October 11, 2016: Twenty-three former Republican Justice Department officials criticize Trump for threatening Clinton with jail.

During the second general election presidential debate in St. Louis, Donald Trump tells Hillary Clinton “you’ll be in jail” if he wins the presidency. The threat has prompted a group of Republican former Justice Department officials to call for Trumps defeat in November 2016.

Donald I. Baker (Credit: George Washington University)

Donald I. Baker (Credit: George Washington University)

Donald Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general under George H. W. Bush, and Donald I. Baker, assistant attorney general for the antitrust division under Gerald Ford, organized the statement. It is signed by 23 former officials served under five Republican presidents from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and claims, “None of us will vote for Mr. Trump and all believe he must be defeated at the polls.”

The statement reads: “We believe that Donald Trump’s impulsive treatment, flair for controversy, vindictive approach to his opponents and alarming views outside the constitutional mainstream ill suit him to oversee the execution of the laws in a fair and evenhanded manner.”

The former officials say Trump’s threats are “shockingly contrary to the premises of our democracy, and conjures up images of foreign police states.” Trump’s “every word seems calculated to create an atmosphere of arbitrariness and unpredictability much better suited to an authoritarian regime.”

William Ruckelshaus (Credit: Energy Foundation)

William Ruckelshaus (Credit: Energy Foundation)

The Wall Street Journal writes, “One notable signer is former Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who, along with the late Attorney General Elliot Richardson, resigned in 1973 rather than carry out President Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox in an episode known as the Saturday Night Massacre.”

The letter also condemns Trump for proposing to re-institute waterboarding and inflict other forms of torture on enemy prisoners and to kill the families of terrorists, saying those demonstrate his “basic ignorance of the facts as well as the role of our legal system in the fight against terror.” (Wall Street Journal, 10/11/2016)

October 11, 2016: Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta blames Russia and Trump for the leak of his personal emails.

John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair, publicly comments about the fact that WikiLeaks started releasing his personal emails on October 7, 2016.

Clinton campaign chair John Podesta speaks to the press on October 7, 2016 as Clinton’s Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri looks on. (Credit: Reuters)

He blames the Russian government for hacking his Gmail account, though he offers no specific evidence. “I’ve been involved in politics for nearly five decades, and this definitely is the first campaign that I’ve been involved with in which I’ve had to tangle with Russian intelligence agencies, who seem to be doing everything they

can on behalf of our opponent.”

He also says that the FBI communicated with him on October 9, 2016, and told him the breach of his email account has become part of a larger investigation into recent hacks of US political entities, for which the US government generally blames the Russian government.

Roger Stone (Credit: The Hill)

Roger Stone (Credit: The Hill)

Podesta claims that it is likely the Russians are trying to help the presidential campaign of Donald Trump (R), due to Trump having policies that are more politically favorable to Russia. He points to a Tweet made by Trump confidant Roger Stone on August 21, 2016, in which Stone wrote that it would soon be “Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Due to this Tweet, Podesta says, “I think it’s a reasonable assumption, or at least a reasonable conclusion, that Mr. Stone had advanced warning and the Trump campaign had advanced warning about what Assange was going to do.” (The Washington Post, 10/11/2016)

The next day, the official WikiLeaks Twitter account posts the Tweet, “As we have already stated clearly: WikiLeaks has had no contact with Roger Stone.” (WikiLeaks, 10/12/2016)

One day after that, Stone claims that his Tweet was in reference to a separate story he was working on that would accuse Podesta of possible criminal wrongdoing. But he also says that he has had “back-channel communications” with WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange through a mutual friend. (CBS Miami, 10/12/2016)

October 12, 2016: An unnamed high-ranking FBI official claims that the “vast majority” of agents working on the FBI’s Clinton email investigation believe Clinton should have been indicted.

The “high-ranking FBI official” speaks to Fox News on the condition of anonymity, but the person’s “identity and role in the case has been verified by FoxNews.com.” According to this source, “No trial level attorney agreed, no agent working the case agreed, with the decision not to prosecute” anyone in the investigation at all, but “it was a top-down decision” by FBI Director James Comey.

The source says that when it came to Clinton specifically, “It is safe to say the vast majority felt she should be prosecuted. We were floored while listening to the FBI briefing [on July 5, 2016] because Comey laid it all out, and then said ‘but we are doing nothing,’ which made no sense to us.” And while it might not have been a totally unanimous decision to recommend Clinton’s indictment, “It was unanimous that we all wanted her [Clinton’s] security clearance yanked.” However, even that never happened, despite it being standard procedure in similar cases.

