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Straining To Attack Clinton, ‘New York Times’ And Trey Gowdy Deliver Libya Squib

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Straining To Attack Clinton, ‘New York Times’ And Trey Gowdy Deliver Libya Squib


Once more, The New York Times serves as a bulletin board for partisan attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton – today by publishing a muddled, pointless “investigation” of journalist Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton advisor and friend who served in the White House during President Clinton’s second term. It can serve only to justify the ongoing but fruitless existence of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, whose leaking staff served as the story’s primary source.

Reporters Nicholas Confessore and Michael S. Schmidt strain very hard to suggest impropriety in a series of memos about Libya that Blumenthal shared with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State. Rather than producing anything solid, however, what they deliver is flatulent. Their story’s forced, conspiratorial tone and gassy substance are inexplicable, unless they hope readers will assume that Blumenthal was trying to advance a private interest — without a shred of evidence to prove it.

Was it wrong, as the Times story insinuates, for Blumenthal to share information he had received on Libya from his friends or “business associates” with Secretary Clinton? If so, every Cabinet member in every administration, dating back to the beginning of the Republic, surely belongs in the dock.

Yet in order to hint at wrongdoing, the convoluted Times story fails to explain a very basic fact to readers: Nothing in the memos that Blumenthal provided to Clinton discussed any Libyan business or humanitarian project– and by the way, Blumenthal (who I should disclose is a longtime personal friend and colleague of mine) never made a dime related to Libya in any way. He received no payment from his friends, Tyler Drumheller and Cody Shearer, or from any of the other figures mentioned in the Times story, who hoped to provide hospital beds and other needed services in the wake of Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster.

Nor did Blumenthal’s duties as a consultant to the Clinton Foundation, which chiefly involved conferences, speeches, and books relevant to the former president’s legacy, have any bearing on Libya matters.

The Times also obscures the fact that nothing Clinton did with Blumenthal’s memos can be construed negatively either, although again the Times reporters strain for such inferences. Just as Blumenthal anticipated, she routed them through official channels at State, where they were undoubtedly recorded on government servers. There is nothing more sinister to this episode.

But the overarching context is still Benghazi, a topic so far examined by 10 separate official inquiries, including several on Capitol Hill, since the tragic attack on the U.S. consulate there in September 2012. None of those inquiries has found any wrongdoing by Clinton, but congressional Republicans continue to misuse millions of taxpayer dollars to sustain “Benghazi!” as a partisan rallying point.

In this instance Republican staffers on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), plainly leaked several Clinton emails to the Times. Aside from a shared animus against Clinton, the Republicans presumably turned to the paper of record in frustration that their probe is headed nowhere – and perhaps because the State Department announced this week that it will not release the former Secretary’s 30,000 official emails until next January 15.

The misbehavior of Gowdy and his staff is particularly odious because Blumenthal’s emails on Libya are almost entirely irrelevant to the Select Committee’s supposed concerns. Moreover, as noted today by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking minority member of the committee, Gowdy’s decision to subpoena Blumenthal is extraordinary and violates several precepts of normal congressional order.

To peruse this puzzling article is to wonder whether Confessore and Schmidt (as well as several other Times staffers who participated in its reporting) have nothing better to do. Gawker first posted the Blumenthal emails in 2013, after gaining access to them via Guccifer, the jailed Romanian hacker now under indictment by the Justice Department. As the FBI seems to recognize, Blumenthal was the victim, not the perp.

Last March Jeff Gerth, the former Times reporter famous for scooping Whitewater and Wen Ho Lee, reprised the Gawker story at Pro Publica, reviving his stale vendetta against the Clintons and their friends. (The enlightening tale of Gerth’s role in Whitewater – including his dubious effort to spin Justice Department officials on behalf of the pseudo-scandal’s right-wing promoters  – can be found in our new e-book The Hunting of Hillary, available free from The National Memo.)

Exactly what is the news value in today’s Times story? The reporting is unimpressive, to put it politely: Seeking to denigrate the information provided to Clinton in the Blumenthal memos, Confessore and Schmidt describe them as “aping the style of official government intelligence reports but without assessments of the motives of sources,” and conclude with a damning quote from a former CIA official: “The sourcing is pretty sloppy, in a way that would never pass muster if it were the work of a reports officer at a U.S. intelligence agency.”

Actually, while those reports were emailed to Clinton by Blumenthal, their author was Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of CIA covert operations in Europe – a salient fact the Times reporters should have learned from the Gawker posts that inspired them. Did they conceal it to hype their story?

Certainly, Nick Confessore has come far since his stint at The Washington Monthly, a publication unafraid to castigate weak journalism wherever it appeared (including the Times). Describing jaded attitudes in Washington, Confessore complained in the Monthly’s December 2002 issue that capital elites often behaved as if criticizing the right too sharply was “gauche.”

The only worse offense inside the Beltway, he wrote, “is to defend a politician too persistently; then you become not a bore, but a disgrace to the profession and its independence — even if you’re correct [emphasis added]. Thus…The New York Observer’s Joe Conason, who vigorously defended the Clintons during the now-defunct Whitewater affair, is derided as shrill and embarrassing.”

So Confessore has long known that Whitewater, a witch-hunt provoked by Times “investigative reporting,” was arrant bullshit — and that anybody who said so too often and too loudly would be punished by the Clinton-hating establishment in D.C., including the Times’ Washington bureau. His current efforts show how well he learned to avoid that fate.

Photo: House GOP via Flickr

Joe Conason

A highly experienced journalist, author and editor, Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo, founded in July 2011. He was formerly the executive editor of the New York Observer, where he wrote a popular political column for many years. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate and his reporting and writing have appeared in many publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and Harpers.

Since November 2006, he has served as editor of The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit journalism center, where he has assigned and edited dozens of award-winning articles and broadcasts. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Hunting of the President (St. Martins Press, 2000) and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (St. Martins Press, 2003).

Currently he is working on a new book about former President Bill Clinton's life and work since leaving the White House in 2001. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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  1. Dominick Vila May 19, 2015

    The only conclusions that can be reached from the constant focus on the personal lives and professional record of the Clintons are that (1) the GOP depends strictly on negativism to remain viable, and (2) that its accomplices, including much of the media, will stop at nothing to cast an illusion of wrongdoing where none exists. From Benghazi, to the e-mail scandal, to the absurd criticisms of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s financial successes, everything we hear are claims without evidence to support them, embarrassing criticisms that reflect more on the accusers than the accused, and unequivocal evidence of libelous claims being used as part of a political strategy to destroy opponents, in lieu of a record, solutions, or vision.

    1. BOC May 21, 2015

      “….negativism to remain viable” = No foundation.

      “…..cast an illusion of wrongdoing where none exists” = No citations or references.

      “….in lieu of a record, solutions, or vision” = Nothing ever constructive.

    2. dpaano July 7, 2015

      It’s the GOP way!!! Lies and scare tactics!

  2. browninghipower May 20, 2015

    You’re one of the few with guts, Joe. The Times continues to embarrass itself-indeed, to disgrace itself. Cheerleading the Iraq War, Whitewater, Benghazi, Judith Miller, the smears of Hillary, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks…it seems they’ve never recovered from being scooped by the Post on Watergate. Such a pity….

    1. BOC May 21, 2015

      Daddy ‘Punch,’ didn’t pound ethics of journalism into his son. As a result, Roger Ailes got a hold of him and the rest is……………..

  3. Venu Menon May 20, 2015

    Joe, my respect for you has hit immeasurable heights after your appearance on Scarborough’s show this morning. His hypocrisy is normally apparent on every topic he covers. In the discussion about Hillary Clinton’s emails and the fact that she did pretty much what other SoS have done before her, you held your ground. And, that too, in spite of Scarborough’s attempts to bully, to mischaracterize your points and to constantly distract the viewer from your message through frequent interruptions and comments from his gallery of fools. Bravo to you.

