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Comey story takes a weird turn… [WAPO]

May 25, 2017

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/how-a-dubious-russian-document-influenced-the-fbis-handling-of-the-clinton-probe/2017/05/24/f375c07c-3a95-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html

This story talks about Comey’s decision to end the FBI investigation into Sec. Clinton’s emails and publicly announce his findings in dramatic fashion, simultaneously sending a message of support to Clinton’s supporters and a an implication of both guilt and special treatment to her critics. The WAPO story focuses on a Russian intelligence document as a significant part of Comey’s decision. That the FBI director would base such a big decision (US presidential politics at stake) on an foreign intelligence report, from a source they did not trust at the time, is not remotely plausible – unless the origin of the “intelligence” was obscured by the game-of-telephone process for which the IC has become famous. Anyway this is obviously not the point of this article; it’s a read-between-the-lines moment if you ever see one, though I lack the context to pick up on what is being communicated in this first part of the article. (other than that any leaked emails from AG Lynch on the subject of the investigation, should be treated as fake).

Continuing, buried in the story is this account of Comey’s motivations:

Then on July 5, Comey decided to announce on his own — without telling Lynch ahead of time — that he was closing the Clinton email case without recommending charges against anyone. Aides to Comey said he decided to act alone after Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton for nearly a half-hour on an airport tarmac in Phoenix about a week earlier — and have since said privately the Russian document was also a factor in that decision.

The appearance of possible conflict arising from the Phoenix meeting led FBI leadership to want to show it had reached the decision independently, without political interference from the Justice Department.

About a month after Comey’s announcement, FBI officials asked to meet privately with the attorney general. At the meeting, they told Lynch about a foreign source suggesting she had told Renteria that Clinton did not have to worry about the email probe, because she would keep the FBI in check, according to people familiar with the matter.

“Just so you know, I don’t know this person and have never communicated with her,’’ Lynch told the FBI officials, according to a person familiar with the discussion. The FBI officials assured her the conversation was not a formal interview and said the document “didn’t have investigative value,’’ the person said.

Nevertheless, the officials said, they wanted to give the attorney general what is sometimes referred to as a “defensive briefing’’ — advising someone of a potential intelligence issue that could come up at some future point.

The agents never mentioned Wasserman Schultz to Lynch but told her there was some uncertainty surrounding the information because of “possible translation issues,” according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Lynch told them they were welcome to speak to her staff and to conduct a formal interview of her, the person said. The FBI declined both offers.

Take-aways: (1) Comey terminated the investigation independent of the AG (and hence the Obama administration) (2) There was the appearance of impropriety in Bill Clinton’s meeting with the AG amidst the investigation and immediately before its termination, and this was the view of the FBI. (3) ?Lynch reacted defensively? offering a formal interview (4) no walk-back at all of the substance (kiss-of-death) of the Comey announcement.

If this part of the WAPO story is to be believed, the FBI was not on the same page as the rest of the “intelligence community” – since email comms of US government officials, and also citizens of earth in general, are accessible to investigators, and by this time they should’ve been verified or falsified.

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