The FBI handed over its notes from the Clinton email investigation to Congress on Tuesday. Politico reports:
Among the materials turned over to Capitol Hill was an FBI summary of the three-and-a-half hour interview Clinton submitted to at FBI headquarters early last month, according to the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California…
“The material contains classified and other sensitive information and is being provided with the expectation it will not be disseminated or disclosed without FBI concurrence,” an FBI spokesperson said in a statement.
Naturally, the Clinton camp is attacking Republicans:
“This is an extraordinarily rare step that was sought solely by Republicans for the purposes of further second-guessing the career professionals at the FBI,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said. “We believe that if these materials are going to be shared outside the Justice Department, they should be released widely so that the public can see them for themselves, rather than allow Republicans to mischaracterize them through selective, partisan leaks.”
Clinton’s interview with the FBI went into detail on some of the classified information found on her server. As a result the interview notes are highly classified. Therefore, there is no way to release this material widely without a review process and some significant redactions.
Over the weekend, Politico reported the State Department was requesting a chance to review the interview notes before they were given to Congress. Politico’s story today says that request was not granted. The material was turned over to Congress without giving the State Department a chance to review it. But if the GOP wanted to release some of it, State’s request to review it may come up again.
Obviously, Republicans in Congress are hoping to find something in Clinton’s testimony which is at odds with what she has said in public or with what she said under oath before Congress. There are a couple reasons this may not work out as they hope.
First, this week the GOP continued pushing the case that Clinton perjured herself in testimony before Congress. As I wrote yesterday, that case seems pretty thin given the potential wiggle room Clinton can claim about subjects like how her attorneys sorted her email (she said she didn’t look over their shoulders) or how many servers she had over several years (she’ll claim she didn’t know the details of what her IT guy did). Clinton’s answers can be wrong but that’s not enough to prove she knowingly lied under oath.
Maybe something in the FBI interview notes will demonstrate that Clinton knew more than she claimed in public. But why would she change her tune with the FBI when her answers to Congress already have a built in ‘I didn’t know’ defense? It seems much more likely she’ll have given the same, carefully planned responses to the FBI.
Second, there is no audio or video recording of Clinton’s meeting with the FBI. What exists are notes taken by FBI agents in the room. Perhaps these notes contain some exact quotes but even if that’s the case there is no way to verify their accuracy (except with comparison to other notes). If push comes to shove, don’t put it past Clinton to throw the FBI under the bus, i.e. claim the notes are in error. That probably would not endear her to the FBI but it would be enough wiggle room for her media sycophants to work with for the next three months.
Finally, while I still don’t see a lot of potential upside to this (though I’d love to be proven wrong) I do see a potential downside for the GOP. If there is something of interest in these notes, you have to think the GOP is going to want to share it as widely as possible as soon as possible. It’s not clear how they’re going to do that off without running afoul of the FBI’s request this not be disseminated or disclosed without their approval. A backlash from the FBI over unauthorized leaks certainly won’t help the GOP’s case.