    1. BOC May 21, 2015

      He persevered because all the while, he recited Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ throughout the Scarborough and his minion’s, rant.

    2. BOC May 21, 2015

      He kept reciting ‘If’ by Kipling, during the whole Scarborough rant, that’s how he endured it.

  4. FireBaron May 20, 2015

    What ever happened to “The Gray Lady” that we all grew up and respected? Has she succumbed to the tabloid journalism of its Murdoch owned competitors? Has its editorial board lost all semblance of fairness? It’s almost like “All the news that’s fit to print” has suddenly become “All the junk that fits the print”. Maybe if they spent more time actually reviewing what is supposed to be news, and if it doesn’t answer the five “Ws” relegating it to the OpEd pages, they may start earning the respect back they used to hold.

    1. BOC May 21, 2015

      Maybe “Punch” Sulzberger didn’t punch junior hard enough when it came to journalism ethics. Or did he make the mistake of letting Roger Ailes influence him?

    2. dpaano July 7, 2015

      The problem is that the conservatives have bought out all the newspapers and media that used to be bipartisan!

  5. The lucky one May 20, 2015

    Forget all the BS and non-stories generated by the GOP’s propaganda machine. Instead focus on HC’s apparent support of the TPP, her coziness with wall street bankers and her long standing imperialist bent. Vote for Sanders.

    1. jmprint May 20, 2015

      No I don’t think so, I like Barney, but not for President.

      1. The lucky one May 20, 2015

        Your choice of course, so you support the TPP and perpetual war, or are you voting for a 3rd party candidate?

        1. jmprint May 20, 2015

          I’m with Hillary until I know more, how can I say I if I support the TTP, I don’t think we should send our children over there to appease ISIS, that is what they want us to do, they get more pleasure out of killing American then other muslims. I am probably still sticking with Hillary.

          1. BOC May 21, 2015

            Republicans are cowards and are never responsible or held accountable for a thing. They are too selfish and cannot be trusted.

          2. jmprint May 21, 2015


        2. BOC May 21, 2015

          No! I do not support the TPP, but one item doesn’t stop the show when looking at the plethora of problems and issues on the other side.

          The GOP seems hard pressed when it comes to presenting solutions to problems and programs. As for facts, you can’t believe anything they say.

    2. plc97477 May 20, 2015

      I would rather vote for someone who has a chance thank you.

      1. The lucky one May 20, 2015

        Everyone has a chance. Personally Id rather vote for someone that will give our country and it’s citizens a chance.

        1. BOC May 21, 2015

          He’s already sitting in the white house. All you need for your dream to come true is for your people to stop obstructing and get the &^# out of the way.

          1. The lucky one May 21, 2015

            You must be kidding. What has this president done for the citizens? Please don’t say the ACA which has admittedly helped some but has hurt others and most of all just been a windfall for pharmaceutical and insurance companies. I don’t know who you mean by “your people”. Why do you think that everyone who sees the con this president is pulling as part of the GOP obstructionist group?

          2. BOC May 21, 2015

            Wake-up. Despite Obstructionism the economic data speaks for itself since the days of W. Bush recessionism. As for ACA, seventeen million people enrolled and counting. Now all these people can’t be wrong and you, right. There was never a question of a windfall for pharmaceutical and insurance companies. They will always be a part of the equation. Let’s see how long you would live without a heart.

            ACA was (is) always a health care program that requires ‘continuous improvement’ and constant amendments to its policies which have always been welcomed by all political parties. The trouble is, republicans have wasted all of their time trying to destroy (50+times)this program, instead of improving it. So, in their failed attempts at destroying PPACA, they are now relying on SCOTUS to amend and dismantle King v. Burwell.

