Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
Right-wing media outlets are falsely claiming that a Justice Department official tied to John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, is “overseeing” the FBI’s review of emails that may be tied to the investigation into her use of a private server as secretary of state. Their claims are based solely on the fact that the official sent a letter to Congress about the review. In fact, the official in question leads the FBI’s Office of Legislative Affairs, and in that capacity he is responsible for communications with Congress, not active investigations.
The story appears to originate with Gateway Pundit author Jim Hoft, who is notoriously stupid but nonetheless provides a ready pipeline to other conservative outlets. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) poured cold water on the theory during an interview, pointing out that the official in question “is not a decision-maker, he is a messenger.”
FBI Director James Comey released a letter to congressional leaders on October 28 stating that the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the” probe into Clinton’s private server and was reviewing them to “assess their importance to our investigation.” On October 29, several Democratic senators sent a letter to Comey and to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking them to promptly provide “more detailed information.”
On October 31, Peter J. Kadzik, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, responded to those senators on Lynch’s behalf, writing that the Justice Department will “continue to work closely with the FBI and together, dedicate all necessary resources and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible.”
That evening, Hoft authored a post headlined, “IT’S RIGGED => Podesta DOJ Pal Peter Kadzik Is Heading Hillary Email Probe,” contrasting the October 31 letter with mentions of Kadzik in the emails hacked from Podesta, allegedly on behalf of the Russian government. He concluded, “We all know how this will end. Hillary will walk. It’s rigged.”
In fact, responding to congressional inquiries — and not overseeing investigations — is Kadzik’s job. He leads the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs, which “advises and assists Department leadership on a wide variety of congressional matters; advocates for the Department’s legislative priorities; and responds to congressional inquiries and oversight requests” and helps prepare department witnesses for congressional testimony.
The story quickly spread to Fox News, where Gowdy, one of the leading congressional investigators of Clinton, shot it down. On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy commented that he “was noticing on some of the blogs this morning” that Kadzik has ties to Podesta and asked Gowdy if he was concerned. Gowdy replied that he didn’t think it was relevant because “Peter Kadzik doesn’t make these decisions; they are made at the top of the DOJ.” He added, “Peter Kadzik is not a decision-maker, he is a messenger.”
Doocy has repeatedly highlighted fabricated stories based on Hoft’s “reporting.” Fox News has a documented pattern of offering news reports based on Internet rumors that turn out to be false. In January 2007, after Doocy retracted his false assertion that then-Sen. Barack Obama “was educated in a madrassa,” then-Fox News vice president for news John Moody, reportedly said in a memo to Fox News staff: “For the record: seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC. The urgent queue is our way of communicating information that is air-worthy. Please adhere to this.”
IMAGE: John Podesta, campaign chairman for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, boards her campaign plane in White Plains, New York, U.S., September 27, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder