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Predictably, Right-Wing Media Misuse IG Report To Fabricate Attacks On Mueller

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

 

Less than 24 hours after the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) inspector general (IG) released a long-awaited report on the department’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, President Donald Trump’s allies in the media are already using the report to call for special counsel Robert Mueller’s removal. The IG report clearly states that its investigation “found no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations”; and yet, the president’s sycophants in right-wing media are spinning the report to claim that “anything that Mueller is doing” in his probe of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia “is tainted” by the IG’s findings.

On June 14, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz released a report on the DOJ’s actions during the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. According to the report, the IG found, among other things, that former FBI Director James Comey was “insubordinate” in his handling of the case; that he violated department policy by publicly discussing the investigation; and that two FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, exchanged disparaging texts about Trump, with one text from Strzok reading, “We’ll stop” Trump from becoming president. While Horowitz severely criticized Comey, Strzok, and Page for their conduct, the inspector general concluded that there was “no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, [the IG] concluded that they were based on the prosecutors’ assessment of the facts, the law, and past Department practice.”

Even though the IG report focused only on the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server and had nothing to do with the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, and even though it found that there was no evidence of bias in the FBI determination, the president’s defenders on Fox News and in conservative media are still twisting themselves into knots to try to use the IG report as a reason to call for Mueller’s removal. On the June 14 edition of Hannity, a panel of four of Trump’s staunchest defenders shouted about how the report “taint[s] the entire Mueller investigation”:

And the following morning on the June 15 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade argued that the Mueller investigation is “contaminated” by the IG’s findings:

The reaction from Trump’s sycophants in conservative media is unsurprising, considering that they preemptively laid the groundwork to discredit the IG’s report. But, even as conservative media continue their convoluted and disingenuous calls for Mueller’s removal, the special counsel’s investigation continues, racking up numerous indictments, one of which resulted in Trump’s former campaign manager having his bail revoked, landing him in federal prison until his trial.

What Fox News Covered Instead Of Kushner’s Security Downgrade

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

President Donald Trump’s favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, has all but ignored multiple noteworthy stories regarding potential criminal conduct by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner. Since the morning of February 28, Fox News’ flagship morning show has spent a grand total of 22 seconds discussing Kushner’s downgraded security clearance while entirely avoiding three other bombshell reports about him.

On February 27, The New York Times reported that Kushner, who has had access to some of the country’s most sensitive classified documents, including the presidential daily brief, had “been stripped of his top-secret security clearance after months of delays in completing his background check.” According to the Times, Kushner had been one of “dozens of top White House officials who had been operating on interim security clearances for many months because of issues in completing their F.B.I. background checks.”

On the same day, The Washington Post reported that foreign governments “have privately discussed ways they can manipulate [Kushner] … by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.” According to the Post’s report, “Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico.”

On February 28, The New York Times published a report that Kushner’s family real estate company had secured millions of dollars in business loans from Citigroup and Apollo Global Management after Kushner, a senior adviser to the president of the United States, met with the leaders of both companies at the White House. According to the Times report, while meeting with Joshua Harris, the founder of Apollo, “the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris,” though a “job never materialized.”

Finally, on March 2, The Intercept reported that Kushner’s family business “made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio.” According to the report, “The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors.”

While Fox & Friends failed to spend significant time on any of these stories, the hosts managed to find time to fit in segments about:

A pamphlet at Kennesaw State University in Georgia

“Mega Morning Deals” on items including an oil-less fryer, Bluetooth beacons, and cashmere scarves

Uncle Jack’s steak empire expanding!

A congressional candidate who smoked marijuana in a political ad

People complaining about The View host Joy Behar

Funny videos captured by home security cameras

An actor starring in a new faith-based movie

Two Fox News anchors going skydiving

And Tomi Lahren complaining about Jimmy Kimmel

Methodology

Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of the word “Kushner” and “Jared” on Fox News’ Fox & Friends between February 28 and March 2.

How The Right-Wing Media Helped Trump Voters Warm Up To Putin

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

A new YouGov/Economist poll found that among registered Republicans and Trump voters, more than a third now hold a “favorable” view of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Though a majority still view Putin negatively, right-wing media — which spent years holding Putin up as a “better leader” than President Barack Obama — set the stage for Republican opinions to shift in the autocrat’s favor, leading to a nearly 50-point swing in support from conservatives in just over two years. And after the United States intelligence community publicly disclosed that its members believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election, many right-wing media figures doubled down on their support for Putin and are downplaying Russia’s involvement in the election.