            Being a gambler was never a respectable occupation.

          3. The lucky one May 21, 2015

            First off, you can say anything bad about republicans and I will most likely agree with you. If I was able I’d have Bush and his whole cohort in prison.
            Hmmm, 17 mil enrolled, you say that as if they had a choice. No, huge profits for ins. and pharma do not have to be part of the equation. Single payer is the best option for the people but oh that’s right, that can never happen. Maybe not, but we’ll never know since no president has ever seriously tried to make it happen.
            Your statement about my heart is absurd. No government or medical corp. gave me my heart and although medical science can work wonders it is my responsibility to keep myself healthy with exercise, diet, stress mgt. etc.
            I think you are the one who needs to wake up regarding the economy and stop believing all the propaganda about how well it is doing. (Well it is doing well for those at the top) I don’t blame Obama for that but I do blame him for the lack of prosecution of the banksters who created the recession. But I guess that would be awkward when he is having dinner with his good buddies the offshore king Immelt and Jamie “Capone” Dimon.

          4. BOC May 21, 2015

            “….regarding the economy and stop believing all the propaganda about how well it is doing?”

            I never said anything about how well the economy is doing. I said it’s doing much better now than it was under W. Bush. In order for it to be doing well, we all need to be benefitting that’s the American way. But this can’t happen as long as republicans are still practicing obstructionism.

          5. BOC May 21, 2015

            “I don’t blame Obama for that but I do blame him for the lack of prosecution of the banksters who created the recession. But I guess that would be awkward when he is having dinner with his good buddies the offshore king Immelt and Jamie “Capone” Dimon?”

            I didn’t buy into that “too big to fail” mantra either. I thought something smelled ‘ funky,’ when SEC, Treasury and DOJ, took a pass on ‘tar and feathering’ the banksters. This should have started under ‘W’ Bush in my opinion. I also thought that Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo should have went to jail and Bank of America should not have been forced to buy them once they discovered their huge liability. It just didn’t make business sense. I wasn’t happy with DOJ not looking into this and SEC just telling Sam to take the hit through a cash penalty. There was something also unsavory about the way Ken Lewis ran B of A, after CEO, Hugh McColl.

            How was it that Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were ‘deep-sixth,’ and Goldman Sach’s (Lloyd Blankfein salary North of $50 (M)) and still swimming in his spoils today. Geithner, now running Warburg/Pincus what a boys club. We’re not letting Hank Paulson off the hook, either.

          6. The lucky one May 21, 2015

            We agree more than disagree though I see HC as just more of the same old crooked politics. I also think Obama has governed poorly though I’ll admit he hasn’t committed treason yet like Bush did with Iraq and like the boneheads in congress who tried to block diplomacy in Iran. It’s funny I was almost starting to think Obama wasn’t as bad as he seemed, apart from being a drone warrior, but this TPP debacle he is trying to ram down our throats is reminiscent of Bush tactics.
            Anyway, peace, we of the 99% have got to come together or we are all doomed.

          7. BOC May 21, 2015

            Look! I feel the same way you do about Big Pharma and the Insurance carpetbagger’s, but what are you going to do when government is operating on this ‘too big to fail’ mantra, which I thought was a bunch of baloney. DOJ/SES/TREASURY should’ve bit the bullet on this one but Geithner cried foul if we tried to pursue that course of correction based on the economic condition of our country at the time. You can thank the ‘cowboy’.

          8. BOC May 29, 2015

            Check out the Canadian Health Care system and get back to me.

          9. The lucky one May 21, 2015

            I get your point about gambling. Vote for Bernie and it’s a gamble because he is a longshot. Vote for Hilary and you know exactly what you will get, more of the same imperialism, pandering to the 1%, sacrificing the environment to energy companies and further erosion of our civil rights (just what you would expect from a republican).

