Earlier this week, our favorite Post reporter Chris Cillizza wrote an entire column breathlessly highlighting an early news story that a whole lot of FBI agents are working on bringing the Clinton email non-story to a conclusion. You’d think with all the missteps that the folks at the Post have made that they’d be really, really, REALLY careful not to make any more, right? Much less let Chris Cillizza go on and on about it.
The original story:
One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. The FBI has accelerated the investigation because officials want to avoid the possibility of announcing any action too close to the election.
Cillizza’s reaction story:
One hundred and forty seven agents? Doesn’t that seem like a ton for a story that Clinton has always insisted was really, at heart, a right-wing Republican creation?
It sure seems that way to me. . . .
* * *
For me, the 147 number was eye-popping — suggesting this investigation was far more wide-ranging than I, at least, believed. That doesn’t mean Clinton is guilty — or anything close to it. But it does suggest that this is not a sort of obligatory look-see by the FBI. This is a wide-reaching examination of all of the communications between Clinton and her aides — and no one running for president wants that to be happening as they try to wrap up the party’s presidential nomination.
So, anyone wanna guess what happens next? Here’s what’s now buried at the bottom of the original story.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Clinton used two different email addresses, sometimes interchangeably, as secretary of state. She used only firstname.lastname@example.org as secretary of state. Also, an earlier version of this article reported that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50.
My emphasis. Even that number is ridiculously high, according to sources quoted by MSNBC.
But a former federal law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the Clinton investigation tells MSNBC an estimate anywhere near 50 agents is also off base.
“There are currently about 12 FBI agents working full-time on the case,” says the source, who would only speak anonymously about an open investigation.
A former FBI official, also speaking anonymously, says many in the law enforcement community view the large estimates of people assigned to the case as completely improbable.
“147 was such a ridiculous number,” said the source, adding that 50 also sounded unrealistic for this kind of inquiry. “You need an act of terrorism to get 50 agents working on something,” said the former FBI official.
Cillizza posted a correction to his story (at the top, to be fair) on Tuesday night.
Update March 29 8:10 pm: The article cited in this piece said that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation, citing a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50. The headline has been corrected accordingly. I apologize for the error.
So about that source, the “lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey”? What about that? Charlie Pierce, bring us home.
Look, folks. That “lawmaker briefed by FBI director James Comey” is obviously a ratfcker with an agenda that has nothing to do with anything except political sabotage. That, by the way, is a helluva story.
The Post got played, and every right wing media outlet spent the week splashing a “ridiculous number” across the entire Internet. We’ll be hearing that number for the next hundred years – if we’re lucky.
So who duped the Post, and what connections will be revealed from that information? And when will the Post stop being a sucker for every sensational allegation just because it says “Clinton” somewhere in there?