On Thursday, Judicial Watch -- a nonprofit that advocates for government transparency -- issued 16 newly-released FBI documents relating to the meeting that erstwhile Attorney General Loretta Lynch conducted in June 2016 with former president Bill Clinton on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport. Judicial Watch released 16 pages of documents and two emails between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Linda Page.
In this tranche of communications obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, there is an email from Strzok that indicates that a decision was made in April 2016 to exonerate Hillary Clinton from any criminal wrongdoing associated with her use of a private email server while she was in office as Secretary of State. At that time, Strzok was serving at the FBI as Chief of Counterespionage.
According to Judicial Watch, on July 1, 2016, Strzok forwarded to Bill Priestap, assistant director of FBI counterintelligence, and other FBI officials an article in The New York Times titled “Lynch to Remove Herself From Decision Over Clinton Emails, Official Says.” Priestap commented, “The meeting in PX is all over CNN TV news this morning …” In reply, Strzok wrote: “Timing’s not ideal in that it falsely adds to those seeking the ‘this is all choreographed’ narrative. But I don’t think it’s worth changing … later won’t be better.” Priestap responds “Agreed.”
In another email, Strzok suggested that the decision on the Clinton emails investigation had been under discussion since April 2016, or three months before then-FBI Director James Comey announced that there would be no prosecution.
After Clinton and Lynch met at the Phoenix airport, an FBI official warned his colleagues in a July 1, 2016 email sent: “Our job is to protect the boss [Comey] from harm and embarrassment.”
According to Judicial Watch, “Strzok’s email confirms previously released documents showing James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton before the investigation into her email conduct had concluded.” It said further that unredacted portions of the transcripts [released by the Senate Judiciary committee in October] shows that it appears that in April or early May of 2016, Comey had already decided he would issue a statement exonerating Clinton, which was long before FBI agents finished their work. It was also before 17 witnesses were interviewed, including Clinton herself.
President of Judicial Watch Tom Fitton said of the revelations, “These emails are astonishing, no wonder the FBI hid them from Judicial Watch and the court. They show anti-Trump, pro-Clinton FBI Agent Peter Strzok admitting the decision not to prosecute the Clinton email issue was made back in April 2016 – long before even Hillary Clinton was interviewed. And the new emails show that the FBI security had the political objective of protecting then-Director Comey from ‘embarrassment’—which is, frankly, disturbing.”
On July 3, 2016, an email with the subject line “Must Read Security Article” from someone in the FBI’s Security Division (SECD) forwarded an article in the Observer that expresses concern:
“I believe that the source quoted in the article is one of the local Phoenix LEO’s [law enforcement officers]. Needless to say that I have contacted the Phoenix office and will contact the local’s [sic] who assisted in an attempt to stem any further damage. This is exactly why our Discretion and Judgement are the foundation of the AG’s trust in our team, which is why we can never violate that trust, like the source did in this article.”
A July 1, 2016, email sent from an unidentified official in the FBI Security Division to officials in several FBI offices was titled “Media Reports***Not for Dissemination***” It was sent after the Clinton/Lynch tarmac meeting and warned colleagues: Our job is to protect the boss from harm and embarrassment.” [Emphasis in original] The writer wrote that FBI officials should ask themselves: “What issues are currently being reported in the media? And what actions/interactions/situations that the Director may be in could impact them.”
In another example of concern over public relations, another email noted that erstwhile FBI Director Comey’s aircraft “literally just missed Clinton’s plane” when they flew into the airport at White Plains NY. The email said: “Imagine the optics and the awkward situation we would have put the Director in we would have been at the FBO at the same time as Secretary Clinton.”