How one Congressman punked the media on the FBI letter about Clinton’s emails

No, the FBI did not say it would ‘reopen’ its investigation.

Donald Trump in Manchester, NH on Friday CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
Donald Trump in Manchester, NH on Friday CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

FBI Director James Comey alerted Republican members of Congress on Friday that bureau investigators would review some additional emails that might relate to Hillary Clinton’s email server. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee who has already vowed to spend the next several years investigating Clinton should she be elected president, quickly rushed to announce the news, falsely claiming that the case had been “reopened.”

Minutes later, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan repeated Chaffetz’s incorrect assessment and demanded that Clinton’s classified intelligence briefings — something provided to both major party nominees — be ceased.

In a rally in New Hampshire, an ebullient Donald Trump told supporters, “The FBI has just sent a letter to Congress informing them that they have discovered new emails pertaining to the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s investigation and they are reopening into the case into her criminal and illegal conduct.”

Other Republicans in Congress were quick to make the same false claims.

Though nothing in Comey’s letter said the case was being reopened, an array of news outlets repeated Chaffetz’s incorrect characterization. NBC News initially posted a story with this framing, later changing the headline and lede to drop the claim. USA Today tweeted, falsely, that the FBI director had said the probe was being reopened. The Hill and Bloomberg also got the facts wrong.

Despite the initial overreaction to the news, NBC’s Pete Williams has already reported that the newly found e-mails were not originally withheld by Clinton nor her campaign, the emails are not from Clinton, and the letter was sent to the Congressional leaders “out of an abundance of caution.” The AP reported that the emails did not come from Hillary Clinton’s private server. NBC’s sources called the story less than a game-changer.

But that did not stop Clinton’s critics from trying to turn it into one.