NYT: FBI Abused Power on Clinton, But Pushes Bureau’s Trump ‘Russian Agent’ Theory

January 15th, 2019 3:33 PM

How does the New York Times (and especially reporter Peter Baker) treat accusations that the F.B.I. overstepped their authority in a politicized effort to take down a president? That depends on who is president.

On the front page of Monday’s New York Times, Peter Baker’s “news analysis,” “Trump Faces ‘Nonstop’ War For Survival,” used an overhyped Times blockbuster about an FBI counter-intelligence investigation, in order to spread the idea Donald Trump was a “Russian agent”:

So it has come to this: The president of the United States was asked over the weekend whether he is a Russian agent. And he refused to directly answer.

The question, which came from a friendly interviewer, not one of the “fake media” journalists he disparages, was “the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he declared. But it is a question that has hung over his presidency now for two years.


New reports over the weekend added to the sense of siege at the White House. The New York Times reported that after Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, in 2017, the bureau opened an investigation into whether the president was working for the Russians.....

So what does Baker think of this story about the FBI going after Trump, one that has the President’s supporters crying foul against the FBI? Baker is on the bureau’s side:

Instead of talks to end the shutdown, the president spent at least part of his weekend defending himself against the suspicions about his affinity for Mr. Putin. He insisted that he has actually been tougher on Russia than his predecessors and that the F.B.I. was led by “losers that tried to do a number on your President.”

Yet Baker took the completely opposite tack on the FBI when the bureau was accused of abuse of authority against Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky investigation. In his take on a 2009 book, The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, Baker (alone among the press) highlighted its accusations of F.B.I. “abuse of power.” Here’s the lead paragraphs:

A former director of the Secret Service said Friday that the F.B.I. had engaged in an “abuse of power” by trying to pressure him to “give us the president” during the investigation of President Bill Clinton’s interactions with Monica Lewinsky a decade ago.

The official, Lewis C. Merletti, who headed the former president’s protective detail and later became the agency’s director, said in an interview that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had grilled him just days before Mr. Clinton left office in a last-ditch effort to prove that his agents had covered up and even facilitated extramarital flings.

Mr. Merletti said that the F.B.I. alleged that he and Mr. Clinton had concocted this deal: in exchange for Mr. Merletti’s stonewalling questions about Ms. Lewinsky, Mr. Clinton would not only appoint him director of the Secret Service but would also provide him women for sexual encounters.

It's not just Baker taking the side of a domestic surveillance organization at the supposedly liberal New York Times. The paper’s blockbuster story on the FBI’s counter-intelligence push against Trump, which ran in the lead slot Saturday under the jaw-dropping headline “F.B.I. Investigated if Trump Worked for the Russians,” led many conservatives to accuse the F.B.I. of overstepping their authority to kneecap Trump.

But the article portrayed the FBI in a favorable light, as our friend Mollie Hemingway wrote in The Federalist:

...the framing of this New York Times article is either poorly conceived or outright disingenuous at every turn. Using the completely lawful and constitutional firing of the bumbling Comey as pretext for opening a criminal investigation into the president is a grand abuse of power by the FBI. Attempting to overtake the authority to determine U.S. foreign policy from the lawfully determined president of the United States is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. For one of the nation’s largest newspapers to suggest that this makes the president -- and not the FBI -- look bad actually validates two of Trump’s biggest complaints: the media are hopelessly biased, and there really is a “deep state” out to overturn the 2016 election.