When then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was closing the Hillary Clinton email investigation for the second time, just days before the 2016 election, he certified to Congress that his agency had “reviewed all of the communications” discovered on a personal laptop used by Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, and her husband, Anthony Weiner.
At the time, many wondered how investigators managed over the course of one week to read the “hundreds of thousands” of emails residing on the machine, which had been a focus of a sex-crimes investigation of Weiner, a former New York Democratic congressman.
Comey (pictured above left) later told Congress that “thanks to the wizardry of our technology,” the FBI was able to eliminate the vast majority of messages as “duplicates” of emails they’d previously seen. Tireless agents, he claimed, then worked “night after night after night” to scrutinize the remaining material.
But virtually none of his account was true, a growing body of evidence reveals.
In fact, a technical glitch prevented FBI technicians from accurately comparing the new emails with the old emails. Only 3,077 of the 694,000 emails were directly reviewed for classified or incriminating information. Three FBI officials completed that work in a single 12-hour spurt the day before Comey again cleared Clinton of criminal charges.
“Most of the emails were never examined, even though they made up potentially 10 times the evidence” of what was reviewed in the original year-long case that Comey closed in July 2016, said a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Yet even the “extremely narrow” search that was finally conducted, after more than a month of delay, uncovered more classified material Clinton sent and/or received through her unauthorized basement server, the official said.
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Contradicting Comey’s testimony, this included highly sensitive information dealing with Israel and the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas. The former secretary of state, however, was never confronted with the sensitive new information, and the content was never analyzed for damage to national security.
Even though the unique classified material was improperly stored and transmitted on an unsecured device, the FBI did not refer the matter to U.S. intelligence agencies to determine if national security had been compromised, as required under a federally mandated “damage assessment” directive.
The newly discovered classified material “was never previously sent out to the relevant original classification authorities for security review,” the official, who spoke to RealClearInvestigations on the condition of anonymity, said.
Other key parts of the investigation remained open when the embattled director announced to Congress he was buttoning the case back up for good just ahead of Election Day.
One career FBI special agent involved in the case complained to New York colleagues that officials in Washington tried to “bury” the new trove of evidence, which he believed contained the full archive of Clinton’s emails — including long-sought missing messages from her first months at the State Department.
RealClearInvestigations pieced together the FBI’s handling of the massive new email discovery from the Weiner laptop. This months-long investigation included a review of federal court records and affidavits, cellphone text messages, and emails sent by key FBI personnel, along with internal bureau memos, reviews and meeting notes documented in government reports.
“There was no real investigation and no real search. It was all just show — eyewash — to make it look like there was an investigation before the election.”
Information also was gleaned through interviews with FBI agents and supervisors, prosecutors, and other law enforcement officials, along with congressional investigators and public-interest lawyers.
If the FBI “soft-pedaled” the original investigation of Clinton’s emails, as some critics have said, it out-and-out suppressed the follow-up probe related to the laptop, sources for this article said.
“There was no real investigation and no real search,” said Michael Biasello, a 27-year veteran of the FBI. “It was all just show — eyewash — to make it look like there was an investigation before the election.”
Although the FBI’s New York office first pointed headquarters to the large new volume of evidence on Sept. 28, 2016, supervising agent Peter Strzok, who was fired on August 10 for his anti-Trump texts and other misconduct, did not try to obtain a warrant to search the huge cache of emails until Oct. 30, 2016.
Violating department policy, he edited the warrant affidavit on his home email account, bypassing the FBI system for recording such government business. He also began drafting a second exoneration statement before conducting the search.
The search warrant was so limited in scope that it excluded more than half the emails New York agents considered relevant to the case. The cache of Clinton-Abedin communications dated back to 2007.
But the warrant to search the laptop excluded any messages exchanged before or after Clinton’s 2009-2013 tenure as secretary of state, key early periods when Clinton initially set up her unauthorized private server and later periods, when she deleted thousands of emails investigators sought.
Far from investigating and clearing Abedin and Weiner, the FBI did not interview them, according to other FBI sources who say Comey closed the case prematurely. The machine was not authorized for classified material, and Weiner did not have classified security clearance to receive such information, which he did on at least two occasions through his Yahoo! email account — which he also used to email snapshots of his penis.
Many Clinton supporters believe Comey’s 11th hour reopening of a case that had shadowed her campaign was a form of sabotage that cost her the election. But the evidence shows Comey and his inner circle acted only after worried agents and prosecutors in New York forced their hand.
At the prodding of Attorney General Lynch, they then worked to reduce and rush through, rather than carefully examine, potentially damaging new evidence.
Paul Sperry is a veteran journalist with RealClearInvestigations. This article is excerpted with permission of RCI from the full report, which can be read here.