal lawyer, Peter Johnson Jr., praised Comey, calling him “a straight-shooter and a guy that’s got a great reputation for integrity.” From the April 1 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
PETER JOHNSON JR.: Will there be any indictments at all? So it's fraught with tension in terms of the political landscape in America, and there's all kinds of rumors. One rumor is that James Comey is, in fact -- who is the head of the FBI, and a straight-shooter and a guy that’s got a great reputation for integrity -- will interview Hillary Clinton. I discount that. I don't believe he's going to put himself in that position, because he will be the ultimate decision-maker on the FBI side. There's another rumor that says, well, there's a grand jury that's already been impaneled. I don't believe that. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/1/16]
Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Andrew Napolitano: James Comey “Is A Very, Very Straight Shooter. He’s Very Apolitical.” On the April 21 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said that Comey “is a very, very straight shooter. He's very apolitical.” [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 4/21/16]
Fox’s Martha MacCallum: “James Comey Is A Very Serious Operator And A Man Who Is Respected Pretty Much Universally.” On the March 28 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum praised Director Comey for being “a very serious operator and a man who is respected pretty much universally.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 3/28/16]
Fox Guest Rudy Giuliani Agrees The FBI Is “Doing An Honest Investigation,” And Comey Is “Straight As An Arrow.” Fox host Bill O’Reilly stated that he “believe[s] the FBI is doing an honest investigation” and that Director Comey “is an honest man.” Fox guest Rudy Giuliani agreed and also said Comey is “straight as an arrow and very smart.” From the March 9 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O’REILLY (HOST): I believe the FBI is doing an honest investigation, do you believe that?
RUDY GIULIANI: Absolutely, no doubt about it.
GIULIANI: And Jim Comey was one of my assistant U.S. attorneys, and he’s --
O’REILLY: He’s an honest man.
GIULIANI: -- straight as an arrow and very smart. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 3/9/16]
Fox Guest Ron Kessler: Comey “Has An Impeccable Reputation For Integrity.” Fox host Bill O’Reilly said that he does not believe that Director Comey “is going to succumb to pressure from anybody, including Barack Obama,” to which his guest, anti-Clinton author Ronald Kessler, replied saying that Comey “has an impeccable reputation for integrity.” From the February 3 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O’REILLY (HOST): Director Comey is an interesting guy. I, myself, and I could be wrong, do not believe that this man is going to succumb to pressure from anybody, including Barack Obama. Do you know anything about him?
RONALD KESSLER: Well he has an impeccable reputation for integrity. He is the guy who threatened to resign over illegal issue in the Bush administration. And he is also a former prosecutor. So he knows exactly what's needed. I believe that he never would have authorized this investigation in the first if he didn't already believe that the FBI had evidence to indicate that she should be indicted. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 2/3/16, via Nexis]
Fox’s Chris Wallace: “Everybody I Talk To Say That [Comey] Is A Straight-Shooter, That He’s A Serious Guy, That He’s Non-Political, And … You Got To Give Him The Benefit Of The Doubt.” Host of Fox’s Fox News Sunday Chris Wallace stated that everyone he talks to says that Director Comey “is a straight shooter, that he’s a serious guy, that he’s non-political” and concluded by saying that “you got to give him the benefit of the doubt” to conduct the investigation properly. From the March 1 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:
CHRIS WALLACE: I will say that James Comey, who is the FBI director, that everybody I talk to say that he is a straight-shooter, that he’s a serious guy, that he’s non-political, and, you know, I think you got to give him the benefit of the doubt. Let's wait and see if there is a criminal referral or not. That’s a different issue than does the Justice Department take that referral and actually indict. But let me say this, if there were a criminal referral and they didn't indict, I don't think there’s any question it would get out. I suspect Comey would resign, and, in a sense, it would be even a bigger firestorm than an indictment. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 3/1/16]
Fox’s Geraldo Rivera: “I Have No Doubt That James Comey Is The Straightest Shooter In Washington, D.C.” On the February 25 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered, correspondent Geraldo Rivera stated that he has “no doubt that James Comey is the straightest shooter in Washington, D.C.” and that “[i]f there’s something there, he will recommend it for prosecution.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 2/25/16]
Sean Hannity: James Comey Is “Respected By Both Sides Of The Aisle.” Fox News host Sean Hannity said that “James Comey [is] respected on both sides of the aisle,” to which his guest, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky, replied, “If the FBI finds nothing improper took place, you're going to have to sit here and say, you know what, she's not guilty of these things she's being accused of.” From the February 4 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): All right, so this is amazing to me. So you got James Comey, respected by both sides of the aisle, alright? So he has 100 agents looking into this whole e-mail scandal. You have the inspector general of the intelligence community, appointed by a democratic President Obama, confirmed by a Democratic Senate. And then, of course, the Benghazi lie and the sniper fire Bosnia lie and the Sir Edmund Hillary lie. And everything's everybody else's fault. Is she ever to blame for anything?
