According to transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey decided to issue a statement exonerating then-presidential contender Hillary Clinton weeks before the FBI had officially concluded its investigation into whether Clinton had mishandled classified information during her time at the State Department.
Committee members, including Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, allege that Comey drafted his statement claiming Clinton would not face charges sometime in “April or May” of 2016, before the FBI was scheduled to interview several key witnesses who might have changed the outcome of the case.
The letter itself, available below via Townhall‘s Katie Pavlich, was sent from the Committee to acting FBI director Christopher Wray, as part of a request for additional documents and information related to the FBI’s timeline of investigation into Secretary Clinton.
The Senators’ allegations are extraordinary.
“According to the unredacted portions of the transcripts, it appears that in April or early May of 2016, Mr. Comey had already decided he would issue a statement exonerating Secretary Clinton. That was long before FBI agents finished their work. Mr. Comey even circulated an early draft statement to select members of senior FBI leadership. The outcome of an investigation should not be prejudged while FBI agents are still hard at work trying to gather the facts,” the letter reads (emphasis mine).
The letter goes on to accuse Comey of trying to steer the investigation into his own pre-determined result: “Conclusion first, fact-gathering second — that’s no way to run an investigation. The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy.”
If it is true that Comey began drafting his statement in April or May, that means that he might have already been declaring Clinton free from blame, even though the FBI had yet to interview Clinton herself — and had yet to interview most of Clinton’s top aides, including her right-hand woman Huma Abedin, her close aide and confidante Cheryl Mills, and Bryan Pagliano, her top IT adviser and the man responsible for maintaining Clinton’s private email system and her bathroom server in Chappaqua.
Clinton aides met with FBI agents conducting the investigation May 5, 2016. Both Mills and Pagliano went on to strike immunity deals with the Department of Justice — bargains that would have been pointless if the FBI investigators had determined Clinton was truly without blame by early May.
Clinton herself did not speak to the FBI until July 2. Comey delivered his official statement, exonerating Clinton, on July 5.
It is certainly possible that Comey had his own reasons for drafting his statement back in April or May, and then waiting until after Clinton spoke with investigators to deliver it to the public. But certainly, its worth asking not just whether James Comey had already decided how he would handle Clinton’s email server, but whether Comey’s decision was premature. Remember, he “re-opened” the FBI investigation with just a few weeks left in the presidential election, much to Clinton’s dismay.