WaPo Corrects Report That Clinton Email Probe Involves Nearly 150 FBI Agents

Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, before the House Benghazi Committee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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After The Washington Post published a lengthy investigation into the origins of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, including the bombshell revelation that 147 FBI agents were looking into her private server, the newspaper corrected its report late Tuesday to note the number of agents looking into Clinton’s emails was actually fewer than 50.

“One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey,” read the original report, which was published on Sunday.

Though the anonymously sourced figure was buried halfway through the nearly 5,000-word story tracking Clinton’s private email use, national outlets including The Hill, Breitbart News, The National Review, and Gawker zeroed in on the number of agents purported to be on the case in their coverage of the Post’s report.

The Post’s marquee politics blogger, Chris Cillizza, also wrote his own blog post titled, “There are 147 FBI agents involved in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.” He noted that the number of agents seemed like “a ton for a story that Clinton has always insisted was really, at heart, a right-wing Republican creation.”

Corrections were added to both Cillizza’s post and the original report, written by Robert O’Harrow Jr., on Tuesday evening. According to the updates, two U.S. law enforcement officials told the newspaper that 147 agents was far too high an estimate and that the correct number was fewer than 50.

On Wednesday afternoon, MSNBC published a report citing an anonymous former law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the email investigation who said the actual figure was around 12.

“147 was such a ridiculous number,” the source told MSNBC, adding that 50 agents was also an unlikely number for this sort of investigation. “You need an act of terrorism to get 50 agents working on something.”

The Post’s significant walk-back of a seemingly notable new development in the Clinton email saga recalls another erroneous story on the subject published last summer in The New York Times.

In July 2015, the Times reported that two inspectors general had asked the U.S. Justice Department to open a criminal inquiry into whether Clinton mishandled classified information on her private email account. The paper then issued two corrections and a lengthy editor’s note apologizing for the “mess” of a story and confirming that the request for a probe was not criminal in nature, nor was Clinton herself the target of the inquiry.

The Post’s full correction is posted below:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Clinton used two different email addresses, sometimes interchangeably, as secretary of state. She used only hdr22@clintonemail.com 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.

h/t Media Matters

This post has been updated.

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Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for sjk sjk says:

    Well that sucks! smh

  2. Too late. It’s already out there in the ether. Doesn’t matter if there are 150 agents or 2. The lie has already traveled half way around the world.

    (Unfortunately, partially spread by some on the Left).

  3. Fewer than 50 still sounds like a significant number, assuming “fewer than 50” is correct and doesn’t mean 1 or 2. I hope the FBI completes is investigation before the Democratic convention…

  4. It’s not. Little pieces are doled out depending on who is where, who has things going on, etc. Also, they need people to read through all those emails. The FBI isn’t going to trust State to do it for investigative purposes. When I had my clearance done, I personally know of 12 agents who worked on it not including the polygrapher they flew from Seattle to DC for my polygraph. I’m a nobody.

  5. Oh, for fuck’s sake. How many fucking times, and how many fucking ways, is this complete, utter nonsense going to be recycled?

    1. The use of a private email server for government business was perfectly legal and perfectly common when Clinton used it. The law did not change until AFTER she left office.
    2. No classified information was sent via private email.
    3. Only a tiny handful of emails were RETROACTIVELY “classified” by overzealous, partisan hacks looking to create a controversy (i.e., “classifying” references to a publicly published news article).
    4. All the rest is media argle-bargle.

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