Just days before the 2016 election, erstwhile FBI Director James Comey announced that he was putting an end to the agency’s investigation (for a second time) into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for classified communications while she was Secretary of State. Comey then certified to Congress that the FBI had “reviewed all of the communications” discovered on a personal laptop used by Huma Abedin (Clinton’s closest aide) and Abedin’s husband, Anthony Weiner. The certification came despite some observers wondering how the FBI could have reviewed “hundreds of thousands” of emails on the laptop, which had been the subject of a separate investigation of Weiner, a former U.S. House Representative, for sex crimes. 

There are Democrats who assert that the late reopening by Comey of the probe into Clinton sabotaged her chances of getting elected. However, there is evidence that Comey and his closest advisors acted only after FBI agents and federal prosecutors in New York expressed concerns over the probe. Thereafter, with a push from then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the probe was rushed and incomplete.

Comey asserted before Congress that “thanks to the wizardry of our technology,” his agency eliminated the majority of messages as “duplicates” of the 700,000+ emails that the FBI had already seen. He asserted that sleepless FBI agents worked “night after night after night” to review the material.

The FBI did not interview Abedin and Weiner, despite the fact that the laptop was not authorized for classified materials and communications. Also, Weiner did not have security clearance for classified materials, which he received nevertheless on the laptop that he also used to email photographs of his genitals to a teenage girl. He was later convicted for transferring obscene material to a minor.

However, there is growing evidence that Comey’s account was not true. According to RealClearInvestigations, a technical failure prevented the FBI from accurately comparing the new emails to the old emails. Of the 694,000 emails, only 3,077 were directly reviewed for classified or incriminating information. On the day before Comey cleared Clinton again of any criminal charges, three FBI operatives completed the review in a single 12-hour session. Therefore, most of the emails were never examined, despite making up as much as 10 times the evidence of what was reviewed in the original case that Comey brought to a close in July 2016. But even the narrow search found more classified messages Clinton sent and/or received through her private and unauthorized server located in the basement of her home.

Messages concerning highly sensitive information concerning the Hamas terrorist group were among the emails examined. However, former secretary of state Clinton was not interviewed about the sensitive new information, which was not reviewed for possible exposure to foreign and possibly hostile powers. The FBI did not alert U.S. intelligence agencies as to any possible compromise of national security, despite being required under a federal “damage assessment” mandate. According to RealClearInvestigations, the newly discovered classified messages were never sent to the “relevant original classification authorities for security review.”

A career FBI special agent, Michael Biasello, told RCI that the agency did not conduct a real investigation or search, asserting that it was “just show -- eyewash -- to make it look like there was an investigation before the election.” On September 28, 2016, the New York office of the FBI informed headquarters in Washington D.C. about the huge new cache of evidence. Erstwhile supervising agent Peter Strzok did not seek to get a warrant to search the cache until October 30, 2016. Strzok was fired on August 10 for misconduct and his text messages evincing a hatred of Donald Trump. In violation of FBI policy, Strzok edited the warrant affidavit on his home email account and thus skirted the FBI’s systems that records government business. And even before conducting the search, he began drafting a second exoneration statement for Comey to read to the public. 

The very limited search warrant excluded more than half the emails that the FBI agents in New York believed to be germaine to the case, which included communications between Clinton and Abedin dating to 2007. However, the search warrant to examine Abedin’s laptop did not cover messages exchanged before or after Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state (2009-2013). This was the period when Clinton installed her private server and when she deleted thousands of emails the FBI had wanted. 

In his memoir titled “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey admitted that a political calculus were part of his decision-making in 2016. He wrote: “Assuming, as nearly everyone did, that Hillary Clinton would be elected president of the United States in less than two weeks, what would happen to the FBI, the Justice Department or her own presidency if it later was revealed, after the fact, that she still was the subject of an FBI investigation?”

Come on, Jeff, you can do it

Despite concerns on the part of many Americans over the ramifications of Hillary Clinton's use of an unauthorized private email server and possible hacks by foreign powers, and a FBI investigation possibly compromised by political considerations, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not only recused himself from the investigation now undertaken by special counsel Robert Mueller, he has also been apparently reluctant to pursue other investigations into President Trump's opponents. Trump has criticized Sessions, and some Republicans have suggested that Sessions must resign or be dismissed.

On Thursday, Sessions released a statement defending his conduct of the Department of Justice. “While I am attorney general, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” he said in a statement. "I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action." On Friday, Trump responded to the attorney general, tweeting: "Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants, so look into all of the corruption on the 'other side' including deleted Emails, Comey lies and leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr...FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court], Christopher Steele and his phony and corrupt dossier, the Clinton Foundation, illegal surveillance of Trump campaign, Russian collusion by Democrats, and so much more. Open up the papers and documents without redaction? Come on Jeff, you can do it: the country is waiting."

In television interviews this week, Trump openly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from investigating anything related to the 2016 election. In his Friday tweet, Trump referred to several issues that have occupied Congressional hearings and unleashed speculation, accusations, and rumors about former FBI Director James Comey's conduct in two investigations into Hillary Clinton's private email server. Some Republicans have called on Sessions to be replaced.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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