          10. BOC May 21, 2015

            Power and influence through diplomacy was something Hillary Clinton did for our country. Imperialism was something practiced by the W. Bush administration via foreign relations and military force in Iraq and Afghanistan, simultaneously to the tune of $trillions.

          11. BOC May 21, 2015

            Let us see you support this with citations. Because right now all we’re getting is propaganda.

          12. BOC May 29, 2015

            PPACA, Jobs, Economic turn-around, etc…….the list goes on.

          13. dpaano July 7, 2015

            The list is too long to put on this post…..but apparently, you would discredit it anyway!

          14. The lucky one July 7, 2015

            Try me, just 3-4 of what you see as the most significant will do. Meanwhile on the other side of the ledger we have murder by drone, persecution of whistleblowers, a health plan that primarily benefits pharma, ins. co, hospitals, TPP, failure to prosecute banksters etc. etc.
            Don’t get me wrong Bush/Cheney was a debacle.

          15. The lucky one July 7, 2015

            Oh and the “economic turnaround” is overstated. Wait until the can can’t be kicked any further down the road with money printing then get back to me.

  6. AlfredSonny May 20, 2015

    Republicans use hypotheses;
    Democrats use facts.

  7. FT66 May 20, 2015

    Didn’t Trey Gowdy recently say he can’t have a hearing with Hillary because there are no documents available? What about those Hillary e-mails he leaked to New York Times? This man has no shame at all.

  8. bobnstuff May 20, 2015

    The Republicans can’t run on their record since they have done nothing to run on so the have to try to discredit those who have done something. To many media outlets are
    accomplices in this effort. I guess all that money that is being spent with them has bought their voice. Unlimited money in politics goes to almost wholly to the media. Not only does all that money buy the government but also our news sources.

    1. dpaano July 7, 2015

      You can’t believe anything you read in the media these days!!!

  9. Joseph R. Davis May 20, 2015

    Welcome to the Gowdy Doody Show, with Gowdy and his sidekick Buffalo Buck, and Cottonmouth the Clown.

    1. prenestino May 20, 2015

      “Gowdy Doody Show” Love it. Hopefully it will stick

  10. 1Zoe55 May 20, 2015

    Gowdy’s focus on Benghazi (along with other right-wing folks) is misplaced. None of them (NONE) have ever served or even been posted to North Africa. I doubt if most of them can even find this area on a map, much less speak Magrebian Arabic. Why not focus instead on 9-11, an attack that incinerated more than 3,000 innocent men, women and children? Is Benghazi their catch phrase used to hurt Clinton? If so, it’s their own circular firing squad because they succeed in discrediting themselves.

    1. dpaano July 7, 2015

      Am reading a good book by Vincent Bugliosi entited “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.” I wish one of these attorneys general from states that lost men and women in GWB’s ridiculous war WOULD prosecute him for murder. Bugliosi would make a great prosecutor as he has all the facts to put GWB, Cheney, Rice and Rove in jail for life for the loss of 100,000 men and women, American and Iraqi alike! Great book…highly recommend it, but it’ll really make you mad when you hear all the lies and BS that we were given to justify GWB’s war against Sadaam!!!

  11. Eleanore Whitaker May 20, 2015

    Gowdy has been a GOP member of Congress for 3 years. He is not mature enough mentally to have any serious position on Benghazi.

    But, since Hillary is their most feared target, the GOP daily designs, manufactures and engineers one scandal after another. The joke is, the GOP thinks someone, anyone will buy these attacks.

    If you thought their hatchet job of Obama was bad, If Hillary wins in 2016? Prepare for a major bunch of rebels going after what they consider a Yankee president.

    These idiots don’t know their butts from their elbows.

    1. jmprint May 21, 2015

      But unlike President Obama, Hillary WILL put them in their place.

      1. Eleanore Whitaker May 21, 2015

        Hillary is not bi-racial. The only people in the US who deny the racial stereotypes of black men are those who do the most to keep them evergreen.