JULIE ROGINSKY: But let me tell you this. You just said that Comey is respected. You, Sean, just said Comey is respected. If the FBI finds nothing improper took place, you're going to have to sit here and say, you know what, she's not guilty of these things she's being accused of. And you're not going to do that. He's only reputable if he recommends an indictment. [Fox News, Hannity, 2/4/16, via Nexis]
Fox Guest Jay Sekulow: “James Comey Is A Man Of Principle.” On the January 29 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, frequent Fox News guest Jay Sekulow said that “James Comey is a man of principle” and “a serious guy.” [Fox News, Hannity, 1/29/16, via Nexis]
Breitbart News: Comey “Seems Sincerely Dedicated To Keeping [The Investigation] Above Politics, And Has A “Law-And-Order Reputation.” A December 1, 2015 Breitbart News article stated that “FBI Director James Comey is one of the most intriguing figures in Washington today: a key official who evidently gives little thought to White House narratives before speaking his mind.” The article noted that Comey has a “law-and-order reputation” and that he “seems sincerely dedicated to keeping [the investigation] above politics.” The article also stated, “He has expressed a particular dedication for taking the protection of classified material seriously.” [Breitbart News, 12/1/15]
Right-Wing Media Have Suggested The Investigation Is Tainted If Clinton Isn’t Indicted
Lawyer Joseph DiGenova: The FBI Is Preparing To “Revolt” If Clinton Is Not Charged By The DOJ. On the January 5 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show, Joseph diGenova claimed that members of the intelligence community are “in the process of girding themselves to basically revolt against” Attorney General Loretta Lynch if she doesn't charge Clinton. DiGenova, a discredited Republican lawyer and longtime critic of the Clintons, added that Lynch wouldn't be able to survive the “massive revolt” within the FBI. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 1/5/16]
Fox's Andrea Tantaros: “I Think This Entire Administration Is In On It.” On the March 28 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Andrea Tantaros alleged that “this entire administration is in on” a cover-up, claiming, “I think the FBI will recommend charges” but “I do not believe [the Department of Justice] will indict.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 3/28/16]
Radio Host Mark Levin: “The United States Department Of Justice Under This President Is In Full Cover-Up Mode.” On the September 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity, conservative radio host Mark Levin claimed that having “the criminal side of the FBI investigating” is “not enough,” asking, “Where's the U.S. attorney general? ... Where's the special prosecutor?” He ultimately alleged that “The United States Justice Department under this president is in full cover-up mode” and claimed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) won't appoint a special prosecutor or impanel a grand jury “only because it's Hillary Clinton.” [FoxNews.com, 9/3/15]
WSJ Editorial Board: “There's Reason To Doubt” The DOJ Will Conduct The Probe With Impartiality. A February 25 Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that “there's reason to doubt” the impartiality of the Justice Department's probe because of the agency's alleged bias in the investigation into the “IRS targeting of conservative groups.” The piece also said that having a "'career' official" lead the probe “doesn't guarantee an honest investigation.” The editorial board concluded that it will “hope for the best” but speculated that an appointee of the next Republican president might have to “judge the evidence independently.” [The Wall Street Journal, 2/25/16]
Fox's Dana Perino: “If She's Not Indicted ... It Just Exposes The Rot And Corruption” People Think Exists In The System. On the March 28 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File, Fox's Dana Perino said of Clinton, “If she's not indicted ... think about that. It just exposes the rot and corruption that the people on the other side think already exists in the system.” [Fox News, The Kelly File, 3/28/16]
Commentator Ann Coulter: “There's Not Going To Be An Indictment ... Democrats Do Not Indict Democrats.” In a February 3 interview with Breitbart News, conservative commentator Ann Coulter said, "’No, there's not going to be an indictment.’” “‘Not going to happen, over.’" She continued, "’I haven't been paying attention to her particular law breaking, but I know Democrats’” and “‘Democrats do not indict Democrats.’" [Breitbart News, 2/3/16]
Fox's Jesse Watters: “They're Not Going To Bring Charges Because Obama Cares More About His Legacy Than The Law.” On the February 29 edition of The Five, Fox host Jesse Watters claimed, “Lynch isn't going to prosecute. I think that she'll be indicted, but they're not going to bring charges because Obama cares more about his legacy than the law.” [Fox News, The Five, 2/29/16]
Law Experts And Media Say Clinton Will Not Be Indicted
