Bret Baier

Screengrab via Fox News/YouTube

Baier was forced to walk back his report due to numerous egregious flaws.

As of Thursday evening, Fox New was standing by Bret Baier’s story: Surely, five foreign intelligence agencies had breached Hillary Clinton’s private server. Undoubtedly, criminal indictments were coming down the pike that would raze the Clinton Foundation.

“We stand by the reporting of the Fox News team,” a Fox News executive told the Daily Dot.

On Friday, however, Baier was forced to address his specious claims more directly, even though less than 24 hours before he had already taken a half-step backwards, depicting his words as “inartful”—a slight nod to the fact that what he’d said on air effectively described rogue federal agents illegally accessing Clinton Foundation records without a warrant. “Indictment is obviously a very loaded word,” he said, acknowledging he had made a “mistake” for which he was “sorry.”

A source at the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed as of Thursday afternoon the bureau had not acquired any warrants to read emails linked to the Clinton Foundation. Those emails, if they exist on the laptops of Clinton aides, are protected by the Fourth Amendment. Baier’s story, that federal agents were “exploiting” those laptops to bring down the Clinton Foundation, infers the FBI was actively ignoring those constitutional protections. With that, Baier had boxed himself into a corner. During an on-air appearance, he admitted: “That’s not the process.”

Baier’s explosive story, which was presumably meant to intensify his viewers’ mistrust of Clinton—if that’s even possible—cited sources with “intimate knowledge” of the FBI’s probe into the Clinton Foundation; a preliminary inquiry that, after more than a year running, has yet to gain traction and evolve into a full-fledged criminal investigation. The account offered by Baier’s source stood in stark contrast to what numerous other journalist have been told by sources within the bureau itself: The Clinton Foundation inquiry is “essentially dormant,” reports the New York Times.

The Associated Press reports that the FBI presented its case for a Clinton Foundation probe to Justice Department lawyers in February, but that public corruption prosecutors were not convinced by the information contained in the briefing. Whether the FBI is still actively pursuing the nonprofit corporation remains unclear.

What should have set off alarms at Fox News and forced its executives to bury Baier’s scoop, however, is the allegation that, suddenly, evidence has surfaced showing “five foreign intelligence agencies” infiltrated Clinton’s controversial private email server. In concluding its investigation on July 5, FBI Director James Comey made it abundantly clear that not only had investigators failed to unearth evidence of a security breach, if such a breach had occurred, there would likely be no evidence to find. A source at the bureau told the Daily Dot on Thursday that there’s no logical reason for the FBI to repeat its forensic sweep of Clinton’s server.

While insisting his source was certain the server had been hacked by five foreign intelligence agencies, Baier admitted Friday on Fox News: “As of today, there are still no digital fingerprints of a breach, no matter what the working assumption is within the bureau.”

Despite the numerous flagrant flaws in his report, Baier said Fox News will “stand by the sourcing on the ongoing active Clinton Foundation investigation,” adding the network was “working to get sources with knowledge of the details on the record and on camera, hopefully today.”

It’s unclear what effect, if any, Fox News’ erroneous reporting will have on American voters who’ve yet to vote and plan to do so on Tuesday. Election polls conducted after the latest salvo of news concerning Clinton’s emails show the Democratic candidate maintaining a modest, yet diminished lead over Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.

Armed with a warrant, the FBI is currently examining new emails linked to its previous investigation of Clinton’s server discovered on the laptop of former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. (Weiner is accused of exchanging sexually charged messages with an underage girl.) It has not yet been determined if the emails are significant, if they contain classified information, or if the content will at all affect the FBI’s decision this summer not to recommend any criminal charges against Clinton or her staff. 

Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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