The main headlines out of former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate testimony on Thursday focused on his relationship with President Donald Trump, but he also dropped a bomb on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Comey offered his most expansive comments to date about why he did not have confidence that Lynch credibly could close out the criminal investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told LifeZette that it is one more reason for the Justice Department to take another hard look at Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct government business.
"Comey's testimony provides another reason to re-examine, reopen and reinstate any Clinton investigation," he said.
Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Lynch instructed him not to call the probe an investigation.
"She said, 'Yes, don't call it that. Call it a matter.' I said, 'Why would I do that?'" he said. "She said, 'Just call it a matter.'"
Comey testified he was concerned because representatives from Clinton's presidential campaign were using the same term and other euphemisms to characterize the investigation.
"I don't know whether it was intentional or not, but it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way it was describing that," he aid. "It was inaccurate. We had an investigation open for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we had an investigation open at the time. That gave me a queasy feeling."
Fitton said that he heard someone joke that the FBI now stood for Federal Bureau of Matters.
Does Lynch's apparent order to Comey to use the word "matter" indicate that the fix was in?
"It's certainly worth asking the question … They were obviously just going through the motions of the email investigation," he said.
Robby Mook, who served as Clinton's campaign manager, told CNN on Thursday that nobody from the campaign coordinated messaging with anyone from the Justice Department.
"I didn't believe she could credibly decline that investigation. At least not without grievous damage to the Department of Justice and to the FBI."
But Comey said it "was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude I have to step away from the department if we're to close this case credibly." He also pointed to Lynch's impromptu meeting on an airplane with former President Bill Clinton during the height of the investigation.
Lynch and Clinton both insisted at the time that they chatted about grandchildren and other innocuous matters while their respective airplanes idled. But Comey agreed the public would have been skeptical if Lynch had been the one to announce that Hillary Clinton had broken no laws.
So instead, Comey took it upon himself to make the announcement at a news conference in July in violation of Justice Department protocol.
"I didn't believe she could credibly decline that investigation," he said. "At least not without grievous damage to the Department of Justice and to the FBI."
Comey concluded that despite "extremely careless" handling of classified information, "no reasonable prosecutor" would seek criminal charges because authorities would not be able to prove criminal intent.
Critics have pointed out that the statute in question does not require intent, only negligence. But Judicial Watch on Thursday released a Clinton email it obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request that suggested prosecutors might have been able to make a case even under the higher legal standard that Comey cited.
The email exchange occurred in March 2009, shortly after Clinton began her tenure as secretary of state. Susan Kennedy, presumably former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, sent a letter to Clinton on March 7 saying, "Just in case you are still allowed to carry your Blackberry, your friends are watching with great pride."
Clinton's reply suggests that she was fully aware of the security risks of using a non-secure BlackBerry device.
"Against the advice of the security hawks, I still do carry my Berry but am prohibited from using it in my office, where I spend most of my time when I'm not on a plane or in a 'no-coverage' country," she wrote.
Judicial Watch noted that Eric Boswell, then the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, wrote in a memo to Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills he could not "stress too strongly, however, that any unclassified BlackBerry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly monitoring conversations, retrieving email, and exploiting calendars."
Fitton said law enforcement authorities should reopen the case. He said it is possible they already quietly have and may be looking at other matters, such as pay-to-play allegations involving Clinton's tenure as secretary of state and the family-run Clinton Foundation.
"We don't know," he said.
As to why Comey did not object when Lynch ordered him to call the Clinton probe a "matter," he testified that it was not "a hill worth dying on."
Last Modified: June 9, 2017, 11:51 pm