A July 2016 email from FBI agent Peter Strzok suggests bureau insiders discussed the conclusion of its investigation into 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as early as April 2016 — months before the FBI interviewed Clinton.
“Another Strzok email suggest[s] the decision on the Clinton email matter has been under discussion since April 2016 — three months before then-FBI Director James Comey announced he would recommend no prosecution,” the nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch revealed Thursday.
Clinton’s use of her private email server to conduct official Department of State business and the FBI’s investigation cast a cloud over her 2016 campaign against President Donald Trump. After exonerating her in July 2016, former FBI Director James Comey reopened the investigation in late October 2016 — just two weeks before Election Day — before closing it again and exonerating her again only days before the election.
The email from Strzok resulted from an email chain discussing former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s decision to recuse herself from the Clinton probe after an Arizona journalist exposed her secret meeting in late June 2016 with former President Bill Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac. Lynch subsequently claimed she and Clinton discussed only family matters, including grandchildren.
Strzok wrote on July 1, “Note that this has been under discussion since April part. Timings [sic] not great, but what are you going to do?”
Bureau agents interviewed Hillary Clinton as part of the probe on July 2, 2016. Three days later, Comey announced he would not recommend charges against her. Lynch confirmed on July 6 that the Department of Justice (DOJ) wouldn’t pursue charges against Clinton.
Judicial Watch released 16 pages of FBI documents pertaining to the tarmac meeting that highlighted Strzok’s involvement in the matter.
Strzok served as the FBI’s chief of the counterespionage section during its investigation into Clinton. He also led the bureau’s 2016 investigation into Russia’s election interference and was appointed the bureau’s deputy assistant director of the counterintelligence division.
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Special counsel Robert Mueller named Strzok in July 2017 as one of the top officials in the probe of allegations of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russians. But Mueller removed Strzok in August 2017 after his anti-Trump text messages with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page first surfaced. Page resigned from the FBI in May amid heightened scrutiny.
“These emails are astonishing, no wonder the FBI hid them from Judicial Watch and the court,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement Thursday. “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,” Fitton added.
The documents Judicial Watch obtained included an email from an unidentified FBI official sent after the tarmac meeting with the subject line, “Media ReportsNot for Dissemination.” The official emphasized, “Our job is to protect the boss from harm and embarrassment.”
“What issues are currently being reported in the media? And what actions/interactions/situations that the Director may be in could impact them,” the official wrote, noting that the bureau should focus on these issues.
“The official then cites an example of a public relations disaster near-miss when Comey’s plane ‘literally just missed Clinton’s plane’ when they flew into the White Plains, New York, airport (HPN) a few months earlier, and saying, ‘Imagine the optics and the awkward situation we would have put the director in [had] we … been at the FBO at the same time as Secretary Clinton,'” Judicial Watch noted.