The source adds that FBI agents were particularly upset that Comey unilaterally made the decision not to indict when the FBI’s role is merely to present an investigative report to the Justice Department. “Basically, James Comey hijacked the [Justice Department]’s role by saying ‘no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case.’ The FBI does not decide who to prosecute and when, that is the sole province of a prosecutor. … I know zero prosecutors in the [Justice Department]’s National Security Division who would not have taken the case to a grand jury. One was never even convened.” Without a grand jury, FBI agents were not allowed to issue subpoenas or search warrants and could only request evidence and interviews.

The source also complains that the FBI required its agents and analysts involved in the investigation to sign non-disclosure agreements. “This is unheard of, because of the stifling nature it has on the investigative process.”

Furthermore, immunity deals were made with five key figures in the investigation: Cheryl Mills, Bryan Pagliano, Paul Combetta, John Bentel, and Heather Samuelson. The source says none of them should have been granted immunity if no charges were being brought. “[Immunity] is issued because you know someone possesses evidence you need to charge the target, and you almost always know what it is they possess. That’s why you give immunity. … Mills and Samuelson receiving immunity with the agreement their laptops would be destroyed by the FBI afterwards is, in itself, illegal. We know those laptops contained classified information. That’s also illegal, and they got a pass.”

Additionally, “Mills was allowed to sit in on the interview of Clinton as her lawyer. That’s absurd. Someone who is supposedly cooperating against the target of an investigation [being] permitted to sit by the target as counsel violates any semblance of ethical responsibility.”

The source also comments, “Every agent and attorney I have spoken to is embarrassed and has lost total respect for James Comey and [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch. The bar for [the Justice Department] is whether the evidence supports a case for charges — it did here. It should have been taken to the grand jury.”

Finally, the source claims that many in the FBI and the Justice Department believe Comey and Lynch were motivated by ambition instead of justice. “Loretta Lynch simply wants to stay on as attorney general under Clinton, so there is no way she would indict. James Comey thought his position [heavily criticizing Clinton even as he decides against indicting her] gave himself cover to remain on as director regardless of who wins.”

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano (Credit: Fox News)

Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and judicial analyst for Fox News, also claims to know of many law enforcement agents involved with the Clinton email investigation who have similar beliefs. He says, “It is well known that the FBI agents on the ground, the human beings who did the investigative work, had built an extremely strong case against Hillary Clinton and were furious when the case did not move forward. They believe the decision not to prosecute came from the White House.” (Fox News, 10/12/2016)

The next day, Malia Zimmerman, a co-writer of the article, is questioned on Fox News television. She claims that she has been speaking to other disgruntled FBI agents as well. “They’re saying that the morale is very low and that a lot of them are looking for other jobs. They’re very disappointed. They feel like the agency has been polluted… and they’re embarrassed. They feel like they’ve been betrayed.”

She adds that some of her sources might be willing to speak on the record if they retire or change jobs, which some of them are in the process of doing. But they are currently worried about retaliation. “There are a lot of disgruntled agents, analysts, and [Justice Department] attorneys as well.” These people feel Clinton could have been charged for various reasons, but her 22 “top secret” emails made the most compelling case. (Fox News, 10/13/2016)

October 12, 2016: The Clinton campaign suggests that some emails released by WikiLeaks could be forgeries, but experts have found no evidence of this.

Tim Kaine appears on CNN's "State of the Union" on October 9, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Tim Kaine appears on CNN’s “State of the Union” on October 9, 2016. (Credit: CNN)

Since October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks has been publishing an average of about 2,000 emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta every day. Podesta and the Clinton campaign has admitted his account got hacked, but they have suggested that some of the emails could be forgeries. For instance, on October 9, 2016, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine said in a CNN interview, “I don’t think we can dignify documents dumped by WikiLeaks and just assume they are all accurate and true. Anybody who hacks in to get documents is completely capable of manipulating them.”

However, Politico reports, “Clinton’s team hasn’t challenged the accuracy of even the most salacious emails… And numerous digital forensic firms told Politico that they haven’t seen any proof of tampering in the emails they’ve examined — adding that only the hacked Democrats themselves could offer that kind of conclusive evidence.”

Laura Galante (Credit: Bloomberg News)

Laura Galante (Credit: Bloomberg News)

Laura Galante, a director of the cybersecurity company FireEye, says, “It’s very hard to go verify what is true and what’s not. Even the victims of the accounts that are getting exposed are having a hard time.”

