New York Times

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)

The FBI begins analyzing Huma Abedin’s newly discovered emails.

Abedin crying after learning the FBI has re-opened the Clinton email investigation. (Credit: public domain)

Abedin’s reaction is captured after learning the FBI has re-opened the Clinton email investigation. (Credit: public domain)

On October 30, 2016, the FBI obtained a search warrant, allowing its agents who had taken part in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation to have access to hundreds of thousands of emails belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. According to the New York Times, by the next day, the FBI begins using a special computer program that can help FBI analysts determine whether the emails contain classified information.

Clinton turned over about 30,000 of her emails to the State Department in December 2014, and deleted about another 31,000. The FBI recovered about 17,000 of those deleted emails during its investigation, which concluded in July 2016. The program should allow analysts to learn relatively quickly how many emails are previously known copies. Abedin also had an email account on Clinton’s server, and there are thousands of her emails not sent to or from Clinton, but their exact number is unknown.

Abedin is seen arriving at Clinton's campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, two days after the FBI reopened the Clinton email case. (Credit: Jae Donnelly / The Daily Mail)

Abedin is seen arriving at Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, two days after the FBI reopened the Clinton email case. (Credit: Jae Donnelly / The Daily Mail)

One unnamed “senior law enforcement official” says, “This is not a manpower issue. It’s an issue of getting the emails into a program that can allow agents to look at them.”

The FBI is under intense pressure to complete its review before the US presidential election on November 8, 2016, just over one week away. However, if previously unknown emails are discovered, it could take weeks or months for various government departments to confer and agree upon their classification status.

If more classified emails are found, that likely will not cause new legal difficulties for Clinton or Abedin, because many such emails already were found, but FBI Director James Comey said that he wouldn’t recommend any indictments without evidence of criminal intent.

The Times comments that “What could cause problems for Ms. Abedin — and by extension Mrs. Clinton — is if the FBI finds evidence that anyone tried to conceal these new emails from investigators. Ms. Abedin has said she turned over all her emails to the FBI months ago and does not know how emails ended up” on the computer owned by her estranged husband Anthony Weiner.
(The New York Times, 10/31/2016)

The FBI obtains a warrant for Huma Abedin’s recently discovered emails and immediately begins analyzing them.

The cover of the New York Post on October 29, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

The cover of the New York Post on October 29, 2016. (Credit: New York Post)

When FBI Director James Comey informed Congress on October 28, 2016 that the Clinton email investigation was at least partially reopening due to newly discovered evidence, the agents who had been working on the investigation didn’t have the legal clearance to see the evidence. Possibly previously unknown emails sent to and from Clinton aide Huma Abedin were found on a computer belonging to her husband Anthony Weiner, due to an FBI investigation into his alleged sexual texting to an underaged girl.
Immediately after Comey sends the letter to Congress, the FBI and the Justice Department begin working on getting a search warrant from a judge so the FBI agents from the Clinton email investigation can read the emails. Two days later, on October 30, 2016, the warrant is obtained.

The FBI immediately begins working to analyze the emails and learn as much as possible about them before the US presidential election on November 8, 2016, little more than a week away. One unnamed federal law enforcement official says, “The process has begun.”

The New York Times reports that although “agents had discovered hundreds of thousands of Ms. Abedin’s emails on her husband’s computer [out of an estimated 650,000 emails], but investigators expected to seize only a portion of the total. Agents will have probable cause to search only the messages related to the Clinton investigation. Some of Ms. Abedin’s emails passed through Mrs. Clinton’s private server, officials said, which means there is a high likelihood that the FBI has already read them.”

It is not clear what the scope of the search warrant is, for instance, if it only covers emails from the time Clinton was secretary of state, or if it includes emails from the years afterwards, which might show evidence of a cover-up.

The Times also reports that “senior Justice Department officials said they would make all resources available to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible, saying Mr. Comey’s letter — just days before the election — gave the matter an unprecedented urgency.” (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)

It is said there is “no chance” the FBI will be able to finish reviewing newly discovered emails before the US presidential election.

Anthony Weiner, texting in a park. (Credit: Daily Mail)

Anthony Weiner, texting in a park. (Credit: Daily Mail)

One day after FBI Director James Comey told Congress that he is at least partially reopening the FBI’s Clinton email investigation after more emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin were found, the New York Times reports that “Law enforcement officials have begun the process to get court authority to read the emails.” This is according to unnamed US government officials. FBI agents involved in the illicit texting case of Abedin’s husband Anthony Weiner found the emails and can read them, but the agents involved in renewed Clinton email investigation still cannot.