Putin is an authoritarian “strongman” who has cracked down in Russia on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, signed into law draconian anti-gay legislation, and invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, part of Ukraine. Nevertheless, for years, right-wing media have praised Vladimir Putin as a great leader, comparing him favorably against Obama.

Fox figures have consistently lauded the Russian autocrat as “a real he-man” and have claimed that Putin has “come to the diplomatic rescue” of President Obama. One Fox host even went so far as to proclaim that she would like Putin to be president of the United States “for 48 hours,” so he could fight ISIS. In 2014, conservative commentator Pat Buchanan suggested that Putin is “one of us” and applauded him for “planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity” with his policies against reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights — evidence, Buchanan suggested, that God is on Putin’s side in his clash with the West. Even conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh once admitted that Putin was “saying things I agree with” when the Russian president announced that he “opposed the adoption of Russian orphans by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender foreign couples.”

Primed by right-wing media, Trump voters now hold a more positive view of Putin and Russia. Since July 2014, Republican voters’ opinions overall of Putin have improved by 56 points, and in 2016 they voted for a candidate in Trump who is openly sympathetic to the autocrat and even invited his government to hack personal emails from Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. According to the poll, 35 percent of Trump voters and 37 percent of registered Republicans now hold a “favorable” view of Putin.

Now, even though the U.S. intelligence community has stated that its members are “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,” some right-wing media are siding with Putin and downplaying the severity of the hacks. Security experts have characterized the Russian interference in the 2016 election as “Watergate 2.0” and “a concern to all those who share democratic values,” but the president-elect, who has consistently been enabled by those same conservative media figures, insists the claims of Russian interference are “just another excuse” and that he does not “believe it.” It seems, that right-wing media will follow Trump’s lead and continue to use Putin’s personality to advance partisan goals over the national security of the United States.

FBI Director’s Letter Receives Criticism From Across The Political Spectrum

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Media figures from across the political spectrum are criticizing FBI Director James Comey for defying Justice Department rules and precedent to issue a short and vague letter informing Congress that the Bureau had obtained and was seeking to review emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. The journalists and pundits called the timing of Comey’s letter “unfortunate, given its potential to affect a democratic process in which millions of people are already voting,” with some going so far as to say Comey’s letter “both disgraces and politicizes the FBI.”

Breaking Rules And Precedent, FBI Director James Comey Informs Congress Of Discovery Of Emails Potentially “Pertinent” To Clinton Email Investigation

Comey Letter: FBI Reviewing Additional “Emails That Appear To Be Pertinent To The Investigation” Of Clinton’s Use Of Private Email Server, “Cannot Yet Assess Whether Or Not This Material May Be Significant.” In his three-paragraph October 28 letter to congressional leaders, Comey wrote that “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” and is is taking “appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.” He added that the “FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete.” [The New York Times10/28/16]

Yahoo News: Comey Unaware Of Contents Of Emails Because FBI Has Yet To Review Them, May Not Contain New Material. Yahoo News reported on October 29 that at the time of the letter, “Comey and other senior FBI officials were not aware of what was in the emails — and whether they contained any material the FBI had not already obtained.” Yahoo News further reported that the FBI had yet to obtain a search warrant to read the emails and thus is “still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen.” From Yahoo News:

When FBI Director James Comey wrote his bombshell letter to Congress on Friday about newly discovered emails that were potentially “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, agents had not been able to review any of the material, because the bureau had not yet gotten a search warrant to read them, three government officials who have been briefed on the probe told Yahoo News.

At the time Comey wrote the letter, “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails,” one of the officials said, referring to recently discovered emails that were found on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly sending illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl.

As of Saturday night, the FBI was still in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and therefore was still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen.

“We do not have a warrant,” a senior law enforcement official said. “Discussions are under way [between the FBI and the Justice Department] as to the best way to move forward.”