Politico also comments, “Experts have warned for months about the possibility that the document leaks may eventually include a sprinkling of falsehoods to stoke their impact, noting that Russian and Soviet intelligence services had long used such techniques against their enemies.” The US government alleges that the Russian government has been behind some recent hacking of US political entities.

A WikiLeaks spokesperson dismisses claims some of the emails are fake. “Standard nonsense pushed by those who have something to hide. WikiLeaks has won a great many awards for its journalistic work and has the best vetting record of any media organization. … In fact, it’s completely legitimate to everyone in the journalism industry that [the emails] are exactly as we say they are, which is why everyone is running with them.”

Thomas Rid (Credit: Kings College, London)

Thomas Rid (Credit: Kings College, London)

However, some experts point out that hackers could have tampered with emails before giving them to WikiLeaks, or they may choose to only selectively hand over emails that promote a certain political agenda.

Thomas Rid, a cybersecurity researcher and professor, says, “Of course it would be more effective for [the Russians] not to undermine the credibility of WikiLeaks in any way by altering documents. But if we look at their past behavior, that is certainly something that has been considered and actually done in the past.” (Politico, 10/12/2016)

October 12, 2016: The Russian government denies the US government allegation that it is behind the hacking of US political figures.

Sergei Lavrov (Credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev / Agence France Press / Getty Images)

Sergey Lavrov (Credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev / Agence France Press / Getty Images)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov comments in a CNN interview about the US government formally accusing the Russian government of being behind recent hacks and public releases of emails from prominent US political figures. Lavrov says, “Now everybody in the United States is saying that it is Russia which is running the presidential debate. …. We have not seen a single fact, a single proof.” (Politico, 10/12/2016)

October 12, 2016: Mike Pence doubles down on Trump’s promise to have a special prosecutor investigate Clinton if Trump wins the White House.

During the second presidential debate on October 9, 2016, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton and put her in jail should he become president.

Mike Pence rallies in Raleigh, North Carolina on October 12, 2016. (Credit: Gerry Broom / The Associated Press)

Mike Pence rallies in Raleigh, North Carolina on October 12, 2016. (Credit: Gerry Broom / The Associated Press)

Four days later, at a Republican campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence doubles down on Trump’s promise, saying, “When we make Donald Trump the next president of the United States of America, we will once again uphold the principle that no one is above the law … We will appoint a special prosecutor who will get to the bottom of the Clinton Foundation and hold them accountable.”

Pence focuses on Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state, and voices a concern about the alleged improprieties that surround the Clinton Foundation.
Politico writes, “The crowd ate it up, with members of the audience shouting ‘traitor,’ ‘lock her up,’ and ‘treason’ during Pence’s remarks.”

Trump also doubles down on the same day, saying at a campaign rally in Florida, “She deleted the emails,” and “She has to go to jail.” (Politico, 10/12/2016)

Mid-October 2016: Comey is first told that FBI investigators have discovered previously unknown emails belonging to Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

One of many text messages Weiner sent to an under-aged girl. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

One of many text messages Weiner sent to an under-aged girl. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

On October 3, 2016, FBI agents seized the computer and mobile devices of former Congressperson Anthony Weiner (D) as part of an investigation into him allegedly sending sexual text messages to an underaged girl. FBI agents soon came to believe that thousands of emails on his computer were actually sent or received by his wife and top Clinton aide Huma Abedin and thus might be relevant to the recently closed FBI Clinton email investigation.

According to CNN on October 31, 2016, “By mid-October, [FBI Director James] Comey learned investigators in the Weiner case might have found something that could have an impact on the now-closed probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, according to one law enforcement official. Comey was told investigators were still trying to figure out how many emails existed and their pertinence to the Clinton probe.”

Comey will then be given a full briefing with updated information on October 27, 2016. Based on that briefing, he will send a letter to Congress the next day announcing that he is reopening the investigation due to the new evidence. (CNN, 10/31/2016)

October 17, 2016: Ecuador cuts the Internet access for the leader of WikiLeaks due to its impact on the US presidential election.

Julian Assange stands on a balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, on February 5, 2016.  (Credit: Getty Images)

On October 17, 2016, Julian Assange, the leader of WikiLeaks, announces that his Internet access has been cut off. Assange, an Australian citizen, was granted diplomatic asylum in 2012 by Ecuador. He has been living in the Ecuador embassy in London ever since, due to fears that he could be arrested by the US or Sweden.

