PolitiFact fumbles again: Candidate Trump's peculiar behavior has driven Candidate Clinton's emails from public view. That said:
Yesterday, at New York Magazine, Jesse Singal critiqued Clinton's recent discussion with Chris Wallace of those infernal emails. We thought he did a poor job.
In fairness, so did Lauren Carroll at PolitiFact. Singal began his piece by reviewing Carroll's fact-check of Clinton's statements.
In our view, Clinton's statements to Wallace were strange, but these journalistic analyses were perhaps even stranger. Elementary facts went unmentioned. Basic questions weren't asked.
Let's review what the fact-checkers said. Today, let's start with Carroll:
What's wrong with Carroll's fact-check? For starters, she seems to assume the omniscience of Comey the God.
Consider the passage shown below. Quite correctly, Carroll notes that Clinton's statements to Wallace seem to contradict Comey's earlier statements. But at no point does she say how she knows Comey is right:
CARROLL (8/1/16): Take the video Wallace played on Fox News Sunday. In it, Clinton said, "I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email. There is no classified materials" (March 10, 2015); "I am confident that I never sent nor received any information that was classified at the time" (July 25, 2015); "I had not sent classified material nor received anything marked classified" (Aug. 18, 2015).It's true. Comey did make the statements Carroll describes in the highlighted passage. He did say that three (3) of the emails "bore markings signifying their classification status." Beyond that, he did say that 110 other emails "contained classified information."
But Comey reported that, of the tens of thousands of emails investigators reviewed, 113 individual emails contained classified information, and three of them bore markings signifying their classification status. (Information can still be classified even if it does not have a label.) Eight email threads contained top-secret information, the highest level of classification, 36 contained secret information, and the remaining eight contained confidential information.
Comey the God did sat those things, first in his July 5 press statement, then to the House two days later. But who's to say that Comey was right? On whose authority did he make those pronouncements?
No one asked that question during Comey's testimony; in her fact-check, Carroll simply assumes that his judgments are right. She simply assumes that Comey was right in what he said about those emails. This is the way our "press corps" behaves when a major Establishment Figure has been anointed a God.
Forget the three marked mails for now. Is it true? Did 110 other emails "contain classified information?" It's certainly possible that they did. But what makes Carroll so sure?
Simple—Comey said! This is the way our press corps' most exalted fact-checkers proceed with a case of this type.
Carroll simply assumes that Comey's second statement was true. That said, let's return to Comey's first statement, in which he said that three emails "bore markings signifying their classification status."
It's true! Comey the God did make that assertion, first on July 5, then again before the House. But under questioning in the House, Comey acknowledged an awkward fact—the three emails which were "marked" had all been marked incorrectly!
Under questioning, Comey acknowledged that the markings had not been placed in the headers of the emails, where the recipient would be able to see it. That's where the State Department manual says the markings should be placed.
We think it's astounding that Comey only acknowledged this problem under questioning two days after his dramatic initial statement. Only three of the 30,000 emails had any "markings"at all—and in each of those cases, the markings had been misplaced!
We stopped believing in Comey's good faith when he failed to mention this problem. But what about Carroll? She doesn't even mention this problem with Comey's treatment of the marked emails. After that, she simply assumes that Comey was right about the other 110 emails.
In her exchange with Wallace, Clinton seemed to suggest that she and her associates actually weren't emailing classified information. Yesterday, we imagined a possible reason for her convoluted statements to that apparent effect.
As we suggested yesterday, Fred Kaplan's piece in Slate may start us on the road to Clinton's thinking. But Carroll did a very poor job outlining the basic facts of this case.
Our view? Comey the God was remarkably slick in his treatment of the "marked" emails. Carroll simply ignored this problem, after which simply assumed that Comey was right about everything else.
Clinton's exchange with Wallace was strange; Carroll's analysis is perhaps even stranger. But this is the way our press corps works. Basic analytical skills no longer exist in this guild.
How do we know that Comey is right? On what basis did he make his assessment? Carroll never explains!
Tomorrow: Singal takes it from there