That Comey and other senior FBI officials were not aware of what was in the emails — and whether they contained any material the FBI had not already obtained — is important because Donald Trump’s campaign and Republicans in Congress have suggested that the FBI director would not have written his letter unless he had been made aware of significant new emails that might justify reopening the investigation into the Clinton server. [Yahoo News, 10/30/16]

The New Yorker: “Comey’s Decisions Is A Striking Break With The Policies Of The Department Of Justice.” The New Yorker reported on October 29 that Comey’s release of the letter contradicted long-standing DOJ policies against taking actions that could influence election results, citing current and former federal legal officials. From The New Yorker (emphasis added):

On Friday, James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting independently of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sent a letter to Congress saying that the F.B.I. had discovered e-mails that were potentially relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server. Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.

Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.

“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”

Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.

Four years ago, then Attorney General Eric Holder formalized this practice in a memo to all Justice Department employees. The memo warned that, when handling political cases, officials “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” To guard against unfair conduct, Holder wrote, employees facing questions about “the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election” should consult with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division. [The New Yorker10/29/16]

Media Figures From Across The Political Spectrum Pan Comey And Demand FBI Release More Information

Fox’s George Will: “This Is A Content-Less October Surprise … The Country, At This Point, Immediately Needs Some Context For All This.” George Will criticized Comey’s letter to Congress, calling it “baffling,” and adding that “The duty of the FBI is to investigate, and when it thinks it has concluded an investigation, to pass its conclusion on to the prosecutorial arm of the Department of Justice, not to write letters to the legislative branch of government.” From the October 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): What do you make of Comey’s decision to reopen the investigation, and to tell Congress about it over the objection of the Justice Department?

GEORGE WILL: Well, it’s baffling. The headline coast coast is, “FBI has new evidence.” There’s no evidence whatever yet that there is new evidence pertaining to the email thing, because this is a content-less October surprise at this point. What Mr. Comey said is the emails appear to be pertinent. Well, they can be pertinent without being significant, because they can be redundant in demonstrating extreme recklessness, the category the FBI invented to avoid accusing her of gross negligence, which is a felony.

So we perhaps, and we don’t know this, perhaps FBI has already seen these documents. They don’t know whether they’re duplicate or not. After Mr. Comey has said no reasonable prosecutor could have looked at what they’ve already looked at and proceeded with a case. Now, the “I” in the acronym FBI says investigation. The duty of the FBI is to investigate, and when it thinks it has concluded an investigation, to pass its conclusion on to the prosecutorial arm of the Department of Justice, not to write letters to the legislative branch of government. People say, well, this is happening 11 days before the election. No, no, 17 million votes have already been cast. It’s happening in the middle of the voting.

And finally, it is said that one of the reasons he rushed to do this, Mr. Comey, is he was afraid of a leak. The FBI can’t be trusted not to leak its own investigations? As Chairman Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee said with some understatement, that the country, at this point, immediately needs some context for all this. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday10/30/16]

Fox’s Jeanine Pirro: Comey’s Letter “Disgraces And Politicizes The FBI.” Fox News host Jeanine Pirro blasted Comey’s decision, saying that his letter “both disgraces and politicizes the FBI.” Pirro noted that “the FBI’s policy to not comment publicly about politically-sensitive investigations within 60 days of an election exists for a very important reason” and added that “whether it’s Hillary Clinton or anyone else, Comey’s actions violate not only long-standing Justice Department policy,” but also “the most fundamental rules of fairness and impartiality.” From the October 29 edition of Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine:

JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): FBI Director Jim Comey’s announcement yesterday that he would again look into Hillary Clinton’s emails after he announced on July 5th the conclusion of that very investigation, saying no reasonable prosecutor would indict, 11 days before one of the most hotly contested presidential election of out time, both disgraces and politicizes the FBI and is symptomatic of all that is wrong in Washington. Now, you know I support Donald Trump and I want him to win. But whether it’s Hillary Clinton or anyone else, Comey’s actions violate not only long-standing Justice Department policy, the directive of the person that he works under, the attorney general. But even more important, the most fundamental rules of fairness and impartiality.

Ten years ago, when I was the Republican conservative candidate for New York Attorney General, in the home stretch of a statewide campaign, the Justice Department and the FBI violated their own policy against making public statements that would effect an election, and announced to the press that they were opening an investigation of me. It was mean-spirited and, of course, nothing came of it. Except the adverse publicity cost me at the polls. What was done to me in 2006 was wrong. And what happened to Hillary Clinton yesterday was equally wrong.

