On the day the FBI re-opened the Hillary Clinton email investigation shortly before the 2016 election, Clinton lawyer David Kendall contacted the bureau’s general counsel with an urgent request for a meeting, newly obtained documents show.
Kendall, the longtime attorney for both Bill and Hillary Clinton, was complaining about FBI Director James Comey’s disclosure to Congress of the discovery of 694,000 Hillary Clinton emails on the laptop of Anthony Weiner.
The Clinton attorney’s complaint to FBI General Counsel James Baker led to an emergency conference call with top bureau officials, according to the documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the government watchdog Judicial Watch.
The re-opened investigation – led by the later-fired agent Peter Strzok – then was closed within days. Comey claimed that “thanks to the wizardry of technology,” FBI agents had been able to comb through all 694,000 emails and determine there was no new classified information or other information that would warrant further investigation.
However, Judicial Watch previously discovered through FOIA requests that there were at least 18 additional Clinton emails with classified information on the Weiner laptop. And only 3,077 of the 694,000 emails were directly reviewed for classified or incriminating information, according to a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation who spoke to RealClear Investigations reporter Paul Sperry.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said it’s “big news that, just days before the presidential election, Hillary Clinton’s personal lawyer pressured the top lawyer for the FBI on the infamous Weiner laptop emails.”
“These documents further underscore that the fix was in for Hillary Clinton,” he said. “When will the Justice Department and FBI finally do an honest investigation of the Clinton email scandal?”
The newly obtained documents also show the FBI’s panicked top brass were not focused on learning the content of the emails. Instead, they were mobilizing to explain to Congress and the public why the bureau did nothing with the Weiner emails for weeks.
The laptop emails were originally discovered by Southern District of New York investigators and reported to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in Washington on Sept. 28, 2016. However, McCabe gave no feedback to SDNY for three weeks, and the FBI didn’t review the emails until Oct. 28.
The documents also further describe a previously reported quid pro quo from the Obama State Department. The FBI was offered more legal attaché positions if it would downgrade a redaction in an email found during the Hillary Clinton email investigation “from classified to something else.”
Kendall: Comey letter ‘inchoate and highly ominous’
On Oct. 28, 2016, the day Comey notified Congress of the FBI’s discovery that the Weiner laptop contained Clinton emails, Kendall emailed Baker requesting a phone call “ASAP.”
Baker describes his follow-up call in an email to senior FBI officials, including Comey, noting Kendall found the FBI director’s letter to Congress to be “inchoate and highly ominous”:
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?
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch show a conference call with the senior officials was scheduled for the next day by Strzok.
While the FBI was debating how to handle the laptop emails, it began leaking to the media a narrative to explain why it did nothing with the new evidence for weeks, points out the Conservative Treehouse blog.
In a conference call, Justice Department officials told FBI officials they were concerned about the issue of McCabe sitting on the emails.
Comey, meanwhile, was worried about what might happen to a “President Clinton” if it was discovered during her presidency that she had been the subject of an FBI investigation.
Comey later admitted in his memoir “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” that during that time he was guided by political calculations:
Assuming, as nearly everyone did, that Hillary Clinton would be elected president of the United States in less than two weeks, what would happen to the FBI, the Justice Department or her own presidency if it later was revealed, after the fact, that she still was the subject of an FBI investigation?
Two days before the election, on Nov. 6, Comey informed Congress that the FBI’s review of the new emails would not change his conclusion that Clinton should not be referred for prosecution.
‘To be great is to be misunderstood’
The new records also include a Sept. 2, 2016, email that Comey forwarded containing a press release issued that day by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
Grassley criticized the FBI for not complying with Congress’ demand to release unclassified records related to the original Clinton probe.
Comey writes to his top aides in response to Grassley’s criticism, “To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Lisa Page – the then-counsel for McCabe whose illicit relationship with Strzok was famously memorialized through text messages – responded with, “Outstanding.”