Some reports indicate there are tens of thousands of emails to be reviewed. As a result, “How soon they will get that [legal permission] is unclear, but there is no chance that the review will be completed before Election Day, several [unnamed] law enforcement officials said.” The 2016 US presidential election is only ten days away. (The New York Times, 10/29/2016)

One day later, USA Today reports, “Though the volume of emails is substantial… authorities have not completely ruled out the possibility of completing the review by Election Day.” (USA Today, 10/30/2016)

But one day after that, Politico reports, “[I]t seems impossible that a full analysis will be completed by Election Day… because if potentially classified messages that haven’t been found before are located, they will have to be farmed out to various intelligence agencies for classification review. That interagency process often takes months.” (Politico, 10/31/2016)

Comey reveals the Clinton email investigation is at least partially reopened due to the discovery of Huma Abedin emails in an unrelated case, shocking the US presidential race just 11 days before the election.

FBI Director James Comey sends a letter to eight Congressional committees, informing them that emails relevant to the Clinton email investigation have surfaced in another unrelated case, causing at least a partial reopening of the investigation. This is a major political shock and an unprecedented action, since it comes just 11 days before the US presidential election.

Huma Abedin and husband Anthony Weiner (Credit: Elinor Carucci / Vanity Fair)

Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner (Credit: Elinor Carucci / Vanity Fair)

Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s longtime close aides and her deputy chief of staff during her tenure as secretary of state, is married to Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic Congressperson. However, she is estranged from him and began divorce proceedings against him two months earlier, due to his repeated sex scandals. In his most recent scandal, it is alleged he sent illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl. This led to an FBI investigation, and his computer and electronic devices were seized by the FBI on October 3, 2016. When his computer was examined, it was determined that it had been used by both Abedin and Weiner, and thousands of Abedin’s emails were found that could be relevant to the Clinton email investigation. That discovery in turn led to Comey being briefed on October 27, 2016, and then his surprise announcement one day later.

The New York Times reports calls Comey’s letter an “October surprise” that has “rocked” the 2016 presidential race. It has “left Mrs. Clinton’s team furious and scrambling for explanations while bolstering the spirits of Donald J. Trump after a wave of controversies and Republican defections had led many to write him off.”

Comey writes a very short letter that fails to mention many details. It states, in full: “In previous Congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony.”

James Comey (Credit: public domain)

James Comey (Credit: public domain)

“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigation team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to access their importance to our investigation.

“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.” (The New York Times, 10/28/2016) (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)

Later the same day, Comey also sends a short letter to all FBI officials, explaining his decision to send the letter. It is immediately leaked to the public. In it, he says, “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.” (The Washington Post, 10/28/2016)

The New York Times further reveals that Comey was only briefed about the emails the day before, and they have not yet been closely examined. “A senior law enforcement official said that tens of thousands of emails belonging to Ms. Abedin were on Mr. Weiner’s laptop…” However, “Senior law enforcement officials said that it was unclear if any of the emails were from Mrs. Clinton’s private server.” It is also unknown how many could be duplicates of previously known emails. (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)

The Washington Post reports, “The correspondence included emails between Abedin and Clinton, according to a law enforcement official.” (The Washington Post, 10/28/2016)

Comey is briefed and decides to announce the reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, but Justice Department officials are strongly opposed.

Abedin and Weiner leave their home separately, the day before the sexting scandal broke in September, 2016. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

Abedin and Weiner leave their home separately, the day before the sexting scandal broke in September, 2016. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

In early October 2016, FBI agents discovered 650,000 emails on a computer owned by Anthony Weiner, the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Though the agents were investigating Weiner for something unrelated, they eventually brief FBI agents who had worked on the recently closed FBI Clinton email investigation, and those agents say they would like to have the legal permission to look at the emails themselves.

Apparently, FBI Director James Comey first learns about the emails in mid-October 2016. Then he is given an updated briefing about it on this day. He decides he should immediately inform Congress about the development, even though the 2016 US presidential election is less than two weeks away. He does so in a letter sent one day later, which immediately becomes public.

However, Justice Department officials are opposed. According to the New York Times, “Senior Justice Department officials did not move to stop him from sending the letter, officials said, but they did everything short of it, pointing to policies against talking about current criminal investigations or being seen as meddling in elections.”

