There might not be a vast right-wing conspiracy against the Clintons, as Hillary Clinton alleged in the late 1990s—but only because it’s not that vast, and it’s not really a secret. Following FBI director James Comey‘s letter to Congress last week about finding emails tied to Clinton on Anthony Weiner‘s hard drive, the FBI has become a leaky sieve of allegations and details about investigations into the Clintons. Wednesday night’s Wall Street Journal report on an ongoing feud between FBI agents on the case and prosecutors unimpressed with the evidence they’ve uncovered has propelled the disgruntled investigators to go to the press. What’s noteworthy about the investigation is that it all sprung from information written about in Clinton Cash, a 2015 book and companion documentary that emerged out of the Breitbart News empire run by Steve Bannon who is, yes, currently running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Follow all that? Follow along and see how a Breitbart News propaganda piece turns into a federal investigation that turns into a political firestorm.
Hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer is a huge contributor to conservative causes. He’s a Trump and Trump Super PAC mega-donor and a top investor in Breitbart News, the conservative media group with notoriously liberal (not the Bernie Sanders kind) fact-checking standards.
Breitbart was, until recently, run by Steve Bannon, who has also been a prolific producer of conservative movies (including the 2011 Sarah Palin-venerating doc The Undefeated).
Peter Schweizer, a contributor to Breitbart during Bannon’s reign, wrote Clinton Cash, which alleged that, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made decisions based on who donated money to the Clinton Foundation and/or the Clinton Global Initiative and/or who paid Bill Clinton for speeches. Critics charged his book raised questions it was unable to answer, and many of its charges were widely debunked. Few of the tome’s charges held up to significant media scrutiny and the publisher had to issue numerous corrections. He’s nonetheless been interviewed by the FBI several times (as he told Breitbart and Fox News), and even said that Clinton Cash is required reading for the FBI’s New York office.
With Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, Bannon produced the documentary Clinton Cash: The Movie. Time said in its review, “There are a lot of leaps of logic in the film” and that “the book and the movie sometimes draws connections and conclusions that aren’t as solid as their evidence,” but called the “insinuations” a “disheartening watch.” After Bannon failed to find a distributor at the Cannes Film Festival last May, the film was uploaded to YouTube in July.
The FBI’s New York bureau apparently does not read book or film reviews, andreportedly sought to open an investigation into the Clinton Foundation primarily on the basis of the allegations, debunked and otherwise, in Clinton Cash. The Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn have, reportedly, repeatedly told the FBI that there’s no compelling evidence to continue their investigations, justify warrants or press charges (though some Fox anchors believe otherwise). The frustrated agents in the New York FBI office, intent on pressing some kind of charges against Hillary Clinton, were the ones who pressed Comey to review emails found in the Anthony Weiner for evidence that Clinton had mishandled classified information, leading to Comey’s vague letter to Congress that’s consumed campaign coverage in the final days before the election.
The FBI began leaking info of this tension to the Wall Street Journal, flagship American newspaper of the conservative, Murdoch-owned News Corp. Then Fox News, the flagship American cable news station of the conservative, Murdoch-owned New Corp., jumped on the story, with Brett Baier reporting on Wednesday night that FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation “had collected a great deal of evidence” to suggest wrongdoing and that an indictment was “likely.” He did not say whether that information was from Clinton Cash or not.
And of course, back over at Breitbart, they are blasting out the scoops from the Wall Street Journal, a Trump campaign commercial on the story, and a Fox News clip of Schweizer bragging that Clinton Cash served as the FBI’s “roadmap.” Which brings us back to Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer, for whom this is great news indeed.