In late July 2016, WikiLeaks published 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Since October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks has been publishing emails from Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta on a daily basis, with the US presidential election due to take place on November 8, 2016.

One day later, the government of Ecuador says it had temporarily restricted Assange’s Internet access, due to WikiLeaks releasing documents “impacting on the US election campaign. … The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate.” However, Ecuador reaffirms its commitment to giving Assange asylum.

Despite the restriction, WikiLeaks continues to publish new Podesta emails every day, and continues posting Tweets on the official WikiLeaks Twitter feed. WikiLeaks accuses Secretary of State John Kerry of pressuring Ecuador into taking action. However, both the US and Ecuador governments deny that. (Politico, 10/18/2016) (Guardian, 10/18/2016)

October 17, 2016: It is alleged two disgruntled FBI agents complain about Comey’s handling of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

The Daily Caller claims to have a transcript of two active FBI agents who were interviewed by an intermediary on October 14, 2016. Both of them are very critical of the way FBI Director James Comey handled the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.

One unnamed FBI agent “who has worked public corruption and criminal cases” says, “This is a textbook case where a grand jury should have convened but was not. That is appalling. We talk about it in the office and don’t know how Comey can keep going.”

The Clinton family home in Chappaqua, New York. (Credit: Kathy Willens / The Associated Press)

The Clinton family home in Chappaqua, New York. (Credit: Kathy Willens / The Associated Press)

This agent also complains, “We didn’t search their house [the Clinton residence in Chappaqua, New York]. We always search the house. The search should not just have been for private electronics, which contained classified material, but even for printouts of such material. … There should have been a complete search of their residence. That the FBI did not seize devices is unbelievable. The FBI even seizes devices that have been set on fire.”

A different unnamed FBI agent who has “worked counter-terrorism and criminal cases” says he was offended by Comey saying: “we” and “I’ve been an investigator.” This agent points out, “Comey was never an investigator or [FBI] agent. The special agents are trained investigators and they are insulted that Comey included them in ‘collective we’ statements in his testimony to imply that the [agents] agreed that there was nothing there to prosecute. All the trained investigators agree that there is a lot to prosecuted, but he stood in the way. … The idea that [the investigation] didn’t go to a grand jury is ridiculous.”

Joseph DiGenova (Credit: public domain)

Joseph DiGenova (Credit: public domain)

Joseph DiGenova, a former US attorney for the District of Columbia, says, “People [inside the FBI] are starting to talk. They’re calling their former friends outside the bureau asking for help. We were asked today to provide legal representation to people inside the bureau and agreed to do so and to former agents who want to come forward and talk. Comey thought this was going to go away. It’s not. People inside the bureau are furious. They are embarrassed. They feel like they are being led by a hack but more than that that they think he’s a crook. They think he’s fundamentally dishonest. They have no confidence in him.” (The Daily Caller, 10/17/2016)

October 25, 2016: Rudy Giuliani seemingly predicts Comey’s bombshell reopening of the Clinton email investigation, leading to calls he should be investigated for taking part in leaks.

Rudy Giuliani appears on Fox News, on November 4, 2016. (Credit: Fox News)

Rudy Giuliani says in a Fox News interview that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had “a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days. I’m talking about some pretty big surprise.”

Pressed for specifics, he says he’s “got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.” Giuliani is a former US attorney, former mayor of New York City, and a frequent media surrogate for the Trump campaign. (Real Clear Politics, 10/25/2016)

Three days after his comments, FBI Director James Comey will send a letter to Congress announcing that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being at least partially reopened, due to the discovery of new evidence.

As a result of this sequence of events, Democratic Representatives Elijah Cummings and John Conyers will call for an investigation into a possible leak of confidential information to Giuliani.

Megyn Kelly (Credit: Fox News)

On November 4, 2016, Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly will ask Giuliani about this controversy. He will say, “You can investigate me. I spoke to no current FBI agents ever in the last ten months. I’ve had no communication with them.” He says he has spoken to many former FBI agents though, but he was only told they were “in revolt” since July 2016 when Comey announced he wasn’t going to recommend the indictment of Clinton.

Giuliani will claim he was talking about Trump’s planned television advertising over the weekend.

Kelly will comment, “That would have been kind of lame. You should have been glad that something bigger came out to not make a liar out of you.”

He will then say, “I had no idea that Jim Comey was going to do what he did. Not the slightest idea.” (Fox News, 11/4/2016)

On a different interview the same day, with Fox News journalist Brian Kilmeade, Giuliani will say, “All I heard were former FBI agents telling me that there’s revolution going on inside the FBI and it’s now at a boiling point…”

Kilmeade will interrupt, “So you had a general idea that something was coming.”

