February 15, 2018 – Another longtime Comey aide, Michael Kortan leaving FBI
“The longtime head of public affairs at the FBI — who was a confidant of former director James Comey — is planning to retire, Fox News has learned.
A notice went out this week for a retirement get-together for Michael Kortan scheduled for Feb. 15. Since 2009, Kortan has served as assistant director for public affairs, an influential job that controlled media access. He also served under former director Robert Mueller, now leading the Russia probe.
(…) It’s unclear whether the retirement was long-planned or in any way precipitated by recent events. The FBI emphasized he was finishing 33 years of service.
“After Comey became director in September 2013, Kortan helped facilitate regular on-the-record briefings with beat reporters, a departure from previous directors.”
Kortan also was front and center during the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and especially in July 2016 — coordinating media coverage and handing out copies of Comey’s public statement recommending against criminal charges in the investigation into mishandling of classified information.
Kortan joins a growing list of key officials leaving the FBI amid Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s probe into the bureau’s Clinton email investigation. (Read more: Fox News, 2/08/2018)
January 6 – 10, 2017: Senator Ron Johnson has questions for “Sensitive Matters Team” – New emails show FBI and DOJ discussing dossier briefing for CNN release
“The footnotes in a letter from Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson outline a series of previously unknown emails between top FBI and DOJ officials as they discuss the Steele Dossier and prepare for a release by CNN.
The emails show that hours before FBI Director James Comey briefed President-Elect Trump on the dossier, Comey’s chief-of-staff James Rybicki e-mailed staff that Director Comey “is coming into HQ briefly now for an update from the sensitive matter team.”
On January 8th, 2017, two days after the Comey briefing, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe wrote an e-mail to top FBI officials (James Comey, James Rybicki, David Bowdich and Michael Kortan), with the subject: “Flood is coming.”
47 minutes later Andrew McCabe then emails across the street to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and her deputy assistant Matthew Axelrod. Andrew McCabe uses the subject line “News” in his e-mail to alert the Main Justice officials.
The letter from Senator Johnson then goes on to outline how CNN reported breaking news of the dossier on January 10th, using the ‘hook’ created by a leak of the briefing Comey gave to president-elect Trump. CNN headlined their report: “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.” A few hours later, BuzzFeed News published the contents of the “Steele dossier.”
Within the letter Senator Johnson asks Director Chris Wray to provide a list of all members of the “sensitive matters team” referenced by James Rybicki. Additionally, Johnson requests Wray to provide all details about how FBI officials “first learned that media outlets, including CNN, may have possessed the Steele dossier.”
From the footnotes we can see the emails were first obtained by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General (Michael Horowitz) and turned over to the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
What makes this interesting is the emails are: all post-election; all seemingly unrelated to any of the three known primary IG investigative inquiries; and all provided by the OIG to congress, without prior request (that we know of). Much like the Page/Strzok text message release, this email release seems specifically intended to spur further congressional inquiry, and broaden the general public awareness.
Why would IG Horowitz send these to congress? Well, there’s not much he can do with them. All of the outlined participants/recipients are no longer within the DOJ or FBI except David Bowditch (now Asst. Director under Wray); however, they do provide an expanded awareness and understanding of the post-election ‘small group‘ activity.” (Read more: Conservative Treehouse, 5/22/2018)
- Andrew McCabe
- Christopher Wray
- Clinton/DNC/Steele Dossier
- David Bowdich
- Department of Justice
- DOJ OIG Report
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
- James Comey
- James Rybicki
- Matthew Axelrod
- Michael Horowitz
- Michael Kortan
- Ron Johnson
- Sally Yates
- Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee
- sensitive matters team
November 6, 2016 – Peter Strzok sends an email to FBI and DoJ officials claiming no new classified Clinton emails are found on Weiner’s laptop
(…) “The lawsuit also forced the release of a November 6, 2016, email by then-FBI official Peter Strzok telling Bowdich, Priestap, Rybicki, Page, former FBI General Counsel James Baker and others: “[Redacted], Jon and I completed our review of all of the potential HRC work emails on the [Anthony Weiner] laptop. We found no previously unknown, potentially classified emails on the media.”
As Judicial Watch previously reported, there were at least 18 classified emails found on the Weiner laptop by the FBI. Paul Sperry’s RealClear Investigations report revealed that only 3,077 of the 340,000 emails “were directly reviewed for classified or incriminating information.” (Judicial Watch, 2/11/2019)
October 28, 2016 – Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, emails Baker requesting a call “ASAP” about the Comey letter
“On October 28, 2016, the day that Comey sent a letter to Congress regarding the FBI’s discovery that the Weiner laptop contained Clinton’s emails. Hillary Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall, within hours, email’s Baker requesting a call “ASAP” about the Comey letter. Baker describes his follow-up call to senior FBI officials:
“I received the email below from David Kendall and I called him back. Before doing so I alerted DOJ via email that I would do that.
He said that our letter was “tantalizingly ambiguous” and made statements that were “inchoate and highly ominous” such that what we had done was worse than transparency because it allows people to make whatever they want out to make out of the letter to the prejudice of Secretary Clinton.
I told him that I could not respond to his requests at this time but that I would discuss it with others and get back to him.