The Justice Department and the FBI’s policy to not comment publicly about politically-sensitive investigations within 60 days of an election exists for a very important reason. Announcements so close to elections have an impact. Now, this nation has already gone through an exhausting and traumatic campaign season. The FBI director should not now be front and center. One of the most revered agencies in our nation’s history, now seen as putting its finger on the scales of justice should not now be front and center.

So why did he do it? Some say Comey didn’t have a choice because he said to Congress that the investigation was over. Wrong. I read that testimony. Others suggest a mutiny at the FBI was underway because the investigation was never real. Maybe he feared local police involvement, the New York City Police Department in the pedophile investigation on the Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner computer might have leaked that the first investigation simply was not thoroughly investigated. Maybe he felt guilty, needing a second bite at the apple. And 11 days before an election? How is it that he sends a letter to Congress? He could simply have gotten a ranking member of the committee and that member’s deputy and told him, and then said, “if this gets out, I’ll know that you did it.” But it doesn’t matter now. [Fox News, Justice with Judge Jeanine10/29/16]

Wash. Post Editorial Board: Timing Of Comey’s Letter Was “Unfortunate, Given Its Potential To Affect A Democratic Process In Which Millions Of People Are Already Voting.” The Washington Post editorial board wrote that the timing of Comey’s letter was “unfortunate, given its potential to affect a democratic process in which millions of people are already voting,” and sets “a precedent that future partisans who are unhappy with the results of FBI investigations may exploit.” From the October 28 article:

POLITICAL TENSION is running high in the United States, extraordinarily so, we’d say. And so it behooves everyone in a position of official responsibility to do everything he or she possibly can to help maintain stability — while avoiding all avoidable provocations — until the bitter competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump runs its ugly course on Nov. 8.

That is the context for Friday’s announcement by James B. Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that his agency is again looking into Ms. Clinton’s private email server in light of newly discovered emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” Mr. Comey may have had good reason to inform Republican committee chairmen in Congress of the review, but his timing was nevertheless unfortunate, given its potential to affect a democratic process in which millions of people are already voting.

[…]

Mr. Comey went too far, however, in providing raw FBI material to Congress, notwithstanding its important oversight role; that attempt to appease Republicans set a precedent that future partisans who are unhappy with the results of FBI investigations may exploit. [The Washington Post10/28/16]

NY Times’ Frank Bruni: Comey’s “Desire To Be A Boy Scout May Have Eclipsed Sound Judgement Here.” In an opinion piece titled “Comey, Clinton and This Steaming Mess,” New York Times columnist Frank Bruni criticized Comey’s decision, writing that “his desire to be a Boy Scout may have eclipsed sound judgment here, and rectitude is a quaint, shortsighted notion in an election this rife with accusations of bias, this primed for scandal, this frenzied.” From the October 29 article:

Comey obviously felt that he was in a bind and clearly believed that by disclosing the emails as soon as possible — and not, say, delaying until he had some sense of what the F.B.I. was dealing with — he had the best chance of avoiding any possible charges of a cover-up later, and was acting with the cleanest conscience.

But his desire to be a Boy Scout may have eclipsed sound judgment here, and rectitude is a quaint, shortsighted notion in an election this rife with accusations of bias, this primed for scandal, this frenzied.

Were the emails in question sent to or from Clinton? Comey didn’t and perhaps couldn’t say. What about them warranted inspection? Again, he had nothing to offer.

[…]

It wouldn’t be normal practice for the F.B.I., in an effort to buttress its determination, to release the emails, many of which are presumably private communications of Abedin’s. And those might be too intimate for her to make public herself. But now that Comey has flagged the whole batch of them, suspicion will never die.

And if the emails are fresh cause for concern, will that be knowable, and digestible, before Nov. 8? On this point, too, we’re all in the dark. [The New York Times10/29/16]

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias: “Having Set Off This Whole Cascade With His Letter, Comey Owes It To The Country To Explain In More Detail What’s Going On.” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias wrote, “Having set off this whole cascade with his letter, Comey owes it to the country to explain in more detail what’s going on.” Yglesias noted that “Comey is not a partisan hack, but he’s also not a political naif,” and, “having intervened in the electoral endgame, he can’t play dumb and just walk away from the bomb he threw.” From the October 28 article:

Beyond that, we don’t know anything. And in fact, we don’t even have any official confirmation of the Weiner connection. And even though I’m sure Comey has no desire to see himself or the FBI get dragged deeper into the partisan muck, the reality is that having the final weeks of an election season focus on a series of unverified leaks from unknown FBI officials isn’t workable. Having set off this whole cascade with his letter, Comey owes it to the country to explain in more detail what’s going on.