TPM's Josh Marshall: Experts Agree Clinton Indictment “Chatter Is Just Plain Ridiculous.” Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall reported on February 1 that law professors and former federal prosecutors have told him an indictment is a “far-fetched” idea and that “on the possibility of an indictment, most of this chatter is just plain ridiculous -- a mix of ignorance and tendentiousness.” Marshall writes, “The simple facts, as we know them, just don't put her in line for an indictment.” [Talking Points Memo, 2/1/16]
ABC News' Dan Abrams: “There Doesn't Seem To Be A Legitimate Basis For Any Sort Of Criminal Charge Against Her.” In a February 1 article, ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams debunked media claims that Clinton will be indicted over her private server usage, writing that “there is no evidence - not suppositions or partisan allegations but actual evidence - that Clinton knew that using a private email server was criminal or even improper at the time.” Abrams also refuted the claim “that the case against Clinton is eerily similar to the charges against former general David Petraeus,” stating that Clinton's situation “is nothing like that case” and “there are actually few or no similarities from a factual perspective.” Abrams concluded that “there doesn't seem to be a legitimate basis for any sort of criminal charge against her.” [ABCNews.com, 2/1/16]
NBC's Andrea Mitchell: “I Don't Think There Is Legal Culpability Here.” On the February 1 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Andrea Mitchell noted the lack of “intent” and “motive” in the FBI investigation over Clinton's email server. Mitchell said based on her intelligence community sources, there isn't “legal culpability.” [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 2/1/16]
National Law Journal's Laurie Levenson: “An Analysis Of Classified Information Laws Shows It Takes Intentional Disclosure To Get An Indictment.” The National Law Journal's Laurie Levenson noted in a September 21 piece that most criminal statutes involving classified information require “a knowing or intentional disclosure or mishandling” of the classified information. Levenson further pointed out that “it is difficult to find prior cases where the unwise handling of classified information led to a federal indictment. For the last 20 years, the federal statutes have been used when there were intentional unauthorized disclosure.” [National Law Journal, 9/21/15]
LA Times' Del Quentin Wilber: “Legal Experts Believe Clinton Faces Little Risk Of Being Prosecuted For Using The Private Email System.” A March 27 Los Angeles Times report by Del Quentin Weber stated that “legal experts believe that Clinton faces little risk of being prosecuted for using the private email system to conduct official business.” Weber reported that experts say that “using a private email system was not banned at the time, and others in government had used personal email to transact official business.” He also notes that the “chances she will be found criminally liable are low.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/27/16]
AP's Eric Tucker and Michael Biesecker: “Several Legal Experts” Agree That “It's A Stretch” To Say That Clinton Could Be Indicted. In a March 22 article, Eric Tucker and Michael Biesecker of the Associated Press reported that “several legal experts” said that “it's a stretch” to apply “laws that govern the handling of classified materials” to Clinton's email use, pointing out that Clinton's “communication of sensitive materials was with aides -- not a national enemy.” [Associated Press, 3/22/16]
Former Homeland Security Classification Expert: “There Is No Reason To Think Clinton Committed Any Crimes With Respect To The Use Of Her Email Server.” In a March 21 piece for The American Prospect, Richard Lempert -- a University of Michigan professor of law and sociology and a former Department of Homeland Security classification expert -- said that thus far there's “no reason to think that Clinton committed any crimes with respect to the use of her email server, including her handling of classified information.” [The American Prospect, March 2016; Media Matters, 3/21/16]
Former House Judiciary Officials: “There Is Clearly No Evidence Of Any Kind Of Crime.” In an August 23 column for USA Today, former counsels to the House Judiciary Committee Julian Epstein and Sam Sokol said there is “clearly no evidence of any kind of crime” committed by Clinton through the use of her private email server. The article noted, “receiving or transmitting information that was not known to be classified at the time also was not a crime. This is true even if the information was mislabeled or misclassified.” [USA Today, 8/23/15]
New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin: “This Is Not Now A Criminal Matter, And There Is No Realistic Possibility It Will Turn Into One.” In an August 18 article, New Yorker staff writer and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin noted, “Criminal violations for mishandling classified information all have intent requirements” and there is “no evidence she” knew the information was classified and disclosed it on purpose to “an unauthorized person.' Toobin concluded, ” This is not now a criminal matter, and there is no realistic possibility it will turn into one." [The New Yorker, 8/18/15]