This post has been updated.
Bret Baier is still trying to steer people away from his original report that an indictment was likely to result from the FBI's investigation of Clinton Foundation interactions with the State Department.
"That just wasn’t inartful," he said Friday. "It was a mistake and for that I’m sorry. I should have said they will continue to build their case. 'Indictment,' obviously, is a very loaded word, Jon, especially in this atmosphere, and no one knows if there would or would not be an indictment, no matter how strong investigators feel their evidence is. It’s obviously a prosecutor who has to agree to take the case and make that case to the grand jury."
But a day after the Fox News anchor walked back his earlier report that the FBI probe “will continue to likely an indictment,” his original claim lives on in some conservative news outlets.
As of Friday morning, Sean Hannity's website still has a story on its home page about Baier's “bombshell report.” Hot Air's home page employs the same language: “Bombshell: FBI’s ‘far more expansive’ Clinton investigations leading to ‘likely indictment.’ "
A headline on Right Side Broadcasting's home page tells readers that “FBI sources believe Clinton Foundation case moving towards 'likely indictment.' "
All these stories left out what Baier said Thursday, when he first walked back the story:
I want to be clear about this, and this was — came from a Q&A that I did with Brit Hume after my show and after we went through everything. He asked me if, after the election, if Hillary Clinton wins, will this investigation continue, and I said, “yes, absolutely.” I pressed the sources again and again what would happen. I got to the end of that and said, “they have a lot of evidence that would likely lead to an indictment.” But that’s not — that’s inartfully answered. That’s not the process. That’s not how you do it. You have to have a prosecutor. If they don't move forward with a prosecutor with the DOJ, there would be, I'm told, a very public call for an independent prosecutor to move forward. There is confidence in the evidence, but for me to phrase it like I did, of course that got picked up everywhere, but the process is different than that.
Even before Baier addressed his initial report, other news outlets disputed the claim of a likely indictment, which Baier said was based on conversations with “two separate sources with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations.”
ABC News reported Thursday that according to its own sources, the notion that an indictment is likely is “inaccurate and without merit.”
“There's been some reports out there today that an indictment is in the offing in the Clinton Foundation investigation,” CNN's Evan Perez said Thursday. “Everything we've known about this investigation — that's been going on well over a year — is that that's not true.”
In his original report on Wednesday, Baier said his sources also told him this: “The Clinton Foundation investigation is so expansive, they have interviewed and re-interviewed many people. They described the evidence they have as 'a lot of it' and said there is an 'avalanche coming in every day.' "
That is very different from what the New York Times reported on the same day: “The investigation, based in New York, had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book 'Clinton Cash,' according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case.”
The Times reported that the foundation probe was open but on hold until after Election Day, a decision that had “infuriated some agents, who thought that the FBI’s leaders were reining them in because of politics.”
The Washington Post'sdescribed the current climate of conflicting reports perfectly in a front-page story Friday:
The [FBI's] internal dissension has exploded into public view recently with leaks to reporters about a feud over the Clinton Foundation, an extraordinary airing of the agency’s infighting that comes as the bureau deals with an ongoing threat of terror at home and a newly aggressive posture from Russia.
Different sources with different agendas suddenly seem eager to spill, which can make it hard for reporters to discern which claims truly reflect the status of the FBI's investigation. But some conservative outlets seem less interested in which claims are legit than they are in which ones fit their anti-Clinton narratives.