Did the FBI fail in its allegedly exhaustive investigation of the Hillary Clinton email server? Apparently.
Director James Comey’s “bombshell” leaked memo to Congress that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had found additional emails of interest on the shared laptop of Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, begs the question: Why didn’t the FBI check the emails of all of Mrs. Clinton’s immediate staff as part of their “thorough” investigation?
The media began a feeding frenzy of wild speculation as to what might be contained in the emails that we learned, later in the day, were seized as part of an investigation by the Bureau into former New York congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal. Abedin, his wife, shared the computer with her husband, and the emails in question were on her accounts.
The talk of the first 24 hours has centered around what awful thing might lie lurking in email on Abedin’s accounts. Wikileaks has been dropping emails almost daily in the latter days of the American presidential campaign from the alleged intrusion by Russian hackers into John Podesta’s email account, have been perhaps a bit embarrassing to their authors, but hardly any smoking gun.
Most of the emails on the now infamous server were a back and forth by hundreds of State department personnel which resulted in none of them being prosecuted for any crime, and much of the post-mortem of the server determined what should be “classified” and called into question the overzealous use of classification at State.
Mrs. Clinton apologized, after a few other attempts to spin down the controversy earlier in her campaign. She has stuck to her apology, and yesterday urged the FBI to get the information out quickly so that we can all get back to real issues like jobs, infrastructure, healthcare, and global warming, in between Donald Trump’s daily Twitter flames and inflammatory remarks.
The FBI’s investigation was at best, incomplete, and at worst, incompetent. Clinton Aide Cheryl Mills was granted a partial immunity for her emails taken off of her computer. Clinton aide and lawyer Heather Samuelson and State IT boss John Bentel also received immunity deals in exchange for their cooperation. Interestingly, Ms. Abedin was not offered immunity. That is a critical issue because the information in her emails is not new to the Bureau.
Why did the FBI not search Abedin’s emails months ago, in order to understand where potentially classified information might be going that was not secured by State Department accounts? They seized the computer and telephone that she shared with her husband, congressman Anthony Weiner, who was under investigation for his sexting activities with a 17-year-old girl, back when the Clinton email server investigation was active.
One possible answer is that the FBI agents on the case bungled the investigation. They clearly weren’t complete in their investigation, which is something that the Justice Department should be reviewing, as Comey testified to Congress that they had done a thorough review of the whole server issue during the exhaustive hearings on the Hill. They had the laptop, and they knew that Ms. Abedin had accounts on it. Why was it not referred by the Weiner investigators to the Clinton server investigators at that time to get a proper warrant for the information? When did the FBI obtain one to examine her email files? All of which are questions which Director Comey will have to answer once Democrats in Congress focus their scrutiny on the memo and the cause of its issuance yesterday to House and Senate committee leadership.
The other possible, and more likely answer, is that they already knew about the emails that were sent outbound to Ms. Abedin, because they would have been on the server. If they contained anything of a sensitive nature that would have produced a potential “smoking gun,” Ms Abedin would have either been offered immunity to testify against her boss, or referred to Justice for action on the violations of Federal law.
Since neither happened, the probative value of Ms Abedin’s email accounts on her husband’s computer, which has been with Justice for a long time, would be of dubious value.
Which brings up the more troubling question: Why did Director Comey drop a memo to Republican members of the Congress, who were certain to leak it, eleven days before the election, to cover old information that wasn’t important enough when the server investigation was active to act upon?
In his urgency to disclose these “found” emails, Director Comey just outed the FBI’s sloppy handling of one of the most politically charged and sensitive investigations in history, which won’t affect the Clinton campaign nearly as much as it may damage the reputation of the top law enforcement agency in the nation, as calls for his ouster grow.