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Fox News anchor apologizes for misleading indictment statement

Brett Baier.

Fox News anchor Bret Baier apologized Friday for how he reported on a supposed FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation on Wednesday.

"Well, that just wasn't inartful. It was a mistake, and for that, I'm sorry. I should have said they will continue to build their case," Baier told viewers.

"These sources said yes, the investigations will continue," Baier told fellow Fox News host Brit Hume. "There's a lot of evidence, and barring some obstruction in some way, they believe they'll continue to likely an indictment."

The word "indictment" is what caught the attention of viewers — including even Donald Trump. He ran with the comment on the campaign trail Thursday.

"It was reported last night that the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's pay-for-play corruption during her tenure as secretary of state," Trump told a crowd.

But here's why fellow reporters have criticized Baier's comments.

The FBI doesn't get to decide whether to indict someone or not. It's up to a prosecutor to take the case and present it to a grand jury, which would then decide whether to indict.

On top of that, other major networks also cited unnamed sources who said the notion that an indictment is forthcoming likely is not true.

While Baier apologized and clarified his statement, Trump's campaign manager said it doesn't matter if the story is true or not.

"The damage is done to Hillary Clinton that no matter how it's being termed, the voters are hearing it for what it is: a culture of corruption," Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC's Brian Williams on Thursday night after Baier initially walked back his remarks.

Baier said Friday he and his team stand by their sourcing and hope to get their sources "on the record and on camera hopefully today."

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Republican Party Boss In North Carolina Displays Handcuffs For Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton might be in handcuffs on Inauguration Day. That’s what Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the Republican Party in North Carolina, said during an interview with MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson on Thursday.  Jackson asked about accusations of state Republicans trying to suppress voters by lobbying to limit early voting hours. 

“We don’t have a suppression vote problem in North Carolina. The Democrats have a depression problem,” Woodhouse said. “And you know why? It’s very simple. Their candidate, if elected, could have these on Inauguration Day.”

Then he displayed a pair of handcuffs. 

“Are you bringing props for our show here, Dallas?” Jackson asked. “Is this the kind of rhetoric you want to be saying five days out from an election?” 

Woodhouse was unmoved.

“Hillary Clinton inauguration jewelry!” he exclaimed.  

Woodhouse’s brother, head of the pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record, fired off two tweets in response:

North Carolina Republicans made headlines over the summer when they mocked Democratic vice presidential candidate and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine for wearing a pin in honor of Blue Star Families, or families of U.S. service members. 

Kaine’s son, Nat, is in the Marines. 

However, the Republican Party of North Carolina ― home of the largest military base in the nation ― not only didn’t recognize the pin, but claimed it was the flag of Honduras. The party later apologized. 

Woodhouse also made headlines last year when he said then-presidential candidate Rand Paul had to “prove that he will nuke a Muslim country.” 

 

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Clinton camp enlists Democrats for war with Comey

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Tested by a yet another scandal just over a week from Election Day, Hillary Clinton's campaign is mustering its allies to go on the offensive against FBI Director James Comey while trying to stoke supporters to action in defiance of what officials hope will be final hurdle of the campaign.

Still, the latest flare-up in the self-inflicted email scandal launched fresh groans of frustration and some pangs of dread from other Democrats, who are nonetheless presenting a united front with Clinton.

But going all in against the director of the FBI is precarious — especially after Democrats praised his integrity after he initially cleared Clinton in July.

With so few voters remaining undecided, and reaction falling along predictable partisan lines, the Clinton team expects few minds will be changed after Friday's bombshell that Comey is tasking agents to read newly discovered emails as part of their investigation to whether Clinton mishandled classified information by using a private email server as secretary of state.

In fact, Clinton's top brass claims Comey's move, which they feel was unfair, has spurred supporters to action.

"We actually felt a surge of support and momentum," campaign manager Robby Mook said Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press," adding that Saturday had been the campaign's biggest volunteer day yet and best Saturday of fundraising in its history. "So we're feeling fine."

Still, Comey has puts Clinton in the hot seat just in time for the final week of an election that has been unkind to whichever candidate is the center of attention. So Democrats are hoping Donald Trump will again bail her out — by doing something outlandish that pushes the Comey news further down the front page.

Republicans have begun pressuring down-ballot Democrats to distance themselves from Clinton in the light of the news, and some might in coming days, which would signal a dramatic shift in a race that has otherwise been defined by a unified Democratic Party facing off against a fractured GOP.

