Justice Department (DoJ)
It is alleged leakers inside the FBI are upset at Clinton, James Comey, and/or the Justice Department.
The Guardian reports that “Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI,” according to multiple FBI sources, “spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.” Both current and former anonymous FBI officials “have described a chaotic internal climate that resulted from outrage over [FBI Director] James Comey’s July  decision” not to recommend indictment.
One current agent says, “The FBI is Trumpland,” referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Clinton is “the antichrist personified to a large swath of FBI personnel,” and “the reason why they’re leaking is they’re pro-Trump.”
However, “other sources dispute the depth of support for Trump within the [FBI], though they uniformly stated that Clinton is viewed highly unfavorably.”
A former FBI official says, “There are lots of people who don’t think Trump is qualified, but also believe Clinton is corrupt. What you hear a lot is that it’s a bad choice, between an incompetent and a corrupt politician. … Many FBI agents were upset at the director, not because he didn’t [recommend to] indict, but they believe he threw the FBI under the bus by taking the heat away from [the Justice Department].”
While FBI agents are upset at Comey and his handling of the investigation, agents are also upset with what is seen as obstructionism from the Justice Department. The Guardian comments, “Some feel Comey needs to address the criticism and provide reassurance that the [FBI], with its wide-ranging investigative and surveillance powers, will comport itself in an apolitical manner.” But since October 28, 2016, when Comey announced the reopening of the investigation, he has stayed silent. (The Guardian, 11/3/2016)
Suspicions of partisan political decisions has been causing increasing conflict within both the FBI and Justice Department, as well as between them.
CNN publishes a front-page article with the title “Turmoil in the FBI,” which is based on interviews with more than a dozen anonymous government officials close to the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. It states that since the investigation began in July 2015, “infighting among some agents and officials has exposed some parts of the storied [FBI] to be buffeted by some of the same bitter [political] divisions as the rest of American society.”
CNN alleges, “Some of the sharpest divides have emerged between some agents in the FBI’s New York field office, the bureau’s largest and highest-profile, and officials at FBI headquarters in Washington and at the Justice Department. Some rank-and-file agents interpreted cautious steps taken by the Justice Department and FBI headquarters as being done for political reasons or to protect a powerful political figure [Clinton]. At headquarters, some have viewed the actions and complaints of some agents in the field as driven by the common desire of investigators to get a big case or, perhaps worst, because of partisan views.”
The tensions are said to have “multiplied” since FBI Director James Comey announced in July 2016 that he would not recommend indicting Clinton. In addition to increasing conflicts within the FBI, his announcement “also opened up sharp divides between Justice [Department] and FBI officials, and even within the Justice Department itself, where some officials have pushed for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to more forcefully assert her power over the FBI.”
The tensions in the Clinton email investigation have been duplicated by the Clinton Foundation investigation, with some FBI agents again frustrated at what they consider political obstructionism from FBI leaders and the Justice Department to protect Clinton. That has also led to friction between FBI headquarters and the New York field office.
Since then, conflicts have increased still more due to the reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation on October 28, 2016. Potentially relevant evidence was discovered on the computer of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, shortly after October 3, 2016. “The longer it took for officials at FBI headquarters and at the Justice Department to decide how to proceed with the matter, the more conspiracies spread among some agents that perhaps senior FBI officials were trying to cover up the matter.”
One unnamed “senior law enforcement official” says, “It’s the times we are living in. No one has emerged from this election unscathed.”
Rick DesLauriers, who was head of the FBI’s Boston field office until he retired three years ago, says, “Politics is running rampant. Passions are high.” He adds that “[Comey] made a decision that angered Republicans in July  and one that angered Democrats in October . That’s a pretty good indication he’s nonpartisan.”
CNN also notes that “Some of the tensions are built-in because of the FBI’s unique position as part of the Justice Department but also projecting a large measure of independence. The FBI director’s job has a 10-year tenure, spanning presidential administrations, while his bosses at the Justice Department are politically appointed and they leave when the administration ends.” (CNN, 11/2/2016)
- FBI headquarters
- FBI New York field office
- FBI Washington DC field office
- FBI's Anthony Weiner investigation
- FBI's Clinton email investigation
- FBI's Clinton Foundation investigation
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
- Huma Abedin
- internal FBI criticism
- James Comey
- Justice Department (DoJ)
- Loretta Lynch
- reopened FBI Clinton email investigation
- Rick DesLauriers
The FBI allegedly has not destroyed the laptops of two Clinton aides, and their immunity deals may have been voided.
In October 2016, it was reported that Clinton’s aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson got immunity deals in return for their cooperation in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, and in return for turning over their computer laptops, the FBI promised to destroy those laptops after analyzing the data on them.