James Comey (Credit: Getty Images)

James Comey (Credit: Getty Images)

According to the Times, Comey decides to write his letter “before agents even began reading the newly discovered emails to determine whether they contained classified information or added new facts to the case.” This puzzles Justice Department officials. Apparently, some agents were only able to analyze the metadata.

It has long been Justice Department and FBI policy that politics should play no role in any investigative decisions. This is particularly emphasized for any actions taken within 60 days prior to an election. (The New York Times, 10/29/2016)

One unnamed “US official familiar with the matter” tells Yahoo News that senior officials “strongly discouraged” Comey from sending the letter, due to that department policy, adding, “He was acting independently of the guidance given to him.” One government source says that high-ranking Justice Department officials are “apoplectic” about the letter.

However, after listening to the Justice Department’s concerns, Comey concludes that the ramifications of not telling Congress promptly about the new emails far outweigh concerns about the department guidelines. He fears if he doesn’t immediately alert Congress, the FBI’s work will leak to the media and he will be accused of concealing information. If the news comes out before the election, he will be accused of trying to influence the election one way, but if it comes out after the election, he will be accused of trying to influence it the other way. One unnamed senior official says, “This was the least bad choice.”

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George J. Terwilliger III (Credit: McGuire Woods)

Many will criticize Comey for the letter, including some Republicans. For instance, George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under President George Bush (R), says, “There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election. Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes, that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences. There’s a difference between being independent and flying solo.” (The New York Times, 10/29/2016) (Yahoo News, 10/29/2016)

Politico reports that according to an unnamed “official familiar with the discussions,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch does not speak directly with Comey about the issue. However, her concerns are conveyed to him before he sends the letter. In late June 2016, Lynch pledged to recuse herself from the email investigation after she was seen having a private discussion with Bill Clinton. (Politico, 10/31/2016)

The US government formally accuses the Russian government of hacking and publishing emails related to US political entities.

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James Clapper (Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper releases a statement in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security claiming that leaked emails that have appeared on a variety of websites “are intended to interfere with the US election process. … We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The New York Times comments that the statement does “not name President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but that appear[s] to be the intention.”

Many thousands of emails and other documents have been posted in recent months on the WikiLeaks website, but WikiLeaks won’t say where their leaks come from. Two newly created websites attributed to DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 have also posted leaks. Both groups claim to have no ties to the Russian government, but the US government claims otherwise.

The statement adds that US intelligence agencies are less certain who is responsible for “scanning and probing” online voter registration lists in various US states in recent months. Those “in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company,” but the statement doesn’t assert that the Russian government is responsible.

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Kerry (left) and Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov meet in Geneva to discuss the Syrian crisis on September 9, 2016. (Credit: Agence France Presse)

The Times notes that the “announcement [comes] only hours after Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Russian and Syrian governments to face a formal war-crimes investigation over attacks on civilians in Aleppo and other parts of Syria. Taken together, the developments mark a sharp escalation of Washington’s many confrontations with [Russia] this year.”

US officials had debated for months whether or not to formally accuse Russia, and if so, when. An unnamed “senior administration official” says that with only about a month to go before the November presidential election, President Obama was “under pressure to act now,” in part because the closer the declaration would be to election day, the more political it would seem.

It is unclear what action the US will take in an attempt to punish Russia, if any. A range of options are being considered, including economic sanctions and covert cyber attacks against Russian targets. (The New York Times, 10/7/2016)

Colin Powell’s recently hacked emails are published.

On September 13, 2016, hacked emails belonging to former Secretary of State Colin Powell appear on a website known as DCLeaks.com.  It is unclear who owns the DCLeaks website, which only appeared on the Internet a few months earlier. They are known for previously publishing hacked emails belonging to prominent Democrats and Republicans, including General Philip M. Breedlove, the former commander of NATO forces in Europe, and George Soros, a wealthy backer of liberal causes. It is also reported to have ties to Guccifer 2.0, who in turn has been accused of having links to the Russian government.

Colin Powell (Credit: Paul Morigi / Getty Images)

Colin Powell (Credit: Paul Morigi / Getty Images)

Powell’s aide Peggy Cifrino states, “We are confirming that General Powell has been hacked and that they are his emails. We have no further comment at this time.” The dates of Powell’s hacked emails range from June 24, 2014 to as recently as August 29, 2016.

Some of the emails are first reported by BuzzFeed and the Intercept, followed by many other prominent mainstream news sources.

