Comey in new book: Clinton campaign misled media over ‘criminal’ FBI investigation

April 15, 2018

Comey in new book: Clinton campaign misled media over ‘criminal’ FBI investigation Gage Skidmore / CCL

Throughout the FBI probe examining Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server to transmit classified data, investigators played word games designed to downplay the seriousness of the offense. Instead of an “investigation,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch instructed the FBI to refer to the probe as a “matter,” and when then-FBI Director James Comey concluded the inquiry, he said that Mrs. Clinton was “extremely careless” instead of using the term “grossly negligent” used in an earlier draft of his statement.

Now, it is being reported that even some of the biggest publications in the country were forced to alter their characterization of Clinton’s crimes to get in line with the demands of her campaign. Excerpts from Comey’s highly anticipated book assert that The New York Times should have never responded to complaints from the Clinton campaign by changing the term “criminal referral” to “security referral” to describe the Justice Department’s investigation.

An undue retraction

During the earliest stages of the FBI’s email investigation, the Times reported that State Department and intelligence agency inspectors general had issued a “criminal referral” related to the possible mishandling of classified information. At the time, this report was considered a “blockbuster” story since Clinton was considered the Democratic Party front-runner in the upcoming race for the presidency.

In response to the exclusive Times report and the dozens of stories it inspired, the Clinton camp excoriated journalists and questioned the integrity of reporters. The Clinton campaign called the article an “erroneous story” filled with “egregious” oversights designed to convince voters that she was the subject of a criminal investigation.

Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri issued a nearly 2,000-word complaint about the newspaper’s characterization of the referral, insisting that Clinton was not being personally investigated and that the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) review did not constitute a criminal probe. The left-leaning Times obediently answered Clinton’s complaints by issuing a full-throated retraction, writing:

An article in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state referred incorrectly, using information from senior government officials, to the request. It was a “security referral,” pertaining to possible mishandling of classified information, officials said, not a “criminal referral.”

Even the Times‘ public editor Margaret Sullivan, established as an internal and independent watchdog who works outside the publication’s newsroom, sheepishly denied that the paper used “multiple, reliable, highly placed sources” to reach their conclusions, instead maintaining that her “sense is that final confirmation came from the same person more than once.”

“Competitive pressure and the desire for a scoop led to too much speed and not enough caution,” Sullivan incorrectly assumed.

Retracting a retraction?

Only a liberal politician could inspire such apologetic soul-searching from mainstream journalists. In fact, Palmieri admitted to being “surprised” that the Times never pushed back when the criminal investigation was made public and their initial reporting was verified.

Even the Justice Department was in lock-step with the Clinton campaign, issuing a trenchant response to the Times’ report by stating unequivocally that the IG investigation was not a criminal referral. But this partisan cooperation from the DOJ is hardly surprising, given the evidence indicating that Lynch knew in advance that Clinton would ultimately be exonerated by the FBI probe.

Writing in his memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, Comey insists that the retractions were misleading because the FBI was, in fact, conducting a criminal investigation of Clinton. The disgraced former FBI director wrote:

Though The Times may have thought those clarifications were necessary, their original story was much closer to the mark. It was true that the transmission to the F.B.I. from the inspector general did not use the word “criminal,” but by the time of the news story, we had a full criminal investigation open, focused on the secretary’s conduct.

When asked why the FBI did not challenge Clinton’s outraged response to the Times story, Comey said that it was not yet appropriate to confirm the investigation. “Still, the bitterly fought episode, parsing word choices, was only a small taste of what was to come, and many within the F.B.I. knew it,” he wrote.

Times’ executive editor, Dean Baquet, said after he was asked to comment that “Mr. Comey’s account speaks for itself.”

The Times has yet to retract their retraction and stand by their reporters, thereby vindicating what was an objective story. But that’s a predictable response from a leftist publication which historically bolsters Democratic candidates. The New York Times was never concerned about being fair and balanced, and that has been proven true once again. 


Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is a regular contributor at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Yahoo News.