Clinton's team has moved aggressively to get Democrats on the same page, enlisting allies to press Comey on his latest move, according to a memo sent Saturday and obtained by NBC News.

"In a letter to FBI employees, Comey sought to explain his controversial action and admitted he didn't intend to create a misleading impression — yet he did exactly that by sending his letter to Congress," the memo reads.

So far at least, there have been no major defections from Democrats, several of whom have come to her defense.

"I think to inject this kind of uncertainty this late in the day was a terrible lapse in judgment," Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on ABC's This Week Sunday. "If the director can't clean up this mess, and I hope he will try, I think he ought to acknowledge that he made a serious mistake."

The Congressional Black Caucus threw together a press conference in Ohio Saturday to defend Clinton, where Rep. Gregory Meek echoed others in calling Comey's letter "unbelievable" and "puzzling."

In the 36 hours since the news broke, the campaign's spin machine has been in overdrive. Clinton herself has addressed the issue twice — first in a press conference in Iowa Friday, then at a rally Saturday in Florida -- while Mook and Podesta have held a conference and appeared on Sunday shows, as other aides blast out press releases and bat down emerging storylines they don't like while elevating ones they do.

Comey, meanwhile, has been silent, but will return to work Monday morning in a dramatically different political climate than the one that existed when left Friday afternoon.

Unlikely sources have come to Clinton's defense, like former Judge Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host and fervent Donald Trump supporter, who said Comey's action "disgraces and politicizes the FBI and is symptomatic of all that is wrong in Washington."

Richard Painter, the former top ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House, who now supports Clinton, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying he filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel and the Office of Government Ethics for an alleged violations of the Hatch Act, which bars government employees from using their authority for political ends.

"The F.B.I.'s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election," Painter wrote.

And the Clinton campaign made sure reporters saw reports that top Justice Department officials strongly warned Comey against making any kind of move that could influence the election, and another report that the FBI doesn't even yet possess the emails that launched his letter Friday.

Meanwhile, more than 21 million Americans have already voted, including 11 million in battleground states, according to an NBC News analysis, limiting the impact of any late-breaking October surprise.

Just two percent of registered voters in Florida and three percent in North Carolina said they were still undecided, according to a new NBC News poll (taken before the FBI news). And of those voters who stated a preference, just two percent in each state said they might change their mind.

A new CBS News survey of 13 battleground states taken after Friday found the Comey news was being heavily filtered through a partisan lens, with 71 percent of respondents saying it won't change their minds at all.

Early voting data paints a mixed picture. More Democrats voted early in North Carolina Saturday than they did on the same day in 2012, signalling enthusiasm, though the numbers were down in Florida.

"We don't see it as changing the landscape," Mook told NBC News of Comey. The email issue, he said, "has been vetted for some time now and so I think voters are clear. They understand the issue and they've already factored it into their decision making."

On social media, many Democrats, from grassroots activists to professionals, to said they were offended by Comey's last-minute incursion in the race and decided to chip in a few extra dollars or volunteer for Clinton.

"Options for today 1. Stay home and bedwet about emails 2. Do something to make sure Hillary wins," former Obama advisor Dan Dan Pfeiffer told his followers on Twitter, before going to knock doors in Las Vegas.

Still, there are many unknown unknowns lurking ahead for Clinton, and being on the radar of the FBI is never a good thing.

While her defenders are almost certain Comey has nothing damaging, he of course could, and it will be almost impossible for Clinton's campaign to anticipate what's coming their way since they don't have access to the new emails in question.

"Only Comey possesses the laptop and knows its contents. Not possible for campaign to 'get out ahead' of story and release emails ourselves," Clinton's Press Secretary Brian Fallon said on Twitter

And Clinton has an uncomfortable decision to make about Huma Abedin, one of her closest aides for decades who has found herself yet again at the center of a controversy that reflects poorly on her boss.

Anthony Weiner, her estranged husband's, sexting scandal as one thing when it was a tawdry distraction, but it's entirely another when it appears to have drawn FBI scrutiny on Clinton days before the most important election of her life, as reports indicate.

And Abedin was already under fire again this week after Wikileaks emails drew fresh attention to her controversial work moonlighting for a consulting firm while still working for Clinton at the State Department.

