Real Clear Investigations has a blockbuster report focused on the investigation of Anthony Weiner’s laptop and the emails found on it just prior to the 2016 election. Contrary to what was claimed by then-Director James Comey in public, RCI found no real effort was made to look at nearly 700,000 emails found on the laptop. In all, only a few thousand were examined and when more classified information was found in those, it was never referred back to the intelligence community for a damage assessment as required by law.
There are a lot of moving parts in this story but I’ll try to hit a few of the highlights. First, here’s what Comey claimed happened in the final weeks of the 2016 election:
When then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was closing the Hillary Clinton email investigation for a second time just days before the 2016 election, he certified to Congress that his agency had “reviewed all of the communications” discovered on a personal laptop used by Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, and her husband, Anthony Weiner…
Comey later told Congress that “thanks to the wizardry of our technology,” the FBI was able to eliminate the vast majority of messages as “duplicates” of emails they’d previously seen. Tireless agents, he claimed, then worked “night after night after night” to scrutinize the remaining material.
So the basic story was: We looked but there was nothing there. And with that, Hillary was once again cleared. But here’s what really happened:
A technical glitch prevented FBI technicians from accurately comparing the new emails with the old emails. Only 3,077 of the 694,000 emails were directly reviewed for classified or incriminating information. Three FBI officials completed that work in a single 12-hour spurt the day before Comey again cleared Clinton of criminal charges.
“Most of the emails were never examined, even though they made up potentially 10 times the evidence” of what was reviewed in the original year-long case that Comey closed in July 2016, said a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Yet even the “extremely narrow” search that was finally conducted, after more than a month of delay, uncovered more classified material sent and/or received by Clinton through her unauthorized basement server, the official said. Contradicting Comey’s testimony, this included highly sensitive information dealing with Israel and the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas. The former secretary of state, however, was never confronted with the sensitive new information and it was never analyzed for damage to national security…
“There was no real investigation and no real search,” said Michael Biasello, a 27-year veteran of the FBI. “It was all just show — eyewash — to make it look like there was an investigation before the election.”
Why was no one informed that additional classified information was found on the laptop? That would have been a fatal blow to Hillary’s campaign in the final weeks. Of course, we all know how the election turned out even without that revelation, but Hillary has complained bitterly ever since that Comey’s decision to publicly re-open the email investigation in the final weeks cost her the win. And the especially bitter part for her supporters is that the last-minute investigation found nothing at all.
But RCI’s report throws a very different light on all of this. For one thing, the investigation was botched. For two, it did find something. For three, this sham investigation matches with the inexplicable behavior of Hillary fan Peter Strzok who let the laptop matter slide for weeks. Here’s how RCI describes the timeline of non-events:
By Oct. 4, the Weiner case agent had finished processing the laptop, and reported that he found at least 675,000 emails potentially relevant to the Midyear case (in fact, the final count was 694,000). “Based on the number of emails, we could have every email that Huma and Hillary ever sent each other,” the agent remarked to colleagues. It appeared this was the mother lode of missing Clinton emails. But Strzok remained uninterested. “This isn’t a ticking terrorist bomb,” he was quoted as saying in the recently issued inspector general’s report. Besides, he had bigger concerns, such as, “You know, is the government of Russian trying to get somebody elected here in the United States?”
Strzok and headquarters sat on the mountain of evidence for another 26 days. The career New York agent said all he was hearing from Washington was “crickets,” so he pushed the issue to his immediate superiors, fearing he would be “scapegoated” for failing to search the pile of digital evidence. They, in turn, went over Strzok’s head, passing their concerns on to career officials at the National Security Division of the Justice Department, who in turn set off alarm bells at the seventh floor executive suites of the Hoover Building…
Once George Toscas, the highest-ranking Justice Department official directly involved in the Clinton email investigation, found out about the delay, he prodded headquarters to initiate a search and to inform Congress about the discovery.
By Oct. 21, Strzok had gotten the word. “Toscas now aware NY has hrc-huma emails,” he texted McCabe’s counsel, Lisa Page, who responded, “whatever.”
Four days later, Page told Strzok – with whom she was having an affair – about the murmurs she was hearing from brass about having to tell Congress about the new emails. “F them,” Strzok responded, apparently referring to oversight committee leaders on the Hill.
The next day, Oct. 26, the New York agent finally was able to brief Strzok’s team directly about what he had found on the laptop. On Oct. 27, Comey gave the green light to seek a search warrant.
Once the NY agents had forced the issue, Comey and the crew in DC then had to worry whether news of the subpoena would leak to the media, leaving the impression that the FBI was still quietly investigating Hillary contrary to Comey’s public claim the investigation was closed. Comey was convinced that he had a responsibility to inform Congress the investigation wasn’t over. So eventually he sent the letter which Hillary claims cost her the election.
The claim that there existed a pro-Clinton bias at the FBI has always been answered with Comey’s announcement, i.e. Comey cost Clinton the election so how could that be pro-Clinton bias? But the fact that Stzrok ignored the laptop until NY agents went over his head combined with the fact that the subsequent investigation was “eyewash” which overlooked most of the evidence and failed to report findings suggests this was an attempt by biased actors to do the bare minimum to avoid an internal backlash or a damaging leak.
Everyone involved, Comey, Stzrok, etc., probably assumed that once the sham investigation announced Hillary had been cleared, she would go on to win the election. No harm, no foul. Obviously, that’s not how things worked out, but Hillary’s loss doesn’t prove there was no pro-Clinton bias at the FBI, only that there was a limit to what biased actors could get away with.
Update: The author of the RCI report was on Ingraham Angle with guest host Jason Chaffetz last night: