Earlier today, I alluded to the story published in the New York Times — a couple days after it devoted 5 out of 6 above-the-fold A1 stories in two days to James Comey’s letter informing Congress that Anthony Weiner had a laptop, which might mean Hillary Clinton was a crook — dutifully repeating the claim of the anti-Clinton within the FBI that “the hacking into Democratic emails…was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.” This decision has…not held up well. Today I was reminded that Eric Lichtbau, one of the
marks reporters behind the Oct. 31 story, was also responsible for one of this Clinton Rules Classic:
A top aide to Hillary Clinton at the State Department agreed to try to obtain a special diplomatic passport for an adviser to former President Bill Clinton in 2009, according to emails released Thursday, raising new questions about whether people tied to the Clinton Foundation received special access at the department.
It’s common at this point in the Clinton Foundation pseudo-scandal cycle for the person in my position to point out that there’s no quid pro quo and no evidence of wrongdoing, and then for the skeptics to say that corruption can take more insidious forms than a quid pro quo. But honestly, what questions does this raise?
It certainly doesn’t raise the question of whether Clinton Foundation staff got special access to passports from the State Department. It answers the question. They didn’t, as the story says.
Nor does this raise any questions about conflicts of interest with donors or use of foundation resources for private gain. Bill Clinton was doing a little statesman-like work. His staff hoped that, in light of his close personal ties to the secretary of state, he could do that work with official diplomatic credentials. They were told no.
On August 9th, Lichtbau went on NPR to discuss “[t]he assertion that the people at Judicial Watch…are making is that this shows that at a minimum, her people, her top advisers seem to have kept this chain of communication open and that there were discussions about favors and access and influence.” He apparently worked on the story for a while, finding absolutely no misconduct by Clinton or any of her aides, or indeed by anybody. But rather than just admit he had been sent on a snipe hunt by anti-Clinton fanatics and either not publishing a story or publishing a story clearly stating that Clinton had done nothing wrong, he and his editors just went ahead and wrote a story with a headline and lede implying that Clinton was corrupt when the facts showed no such thing.
I feel the performance of the New York Times political desk during the 2016 campaign raises troubling questions and casts troubling shadows.