However, on this day, Fox News reporter Bret Baier claims, “As a result of the limited immunity deals to top aides, including Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, the Justice Department had tentatively agreed that the FBI would destroy those laptops after a narrow review. We are told definitively that has not happened. Those devices are currently in the FBI field office here in Washington, DC, and are being exploited. The source points out that any immunity deal is null and void if any subject lied at any point in the investigation.” (Real Clear Politics, 11/2/2016)
It is revealed that the FBI and Justice Department agreed not to have grand jury subpoenas for the Clinton email investigation, arguing that would lead to a faster conclusion.
CNN reports, “During the Clinton email server investigation, investigators and prosecutors debated whether to issue subpoenas to Clinton’s aides, officials say. Leaders at the FBI and at the Justice Department thought it would be faster to come to voluntary agreements with aides. Subpoenas could cause delays, particularly if litigation is necessary, officials said. And the FBI and Justice Department wanted to try to complete the probe and get out of the way of the 2016 election.”
Presumably this meant it was agreed not to get Justice Department approval to empanel a grand jury, because an FBI investigation cannot issue subpoenas without the legal authority of a grand jury. (CNN, 11/2/2016)
Two days earlier, Senator Charles Grassley (R) sent FBI Director James Comey a letter asking for an official answer regarding this issue. Comey hinted in September 2016 that he didn’t seek a grand jury in the interest of quickly concluding the investigation.
Obama indirectly criticizes Comey, saying “we don’t operate on innuendo.”
President Obama publicly comments for the first time about FBI Director James Comey’s letter on October 28, 2016 that effectively announced the reopening of the Clinton email investigation just 11 days prior to the 2016 US presidential election.
Obama doesn’t directly mention Comey. But he says, “I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo and we don’t operate on incomplete information and we don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”
Obama says, “I’ve made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don’t look like I am meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes for making these assessments.”
But then he makes comments that clearly are supportive of Clinton, by downplaying the implications of reopening the investigation. “Obviously, it’s become a political controversy. The fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton, having been in the arena for 30 years, oftentimes gets knocked around and people say crazy stuff about her and when she makes a mistake, an honest mistake, it ends up getting blown up as if it’s some crazy thing. I trust her. I know her.”
Obama also notes, “When this was investigated thoroughly last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable.” (CNN, 11/2/2016) (CNN, 11/2/2016)
Contrary to Obama’s claims that he has made an effort not to meddle, in October 2015 he made comments supporting Clinton in her email controversy that were criticized. Then he did so again in April 2016.
The New York Times’ editorial board heavily criticizes “James Comey’s Big Mistake.”
That is the title of the op-ed published four days after FBI Director Comey announced the at least partial reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. The editorial states, “Now, thanks to Mr. Comey’s breathtakingly rash and irresponsible decision, the Justice Department and FBI are scrambling to process hundreds of thousands of emails to determine whether there is anything relevant in them before [the US presidential election on November 8, 2016] — all as the country stands by in suspense. This is not how federal investigations are conducted. In claiming to stand outside politics, Mr. Comey has instead created the hottest political football of the 2016 election.
“And he clearly failed to consider the impact of the innuendo he unleashed just days before the election, seemingly more concerned with protecting himself from recrimination by critics in Congress and the FBI. … The Clinton campaign and its supporters are apoplectic. But top federal law enforcement officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations have been just as swift and fierce in their condemnation of Mr. Comey.
“In an election that has featured the obliteration of one long-accepted political or social norm after another, it is sadly fitting that one of the final and perhaps most consequential acts was to undermine the American people’s trust in the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.” (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)
Loretta Lynch and James Comey have a private meeting, and agree to work together to get faster answers.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey meet in person to discuss Comey’s announcement on October 28, 2016 that he is at least partially reopening the FBI’s Clinton email investigation due newly discovered evidence. It has been reported that one day before his announcement, Lynch made clear that she disagreed, passing that message to him through intermediaries.
Lynch and Comey have a regular national security meeting at the FBI, and after the meeting ends, Lynch and Comey talk in private. (CBS News, 11/1/2016)
Later in the day, Justice Department legislative liaison Peter Kadzik tells Congress that the department will dedicate all necessary resources and work “as expeditiously as possible” to learn something about the new evidence, since Election Day is only eight days away.
Politico reports that “Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are now seeking a kind of detente with [Comey] after the extraordinary rift between Comey and the Justice Department” regarding his decision to ignore the Justice Department’s wishes for him not to send the letter.
One unnamed “top Justice official” says that Lynch and Yates “felt they needed to make clear that they disagreed with Comey’s decision. But no one is dragging their feet here. The Justice Department is committed to working with the FBI to move the case forward.” (Politico, 10/31/2016)
A senator wants to know if the FBI ever asked for subpoena power in the Clinton email investigation, and if not, why not.
Following the October 28, 2016 revelation that FBI Director James Comey has at least partially reopened the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sends him a letter with a series of questions.
He points that in May 2016, “I wrote to you expressing concern about the appearance that political appointees at the Justice Department might be withholding approval for the FBI to seek search warrants and grand jury subpoenas. These standard investigative tools are usually approved in criminal investigations of this scope and importance. However, it remains unclear to this day whether the FBI requested the use of a grand jury in the Clinton email investigation to compel documents and testimony, and if so, whether the [Justice Department] denied that request. These concerns are only magnified by these latest developments [regarding the reopening of the investigation].”
He adds, “If the FBI is denied the ability to gather evidence through compulsory means, Secretary Clinton and her aides have enormous leverage to negotiate extraordinary concessions in exchange for voluntary cooperation. It is critical for the public to know whether the FBI has requested from the Justice Department vital investigative tools such as grand jury subpoenas and search warrants and whether it has been denied access to them.” (Politico, 11/1/2016) (US Congress, 10/31/2016)
Two days later, it will be reported that the FBI never asked the Justice Department for the grand jury legal backing needed for subpoena power, but this has not been officially confirmed.
On September 28, 2016, Comey hinted that he preferred making immunity deals with key witnesses over using subpoena power in order to bring the investigation to a faster conclusion.
Former Attorney General Mukasey claims Comey is in a no-win situation due to his earlier failure to pursue a vigorous Clinton email investigation.
Michael Mukasey, the US attorney general from 2007 to 2009, writes an editorial in the Wall Street Journal with the title: “The FBI Director’s Dishonorable Choice.”
He suggests that FBI Director James Comey’s recent highly controversial reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation shortly before the 2016 US presidential election is due to earlier mistakes Comey made in the investigation.
“Recall that Mr. Comey’s authority extends only to supervising the gathering of facts to be presented to Justice Department lawyers for their confidential determination of whether those facts justify a federal prosecution. Nonetheless, in July  he announced that ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would seek to charge her with a crime, although Mrs. Clinton had classified information on a private non-secure server—at least a misdemeanor under one statute; and although she was ‘extremely careless’ in her handling of classified information such that it was exposed to hacking by hostile foreign nations—a felony under another statute; and apparently had caused the destruction of emails—a felony under two other statutes.”
He continues, “Those decisions were not his to make, nor were the reasons he offered for making them at all tenable: that prosecutions for anything but mishandling large amounts of classified information, accompanied by false statements to investigators, were unprecedented; and that criminal prosecutions for gross negligence were constitutionally suspect.”
He also points to immunity deals made with key suspects that even included destroying their computers after limited searches, and a failure to get to the bottom of computer technician Paul Combetta’s destruction of Clinton’s emails in March 2015, supposedly done entirely on his own for no clear motive. “Why would an FBI director, who at one time was an able and aggressive prosecutor, agree to such terms or accept such a fantastic story?”
He also claims that emails between President Obama and Clinton on her private server suggested that “if Mrs. Clinton was at criminal risk for communicating on her non-secure system, so was [Obama].” The FBI needs the cooperation of a grand jury, and only the legal authority of a grand jury would give the FBI subpoena power to conduct a real investigation. If Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused to allow a grand jury, Comey “could have gone public with his request, and threatened to resign if it was not followed. … Instead, Mr. Comey acceded to the apparent wish of President Obama that no charges be brought.”
That lack of courage put Comey in his no-win situation when more evidence happened to come to light shortly before Election Day. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)
Former Attorney General Eric Holder says that Comey made “a serious mistake.”
Eric Holder, US attorney general from 2009 to 2015, writes an editorial in the Washington Post with the title: “James Comey is a good man, but he made a serious mistake.”
He writes, “I am deeply concerned about FBI Director James B. Comey’s decision to write a vague letter to Congress about emails potentially connected to a matter of public, and political, interest. That decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. … Director Comey broke with these fundamental principles. I fear he has unintentionally and negatively affected public trust in both the Justice Department and the FBI. And he has allowed — again without improper motive — misinformation to be spread by partisans with less pure intentions.“
Holder continues, “This controversy has its roots in the director’s July  decision to hold a news conference announcing his recommendation that the Justice Department bring no charges against Hillary Clinton.” He says, given that Attorney General Loretta Lynch recused herself from the case, instead of having Comey “publicly share his professional recommendation, as well as his personal opinions” about the case in a “a stunning breach of protocol,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates could have announced the final decision of the department, without Comey’s extensive public commentary.
Holder concludes, “I served with Jim Comey and I know him well. This is a very difficult piece for me to write. He is a man of integrity and honor. I respect him. But good men make mistakes. In this instance, he has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications.” (The Washington Post, 10/31/2016)