[…]

Having waded this far into this, Comey owes us a clearer account of what’s going on. Is it true the new information comes from Weiner’s phone? Why did the FBI decide to pivot the Weiner investigation in this direction in the first place? What, exactly, is the bureau investigating? How long is it expected to take? This is not the kind of information the FBI normally reveals about an ongoing investigation. But the FBI director also doesn’t normally slag people with negative commentary in press conferences nominally dedicated to announcing their exoneration. Comey is not a partisan hack, but he’s also not a political naif.

Forced into a difficult situation, he chose to wade outside normal practice because he understood the political stakes. New events have forced him further down that path, and now he needs to wade even further. It’s easy to see why Comey felt he couldn’t simply wait 12 days and inform Congress after the election. But having intervened in the electoral endgame, he can’t play dumb and just walk away from the bomb he threw. The practical alternative to him saying more is the investigation being conducted by anonymous sources and unverified leaks, as the FBI has already proven incapable of genuinely saying nothing about this matter. We need to know what’s going on, and he ought to tell us, clearly and on the record. [Vox, 10/28/16]

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: Comey’s Decision “Break[s] With Longstanding Practice And Established Procedures.” CNN’s Fareed Zakaria called the timing of Comey’s letter “unfortunate, since Justice Department guidelines expressly advise its officers to be careful not to be anything, through action or announcement, that could interfere with elections or the democratic process.” Zakaria noted that “Not since J. Edgar Hoover has an FBI director positioned himself as a player in the political realm,” and “Comey’s decision to provide the lively color commentary on his decisions to testify to Congress, to send them raw FBI data, and now send them this vague letter are all a break with longstanding practice and established procedures.” From the October 30 edition of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS:

FAREED ZAKARIA (HOST): There are so few details provided by FBI Director James Comey that it is impossible to know what to make of his decision to inform Congress about new emails relating to Hillary Clinton’s server. The timing is unfortunate, since Justice Department guidelines expressly advise its officers to be careful not to be anything, through action or announcement, that could interfere with elections or the democratic process.

It also raises a larger issue. The United States has gone too far down the road of criminalizing public policy. When your opponents do something wrong, even profoundly wrong, in politics, it is often best to treat it for what it is. Bad judgment, bad policy, bad ethics, and to make the case to the electorate to hold those people accountable. It should not be standard practice to instantly begin searching for ways to treat that behavior as criminal. This has been a bipartisan problem. When Democrats controlled the legislature under the Reagan administration, they turned the Iran-Contra Affair into a legal matter, which resulted in the appointment of an independent counsel, years of inquiries, and bitter partisan divisions.

Then came the Clinton years when the zeal exploded. The investigations of Bill Clinton consumed public attention, cost tens of millions of dollars, and resulted in an impeachment that was totally unrelated to the original alleged offense, Whitewater, on which no charges were ever filed. The last two presidencies have seen something of a respite from these witch hunts, but it seems possible that we are ramping up again for a round of criminalization of policy differences.

House Republicans are now promising years of hearings and inquiries should Hillary Clinton be elected president. The FBI and the Justice Department in particular should stand as independent institutions and not be swayed by demands made by partisans on either side. James Comey’s decision to provide the lively color commentary on his decisions to testify to Congress, to send them raw FBI data, and now send them this vague letter are all a break with longstanding practice and established procedures.

Not since J. Edgar Hoover has an FBI director positioned himself as a player in the political realm. The power to use the state to put someone in jail is an awesome authority. It should not be used against political opponents. It poisons the public arena. It makes politics a life and death affair, and it reminds one of third world banana republics, not an advanced democracy. [CNN, Fareed Zakaria GPS10/30/16]

ABC’s This Week Panelists: Comey’s Letter “Short-Changed” Voters Out Of Ability To “Make An Informed Vote.” Republican strategist Ana Navarro criticized Comey’s letter to Congress, saying that, “as an American voter,” she feels “short-changed” by the information in Comey’s letter, adding that “we know more about Anthony Weiner’s sexts than we do about these emails that are shaking the election.” Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne added that, “From the beginning” of the email investigation, Comey “has shown that he is responsive to … pressure from the Republican Congress,” and, “what it looks like is, he feels under pressure from Republicans on the Hill.” From the October 30 edition of ABC’s This Week:

ANA NAVARRO: He should be under tremendous pressure. I’ve got to tell you, as an American voter, I feel short-changed. I want to make an informed vote, and right now, we have no information. I think this thing is going to go through cycles, because when we first heard about it, it was jaw-dropping. Then we’re realizing the FBI director doesn’t know much. The reason he can’t tell us much is because he doesn’t know much. You all realize, we know more about Anthony Weiner’s sexts than we do about these emails that are shaking the election? And the only thing Anthony Weiner can run for is president of the national pervert association.

