After a network blackout on Monday night of news that the FBI has been investigating Democratic Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe for possible illegal campaign donations, ABC and CBS kept the streak alive on Tuesday morning as Good Morning America and CBS This Morning made no mention of the government probe.
In contrast, NBC’s Today came forward and provided a full report from Justice correspondent Pete Williams that, unlike CNBC’s John Harwood on Monday, correctly labeled Clinton friend McAuliffe as not only a Democrat but “former chairman of the Democratic Party and co-chair of Hillary's 2008 campaign” for president.
Co-host Savannah Guthrie began the one-minute-and-55-second segment by stating that “a long-time ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton is facing possible legal trouble” as “Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is coming under scrutiny for campaign contributions he received when he ran for governor.”
Williams added that sources told him that the investigation has “been underway for the past several months” with the FBI specifically examining “whether Terry McAuliffe's 2013 campaign for governor of Virginia accepted political contributions that were forbidden by federal law.”
While the Clintons are not the focus of it, the NBC correspondent pointed out that “records show 120 donors contributed to the [Clinton] Foundation and McAuliffe’s campaign” and “especially interested in contributions from Wang Weinlang, a Chinese politician.”
“Contributions by foreign nationals are barred, but a spokesman for Wang says he has permanent U.S. resident status and his contributions were legal. An expert on campaign laws says the FBI may be looking at whether the money Wang gave came from a Chinese-based company he runs, which would be illegal,” he stated before crediting CNN with first breaking the matter.
Over on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Bloomberg/MSNBC’s With All Due Respect co-host Mark Halperin spun the revelation as a positive for President Obama in a sign that he’s not putting his thumb on the scales of justice to protect Democrats:
[A]ny conservative who thinks that the Obama Justice Department is not willing to investigate Democrats fairly can look at this and say you have to give him some credit in the sense that Terry McAuliffe being targeted now is very bad for the Democrats, very bad for the Clinton's because he's close to them.
Halperin later tried to claim that this could turn out to have no impact because “this may be another case where prosecutors are looking anew at what for most politicians is business as usual” with “[c]o-mingling, fundraising with political support, with access, the kind of thing that has been going on forever.”
The transcript of the segment from NBC’s Today on May 24 can be found below.
May 24, 2016
7:07 a.m. Eastern
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Decision 2016; Virginia Governor Under Investigation; Close Clinton Friend at Center of Illegal Donation Probe]
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Also this morning, a long-time ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton is facing possible legal trouble. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is coming under scrutiny for campaign contributions he received when he ran for governor. NBC News Justice correspondent Pete Williams is following this for us. Pete, good morning.
PETE WILLIAMS: Good morning, Savannah. The Justice Department and the FBI aren't commenting, and the lawyer for the Governor McAuliffe’s campaign says he knows nothing about it, but officials with knowledge about the investigation say it's been underway for the past several months.
DEMOCRATIC VIRGINIA GOVERNOR TERRY MCAULIFFE (Va.): Thank you. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Federal officials say the FBI has been looking at whether Terry McAuliffe's 2013 campaign for governor of Virginia accepted political contributions that were forbidden by federal law. He is a close friend of the Clintons and a former chairman of the Democratic Party and co-chair of Hillary's 2008 campaign, but officials say that's not a focus of the investigation. McAuliffe a one-time board member of the charitable foundation set up by former President Bill Clinton and records show 120 donors contributed to the foundation and McAuliffe’s campaign. Federal officials say investigators are looking at those overlaps and are especially interested in contributions from Wang Weinlang, a Chinese politician. Contributions by foreign nationals are barred, but a spokesman for Wang says he has permanent U.S. resident status and his contributions were legal. An expert on campaign laws says the FBI may be looking at whether the money Wang gave came from a Chinese-based company he runs, which would be illegal. The investigation was first reported by CNN. A lawyer for McAuliffe’s campaign says he nor the governor have been contacted by the FBI, and, quote, “contributions to the campaign from Mr. Wang were completely lawful.” The lawyer for the campaign also says he and the Governor know nothing about the investigation but pledges that McAuliffe will cooperate fully if asked to. Matt, Savannah?
WILLIAMS: Alright Pete, keep any eye on that for us. Pete, thank you.