For most political aides, who are supposed to get their bosses out of political jams, not into them, Abedin would be several bridges too far. But Abedin is not most political aides, and her long personal connection with the insular Clinton, and their shared experience of spousal public humiliation, has made their bond seemingly unbreakable.

She has not been contacted by the FBI, according to the campaign, but Mook and Podesta seemed to dodged questions Sunday about whether Abedin had been entirely forthcoming with them.

Meanwhile, it's another log on the investigatory fires House Republicans are already stoking for if Clinton wins the White House.

"This is Secretary Clinton's fault," Rep. David Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Fox News Sunday. "We will clearly investigate all of the information that we have as it relates to classified information being put on unclassified networks."

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In getting 'new' Clinton emails, did the FBI violate the Constitution?

Director Comey.

FBI Director James Comey's Oct. 28 bombshell letter to Congress - which has the potential to affect the presidential election - may be based on illegally obtained emails. In his letter, Comey says the FBI "has learned" of the existence of emails "that may be pertinent" to the closed investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server during her tenure as secretary of state. He writes that although "the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant," he has directed investigators "to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information." As the nation's chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Loretta Lynch has the apolitical and urgent responsibility to determine whether these emails were obtained in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

We don't know everything yet, but we know a fair amount already about these emails and how the FBI got them. Comey tells Congress that the FBI "learned" of the emails' existence "in connection with an unrelated case." Multiple media sources are now reporting that they were found during the FBI's investigation of allegations that former Congressman Anthony Weiner sent sexual text messages to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.


In getting 'new' Clinton emails, did the FBI violate the Constitution?

Under FBI investigation: Anthony Weiner.
U.S. Congress

The FBI apparently seized a laptop from Weiner on which more than 1,000 emails belonging to his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, had been backed up. Abedin, who is currently vice chairman of the Clinton presidential campaign, had served as deputy chief of staff to Clinton when she was secretary of state.

If the laptop was "seized" by the FBI, it's unlikely that either Weiner or Abedin voluntarily turned over the emails. That means the agency needed to get a search warrant, by swearing to a judge there was probable cause to believe that data on the laptop contained evidence of the suspected "sexting" crime. Under the Constitution, the warrant should have specified exactly the information to be seized and searched, and thereby limited the FBI from looking through the entire contents of the laptop.

As a constitutional scholar, I have studied the FBI's troubling history of deliberately abusing search warrant powers to go on unconstitutional fishing expeditions through Americans' email. It seems likely that happened again here.

Was the search properly limited?

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states that no search warrant can be issued unless it "particularly describes the place to be searched and the things to be seized." Did the warrant for Weiner's laptop "particularly describe" emails sent to or received by Abedin while working at the State Department as material that could be seized as evidence of the alleged sexting crime? That seems highly unlikely.


In getting 'new' Clinton emails, did the FBI violate the Constitution?

Not aware of her husband's alleged sexting: Huma Abedin.
U.S. Department of State

Indeed, why were federal agents looking at any emails belonging to the suspect's estranged spouse? Surely the FBI didn't think Abedin was involved in the alleged sexting crime.

The agents might make the implausible claim that they saw Abedin's emails inadvertently when looking for evidence related to the sexting crime. But even then, the legal approach would have required seeking Abedin's consent to review the emails. If she declined, the FBI could have sought a new search warrant for specific Abedin messages, swearing to a federal judge that there was probable cause those particular emails were evidence of a crime, presumably related to the State Department email investigation.

So far there are no reports that the FBI did either of these things. To the contrary, Comey's own letter says the FBI has no idea if the emails are even "significant." So how could the FBI get a search warrant to review them?

A regular pattern of FBI abuse


In getting 'new' Clinton emails, did the FBI violate the Constitution?

Dropping a bombshell: FBI Director James Comey.
FBI

It may seem extreme to suspect that federal agents sworn to uphold the Constitution would deliberately violate it to go on an unauthorized fishing expedition through Weiner's laptop. However, there is clear evidence that the FBI regularly and deliberately oversteps constitutional boundaries with regard to Americans' email messages.

In one case now pending in New Jersey, the FBI went completely beyond the limits of a search warrant to download the entire contents of a lawyer's cellphone. Incredibly, federal prosecutors in that case are telling a federal judge they can legally keep and use the downloaded data even if the judge rules it was obtained in violation of the Constitution.

In New York City, federal court records reveal the government obtained another search warrant that clearly violated the Fourth Amendment. That one ordered Microsoft to turn over the entire contents of a web-based email account and authorized "email by email review."

It is time for Congress to act

There have been some preliminary efforts to rein in the FBI. Last spring, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress that would begin the process. It would create a National Commission on Security and Technology Challenges including experts from many sectors such as law enforcement, the technology industry, the intelligence community, and the privacy and civil liberties communities. The commission would review the laws about warrants for digital data and recommend changes in how they should be used.

That effort followed the FBI's ill-advised attempt to get a court order forcing Apple to create and give to the government software eliminating the user privacy and security features of the iPhone.

In the wake of this week's new evidence of further overstepping by the FBI, passing this bill should be one of the first tasks for Congress when it reconvenes after the election. Searches such as the likely illegal one conducted on Weiner's laptop should be discovered, documented and prevented in the future.

How to handle the emails now


In getting 'new' Clinton emails, did the FBI violate the Constitution?

Time to act: Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
U.S. Department of Justice

Attorney General Lynch should immediately press Comey for details about what steps he took to determine that these emails were obtained legally. Can the FBI show that a proper warrant authorized seizure of those particular emails? If the agency cannot do so, she should consider the recommendations of several federal judges for how to handle digital data.

Specifically, the messages should be immediately turned over to an independent court officer for any further review. Lynch could, for example, ask the chief judge of the federal district handling the Weiner investigation to appoint a court-supervised special master to take charge of the emails. Using procedures fair to both law enforcement and the owner of the email, that person could determine if they reveal evidence of a crime. And Lynch should explain to the American people exactly what the FBI agents did legally, and admit if they acted outside the law.

Stepping up to preserve Americans' rights

The Fourth Amendment was written in response to the abusive use of search warrants by the government of King George III. Specifically, Americans objected to searches of the homes of political dissidents, which examined all a person's private papers in hopes of finding evidence to imprison him.

In one case successfully challenging this practice, the lawyer for the victim of such a search spoke words that ring true today:

"Ransacking a man's secret drawers and boxes to come at evidence against him is like racking his body to come at his secret thoughts. Has [the government] a right to see all a man's private letters of correspondence, family concerns, trade and business? This would be monstrous indeed; and if it were lawful, no man could endure to live in this country."

Clark D. Cunningham, W. Lee Burge Chair in Law & Ethics; Director, National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Former DOJ spokesman blasts Comey after email letter

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A former director of the Justice Department’s office of public affairs said Friday that FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress announcing the review of more evidence in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server constituted “such an inappropriate disclosure.”

Matthew Miller, who served at the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder, blasted Comey's move in a 14-post spree on Twitter Friday afternoon, ripping the FBI director for his practices throughout the entire Clinton investigation. Miller said Comey “flagrantly violated DOJ rules” by holding a press conference in July to announce that he was recommending against charges for the former secretary of state, a decision the FBI director said at the time that he made in the interest of transparency.

“But today's disclosure might be worst abuse yet," Miller tweeted, adding that in his experience, the Justice Department “goes out of its way to avoid publicly discussing investigations” when elections are close.

Miller said those precautions are not just limited to public statements, writing that the department often avoids sending subpoenas or taking other steps that might become public until an election is over.

The Justice Department does that, he said, “because voters have no way to interpret FBI/DOJ activity in a neutral way.” Miller wrote that the new information being reviewed by the FBI “might be totally benign & not even involve Clinton. But no way for press or voters to know that. Easy for opponent to make hay over.”

“Which takes us back to the original rule: you don't comment on ongoing investigations,” he added. “Then multiply that times ten close to an election.”

Comey’s behavior has been especially suspect, Miller wrote, because the FBI has chosen not to comment on or even confirm the existence of other campaign-related investigations. He said the bureau is “undoubtedly” investigating any connection between Russian hacking into the email accounts of powerful U.S. political figures and the Trump campaign, but has rightly refused to publicly confirm whether or not an investigation is underway.

“Comey refused to even tell Congress if FBI was investigating Trump camp for Russia hack, but regular updates on Clinton are apparently A-ok,” Miller wrote, adding in the final post from his Twitter flurry that “they shouldn't be commenting on investigations! But that should apply to all. Instead Clinton consistently treated differently/worse.”

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