[…]

EJ DIONNE: From the beginning he has shown that he is responsive to A, pressure from the Republican Congress. By the way, we saw in your earlier segment where the Republicans wanted to go, and Congressman Goodlatte accidentally said, “potential impeachment,” and then quickly set himself up. This is a Republican Congress that wants to get Hillary Clinton no matter what. And so he says, “there’s not anything here that allows me to indict her, but I’m going to go out there and say she’s extremely careless.” Then he turns over all of this — some raw data to Congress from the investigation? That was very unusual. And, what it looks like is, he feels under pressure from Republicans on the Hill, and from some of the reporting from conservative FBI agents who were mad at him for not bringing the case against her, and that’s a really troubling thing. [ABC, This Week10/30/16]

IMAGE: FBI Director James Comey testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Going Dark: Encryption, Technology, and the Balance Between Public Safety and Privacy” in Washington July 8, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque 

STUDY: Cable News Devotes 13 Times As Much Coverage To Clinton Health As Trump Foundation

Published with permission from Media Matters for America

Cable news networks spent less than an hour in total on September 12 discussing a new investigative report about how Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump retooled his charitable foundation to “spend other people’s money.” By contrast, they devoted more than 13 and a half hours of their airtime that day to covering Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health.

Over the weekend, which marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Clinton fell ill at a memorial event commemorating the victims of the 2001 attack and later revealed she had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days earlier.

The same weekend, The Washington Post published an investigative report by David Fahrenthold revealingthat Trump had “retooled” the Donald J. Trump Foundation to transform it “from a standard-issue rich person’s philanthropy into a charity that allowed a rich man to be philanthropic for free.” The report detailed how Trump has stopped donating to his own foundation, instead filling its coffers with donations from business partners and others; that he uses the money as he pleases, including potentially illegal purchases for himself; that he lies to other charities and the public by suggesting that the foundation’s donations are his own money; and that the foundation has broken both the law and IRS rules.

On Monday, September 12, the two issues drew immensely disproportionate coverage. CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC devoted 13 hours, 41 minutes, and 41 seconds of combined airtime between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. to discussing Clinton’s pneumonia. The same networks devoted less than an hour of combined airtime to thePost’s revelations about the Donald J. Trump Foundation.

Among the networks, MSNBC covered Clinton’s health the most with nearly five and a half hours of time devoted to the topic, but much of their evening coverage stood out for devoting substantial time to discussing the history of presidential illnesses, debunking conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health — which right-wing media have spent months pushing — and criticizing the media for hyping the story. Several mainstream media outlets, in their frenzied response, declared that the months of conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health had been “vindicated” because Clinton revealed that she had been diagnosed on September 9 with pneumonia.

Noticeably, Fox News was the only cable news network not to cover the Post’s reporting on Trump’s foundation at all. MSNBC and CNN each gave the story less than half an hour.

The media’s reporting on the two stories highlights a consistent problem of news outlets failing to adequately cover investigative reports relating to Donald Trump. Broadcast news networks previously chose to dedicatethree times more coverage to a flawed AP report about the Clinton Foundation than to an illegal political donation Donald Trump once made to the Florida attorney general through his foundation. Network news morning shows also previously failed to cover an investigative report that revealed Trump’s former campaign manager possibly received illegal payments from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.

Methodology:

Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of Hillary Clinton’s health on September 12, 2016, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC using the terms: “(clinton) (health or pneumonia or overheat* or medical or physician or condition).” Media Matters searched SnapStream for coverage of the Donald J. Trump Foundation on September 12, 2016, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC using the terms: “(Trump AND (Foundation OR Charity))”

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump takes the stage at a campaign rally in Asheville, North Carolina, U.S., September 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar