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ProPublica’s Big James Comey ‘Scoop’ Is Misleading

If James Comey used sloppy language, he has an ethical obligation to clarify the record. Yet, even then, it changes absolutely nothing for Hillary Clinton.


ProPublica is reporting that FBI Director James Comey’s most “surprising revelation” about Huma Abedin during his recent congressional testimony was inaccurate. Hillary Clinton’s then-deputy did not, claims the publication, make “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of emails, “some of which contain classified information,” to her husband.

The above quotation marks are necessary because the piece focuses mostly on semantics — more lawyering than journalism — as a way to create the perception that Comey was misleading Congress. Of course, the Left Internet is now littered with excited articles about how “Comey’s Testimony On Huma Abedin Forwarding Emails Was Inaccurate.” And so on.

Now, if Comey used sloppy language, he has an ethical obligation to clarify the record. Yet, even if the FBI sent a letter conceding everything ProPublica claims was disingenuous, it would change absolutely nothing about Hillary Clinton, Abedin, or the “Comey letter.” For instance, take the big revelation from the piece:

According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the ‘hundreds and thousands’ cited by Comey.

Did these two sources listen to what Comey said during his testimony? Here it is:

His then spouse, Huma Abedin, appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding e-mails to him, for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the Secretary of State.

Nowhere does the FBI director state that Weiner was printing up “hundreds of thousands” of classified emails, nor would any sane person believe that he could. In fact, Comey clarified the record during questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz. The comment was an aside; a way, it seems to me, to rationalize or explain Abedin’s actions. For Comey to mention that he “thinks” Weiner was printing emails is an incredibly specific thing to say. It’s doubtful that it will be refuted.

So the scoop, then, is that it wasn’t the “regular practice” of Abedin to send her husband Hillary’s emails to print. Okay. Let’s concede that Weiner only occasionally printed emails that were illegal for him to be in possession of or to see (Comey testified that this action was criminal, but that the FBI couldn’t prove intent — again).

The other ProPublica scoop suggests Abedin didn’t really “forward” these emails.

“Somehow,” Comey testified, “her emails are being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information, by her assistant, Huma Abedin.” Indeed, Abedin’s Blackberry was being backed up on her laptop. Now, granted, it’s a little ambiguous — Abedin did not press the “forward” button on each individual email, after all — but it’s certainly not “inaccurate.” She was the one who backed these emails up. Was she unaware that her emails were being sent to her computer? That seems unlikely. Also, it wouldn’t really matter.

Weiner’s laptop was seized after he came under criminal investigation for potential sex crimes. He had access to classified emails. Nothing in the ProPublica piece disputes this core contention or even the contention that Abedin put them there. So this laptop became evidence in an ongoing investigation that was precipitated by the actions of Clinton and her staff. Once Comey came into possession of this evidence, he had an ethical duty to notify Congress to amend his initial testimony. The “Comey letter” would have been sent anyway.

It’s also worth pointing out nothing in the “Comey letter” is about forwarded emails or printing or anything else that is disputable. Here is the relevant text:

In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take 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.

The FBI was supposed to have access to any computers that might have housed those classified materials. Abedin was apparently already given immunity. Yet the Clinton aide failed to inform the FBI about this computer. Since Abedin was part of a staff that had attempted to destroy evidence related to Hillary’s server — in his initial congressional testimony, Comey noted that Hillary’s staff had “cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery” — the FBI had every reason to investigate.

What really makes the ProPublica report read like a politically motivated article are the distracting asides. It includes a number of strawmen, including one that mentions none of the classified messages “carried classified markings at the time they were sent.”  This is, of course, a long-standing talking point used by Hillary defenders that we know is irrelevant. It is a violation of national security laws to maintain classified information on an unclassified system. It is the system that was the problem, marking or no markings. That is not mentioned.

One popular and plausible theory is that Comey sent the Hillary letter to protect himself because he knew the evidence would have leaked anyway. Comey’s overriding goal often seems to be to protect himself. All this may well be true. But in the end, none of it would be an issue if it weren’t for Hillary Clinton.