The New York Times reports, “A hack of Mr. Powell’s email this week has ripped away the diplomatic jargon and political niceties to reveal his unvarnished disdain of Donald J. Trump as a ‘national disgrace,’ his personal peeves with Hillary Clinton and his lingering, but still very raw, anger with the Republican colleagues with whom he so often clashed a decade ago.” (New York Times, 09/14/16)

The FBI’s Clinton email investigation final report and its summary of her FBI interview are released.

The FBI’s 47-page final report on its Clinton email investigation and the FBI’s 11-page summary of its July 2016 interview with Clinton are publicly released. However, both are heavily redacted. The last third of the final report is entirely redacted.

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A Secret Service agent stands guard while two other agents close a gate after a Secret Service vehicle arrived at the home of Clinton in Washington, DC, July 2, 2016. (Credit: Cliff Owen / The Associated Press)

The Washington Post notes, “Ordinarily internal documents from FBI investigations are not made public. However, [FBI Director James] Comey has said the unusually high profile case warranted more robust public disclosures than is standard.”

It is believed both reports were finished just prior to when Comey gave a public speech on July 5, 2016, stating that he wouldn’t recommend any indictments in this case. Clinton’s interview occurred only three days prior to this.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers make the release of the two documents the main headline.

The Post comments, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staffers employed an informal and sometimes haphazard system for exchanging and storing sensitive information and were at times either unaware or unconcerned with State Department policy…” (The Washington Post, 9/2/2016)

The Times comments: “The documents provided a number of new details about Mrs. Clinton’s private server, including what appeared to be a frantic effort by a computer specialist to delete an archive of her emails even after a congressional committee had requested that they be preserved.”

This is a reference to the revelation that Platte River Networks (PRN) employee Paul Combetta confessed to deleting and then wiping all of Clinton’s emails off her server in late March 2015, despite him being aware of a Congressional order to preserve them. This had been entirely unknown prior to the publication of the report. (The New York Times, 9/2/2016)

The following are other key findings in the FBI documents, as pointed out by the Times or the Post:

A snippet from the FBI report released on September 2, 2016. (Credit: public domain)

A snippet from the FBI report released on September 2, 2016. (Credit: public domain) The opening paragraph of the FBI’s summary on Clinton’s interview, released on September 2, 2016. (Credit: public domain)

  • Clinton defended her handling of the private server by repeatedly saying that she deferred to the judgment of her aides.
  • She regarded emails containing classified discussions about planned drone strikes as “routine.” (In fact, such discussions make up most of her “top secret” emails.)
  • She said she did not recall receiving any emails “she thought should not be on an unclassified system.” Furthermore, she “could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address.” (In fact, she sent or received over 2,000 emails later deemed classified, including at least 22 at the “top secret” level.)
  • She emailed Colin Powell a day after she was sworn into office to ask him about his use of a personal email account when he was secretary of state. Powell warned her to “be very careful” because if she used her BlackBerry for official business, those emails could become “official record[s] and subject to the law.”
  • Some of her closest aides were aware she used a private email address but didn’t know she had set up a private server. (However, this is actually contradicted by other evidence.)

The front page of the FBI’s final report, released on July 2, 2016. (Credit: public domain)

  • She regularly brought her BlackBerry into a secure area near her office where it was prohibited, according to three of her aides. However, one aide said it was only stored there, not used.
  • She used 13 BlackBerrys to send emails. The FBI was unable to recover any of them. Two aides said “the whereabouts of Clinton’s devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device.”
  • One aide recalled two occasions “where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.” (The New York Times, 9/2/2016) (The New York Times, 9/2/2016)
  • The FBI wrote that “investigative limitations, including the FBI’s inability to obtain all mobile devices and various computer components associated with Clinton’s personal email systems, prevented the FBI from conclusively determining” whether her emails had been successfully hacked.
  • Shortly after she left office, a laptop was made to contain back-up copies of all her emails. However, it got lost in transit.
  • According to the Post, Clinton claimed she “did not know much about how the government classified information. For instance, she said she did not pay attention to the difference between levels of classification, like ‘top secret’ and ‘secret,’ indicating she took ‘all classified information seriously.'” And when she was shown an email with the (C) marking, which is commonly used by the department to indicate classified information, she didn’t recognize the marking.
  • The Post also notes, “she repeatedly told agents she could not recall important details or specific emails she was questioned about.” (The Washington Post, 9/2/2016)