        You know as well as I do, had President Obama started his presidency as the leader he is, the first words out of McConnell and the good ole boys mouths would have been, “Arrogant black man.” For the past 6 1/2 years, these men of the plantation mentalities have let two quarts of blood from each wrist in their desperation to prove White Male Supremacy over President Obama. Every action the GOP has taken in these 6 1/2 years was specifically intended to prove that NO black man or bi-racial man can possibly be the ultimate, quintessential leader only a White Male and mostly only from the south or midwest can be.

        Hillary will predictably have the one problem women since Neanderthal days have had to endure: Male double standards. Any woman who lies and says she has never experienced this is either a hooker or a submissive plantation magnolia.

        1. jmprint May 21, 2015

          Don’t get me wrong I think President Obama is, and history will show has been one of the best President for our country. She will have to deal with the past mentalities, but women have come a long way baby. The problem in the past is that nobody calls out the liars, especially the media. I feel this is where she has one up. With her experience and knowledge I can hardly wait for the debates.

          1. Eleanore Whitaker May 21, 2015

            Nobody calls out liars because all people lie at one point or another. The odd thing about lying is that facts that can be proven are truth some would rather hang by their toes than admit. Why this fear of telling the truth should be so fearful is a mystery to me.

            Hillary is a woman. All women know they have little to lose by calling their opposition’s bluff. This is precisely what Hillary will do. She may allow them now to get away with libel and slander. But, she will retaliate in the harshest way possible when the time is right. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned or not.

  12. Julieann Wozniak May 20, 2015

    That all they got? Bored already. There really is no “there” there. give it a rest!

  13. midway54 May 20, 2015

    Ah yes, the plutocrats adore this guy Gowdy from the backwater state of South Carolina, Now we have its little warhawk Graham who thinks he should be president because, as he puts it, the world is falling apart. If this guy should very unlikely occupy the White House, then he will exacerbate that status rather than saving us all.

  14. elw May 20, 2015

    The only Benghazi scandal we have are the multiple investigations over it and the cost that will come out of the tax payers pockets. It all reminds me of the Bill impeachment process, just a witch hunt searching for something, anything that will take him down. Isn’t the definitions of “Stupid” doing the same failed thing over and over again?

    1. plc97477 May 20, 2015

      The definition of insanity. also fits.

      1. elw May 20, 2015

        HA, the whole thing is crazy.

  15. johninPCFL May 20, 2015

    Where was Gowdy when GWB had 13 separate attacks on consulates and embassies (with 33 killed)?

    1. BOC May 21, 2015

      His head was in the sand.

      1. dpaano July 7, 2015

        Or up somewhere else…..

  16. Brian Loudermilch May 20, 2015

    That Newspaper is Named Wrong. In the interest of journalistic accuracy they should change the name to The New York Slimes.

  17. Trey Gowdy is a poor excuse for a human being.

  18. BOC May 21, 2015

    Rather than producing anything solid, they continue to produce a bunch of crap, oops flatulence, as usual after more than a decade. It was very wrong, as the Times story
    insinuates, for Blumenthal to leak meaningless information he had received on Libya
    from his friends or “business associates” on Secretary Clinton with the sole intention to discredit her political ethics. This slanderous attempt is not standard operating procedure in tactics and gamesmanship only used by republican politicians.

    Congressional Republicans continue to misuse millions of taxpayer dollars to sustain “Benghazi!” as a partisan rallying point. I thought we got rid of Darryl Issa for
    wasting time and taxpayer dollars. Apparently, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) didn’t get the memo from House Majority Leader, John Boehner.

  19. Calvinius July 31, 2015

    The New York Times holds the Clintons to a different standard than anyone else. That is to say, when the Clintons get accused of wrongdoing, the normal standards of evidence don’t apply, mere accusation is good enough for the claim to be given credence.


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