I suggest that we have some kind of follow up meeting or phone call with this group either this evening or over the weekend to address this and probably other issues/questions that come up in the next 24 hours. Sound reasonable?”
Baker’s heads up on the Kendall call was sent to:
- Then-Director James Comey; since fired;
- Then-Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich, who later replaced Andrew McCabe as deputy director;
- Michael Steinbach, the F.B.I.’s former executive assistant director for national security;
- Then-Assistant Director of Counterintelligence E.W. Priestap, now retired;
- James Rybicki, former chief of staff to Comey;
- FBI intelligence analyst Jonathan Moffa;
- Former Acting Assistant Director Jason V. Herring;
- Michael Kortan, FBI assistant director for public affairs, now retired;
- Former principal deputy general counsel Trisha Anderson;
- Strzok and Page
The emails show that a conference call for the above senior officials was set up for the next day by Peter Strzok. (Two days before the election, on November 6, Comey sent a second letter reporting that the FBI’s review of the Weiner laptop material would not change his “conclusion” that Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted.) (Judicial Watch, 2/11/2019)
August 16-24, 2016 – New Strzok-Page emails reveal FBI gave special treatment to Clinton’s demands for email investigation information just before election
“Judicial Watch announced today it received 218 pages of disgraced former FBI officials Peter Strzok-Lisa Page emails which show then-FBI General Counsel James Baker instructing FBI officials to expedite the release of FBI investigative material to Hillary Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall in August 2016. Kendall and the FBI’s top lawyer discussed specifically quickly obtaining the “302” report of the FBI/DOJ interview of Mrs. Clinton.
(…) On August 16, 2016, at 10:02 p.m. Baker emails then-Associate Deputy Director David Bowdich; Michael Steinbach, former executive assistant director for national security; former Acting Assistant Director Jason V. Herring; former FBI lawyer Lisa Page; former Principal Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson; Michael Kortan, FBI assistant director for public affairs, now retired; James Rybicki, former chief of staff to Comey; and others to inform them that he “just spoke” with Clinton’s lawyer Kendall, who requested documents from the FBI. Baker says he told Kendall he would “need to submit a request.” Baker tells them, “I said we would process it expeditiously.”
“I just spoke with David Kendall … I conveyed our view that in order to obtain the documents [FBI investigative material] they are seeking they need to submit a request pursuant to the Privacy Act and FOIA. I said they could submit a letter to me covering both statutes. They will send it in the morning. I said that we would process it expeditiously. David asked us to focus first on the Secretary’s 302 [FBI interview report]. I said OK. [Redacted] We will have to focus on this issue tomorrow and get the 302 out the door as soon as possible and then focus on the rest of the stuff.”
The following day, August 17, 2016, Kendall sent a FOIA/Privacy Act request on “behalf of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton” to the FBI’s top lawyer with a request for “expeditious processing.” Baker passes this request to Bowdich, Steinbach, Herring, Page, Anderson:
In my view, we need to move as quickly as possible on this, but pursuant to David’s oral request last night, we should focus first on Secretary Clinton’s 302…. Is the end of this week out of the question for her 302?
In a follow-up email exchange, the same day, Anderson arranged for Herring, Page, former FBI Assistant Director and head of the Office of Congressional Affairs Gregory Brower, Strzok and others to “coordinate a plan for processing and releasing” Clinton’s 302, though one official reminds others that they should process the request “consistent” with other requests.
Then, in an August 21, 2016, email exchange Baker tells his people that he would “alert” Kendall shortly before Clinton’s 302 was to be posted on the FBI’s FOIA Vault webpage. On September 2, 2016, the FBI announced the release of Clinton’s interview documents.
Finally, on August 24, 2016, the acting FBI FOIA unit chief said he sees “no problem” with giving Hillary’s attorney a heads up before her records were posted to the Vault.” (Read more: Judicial Watch, 6/03/2019)
July 12, 2016 FactCheck.org emails the FBI about inconsistencies between Comey’s congressional testimony and statements by Clinton
“On July 12, 2016, Eugene Kiely, the director of FactCheck.org, emailed the FBI about inconsistencies he’d identified between Comey’s congressional testimony and statements by Clinton and her campaign about her deletion of emails. Kiely noted that Comey testified to the House that Clinton did not give her lawyers any instructions on which of her emails to delete, whereas Clinton herself told the press that she made the decision on which emails should be deleted. Kiely also pointed out that Comey said in his testimony that there were three Clinton emails containing classification “portion markings,” whereas the State Department had said there were only two Clinton emails with classification markings. Kiely’s inquiry set off an internal discussion at the top of the FBI on how to respond to his questions.
Strzok writes: “We’re looking into it and will get back to you this afternoon; the answer may require some tweaking, the question is whether this is the forum to do it.” The email is addressed to FBI intelligence analyst Moffa; Rybicki; Michael Kortan, FBI assistant director for public affairs, now retired; Lisa Page and others.
Strzok’s suggested press response is fully redacted, but included is his deferral to the “7th floor as to whether to release to this reporter or in another manner.”
When asked “should we provide any additional information to FactCheck.org or would any updates more appropriately be give [sic] directly to Congress?” Strzok defers to “Jim/Lisa [Page]” and [Redacted].” (Read more: Judicial Watch: 2/15/2019)