Giuliani will respond, “I had expected this for the last, honestly to tell you the truth, I thought it was going to be about three or four weeks ago, because back, way back in July [2016] this started, they kept getting stymied looking for subpoenas, looking for records.”

The Washington Post will comment, “The answer suggests Giuliani is claiming to have known not of the development in the Clinton email case, but of [general FBI agent] frustration over the Clinton Foundation matter.” (The Washington Post, 11/4/2016)

The FBI Agents Association Logo (Credit: public domain)

The FBI Agents Association Logo (Credit: public domain)

However, in contradiction to Giuliani’s claim “I spoke to no current FBI agents ever in the last ten months,” on October 28, 2016, hours after Comey’s letter is made public, Giuliani will say in a radio interview,  “The other rumor that I get is that there’s a kind of revolution going on inside the FBI about the original conclusion [not to charge Clinton] being completely unjustified and almost a slap in the face to the FBI’s integrity. I know that from former agents. I know that even from a few active agents.”

The Daily Beast will note that Giuliani “spent decades of his life as a federal prosecutor and then mayor working closely with the FBI, and especially its New York office. One of Giuliani’s security firms employed a former head of the New York FBI office, and other alumni of it.” Furthermore, his former law firm has long been general counsel to the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), which represents 13,000 former and current agents. (The Daily Beast, 11/2/2016)

October 27, 2016: Comey is briefed and decides to announce the reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, but Justice Department officials are strongly opposed.

Abedin and Weiner leave their home separately, the day before the sexting scandal broke in September, 2016. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

Abedin and Weiner leave their home separately, the day before the sexting scandal broke in September, 2016. (Credit: The Daily Mail)

In early October 2016, FBI agents discovered 650,000 emails on a computer owned by Anthony Weiner, the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Though the agents were investigating Weiner for something unrelated, they eventually brief FBI agents who had worked on the recently closed FBI Clinton email investigation, and those agents say they would like to have the legal permission to look at the emails themselves.

Apparently, FBI Director James Comey first learns about the emails in mid-October 2016. Then he is given an updated briefing about it on this day. He decides he should immediately inform Congress about the development, even though the 2016 US presidential election is less than two weeks away. He does so in a letter sent one day later, which immediately becomes public.

However, Justice Department officials are opposed. According to the New York Times, “Senior Justice Department officials did not move to stop him from sending the letter, officials said, but they did everything short of it, pointing to policies against talking about current criminal investigations or being seen as meddling in elections.”

James Comey (Credit: Getty Images)

James Comey (Credit: Getty Images)

According to the Times, Comey decides to write his letter “before agents even began reading the newly discovered emails to determine whether they contained classified information or added new facts to the case.” This puzzles Justice Department officials. Apparently, some agents were only able to analyze the metadata.

It has long been Justice Department and FBI policy that politics should play no role in any investigative decisions. This is particularly emphasized for any actions taken within 60 days prior to an election. (The New York Times, 10/29/2016)

One unnamed “US official familiar with the matter” tells Yahoo News that senior officials “strongly discouraged” Comey from sending the letter, due to that department policy, adding, “He was acting independently of the guidance given to him.” One government source says that high-ranking Justice Department officials are “apoplectic” about the letter.

However, after listening to the Justice Department’s concerns, Comey concludes that the ramifications of not telling Congress promptly about the new emails far outweigh concerns about the department guidelines. He fears if he doesn’t immediately alert Congress, the FBI’s work will leak to the media and he will be accused of concealing information. If the news comes out before the election, he will be accused of trying to influence the election one way, but if it comes out after the election, he will be accused of trying to influence it the other way. One unnamed senior official says, “This was the least bad choice.”

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George J. Terwilliger III (Credit: McGuire Woods)

Many will criticize Comey for the letter, including some Republicans. For instance, George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under President George Bush (R), says, “There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election. Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes, that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences. There’s a difference between being independent and flying solo.” (The New York Times, 10/29/2016) (Yahoo News, 10/29/2016)

Politico reports that according to an unnamed “official familiar with the discussions,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch does not speak directly with Comey about the issue. However, her concerns are conveyed to him before he sends the letter. In late June 2016, Lynch pledged to recuse herself from the email investigation after she was seen having a private discussion with Bill Clinton. (Politico, 10/31/2016)

October 27, 2016: Putin scoffs at allegations of Russian involvement in the hacking of US presidential politics.

Vladimir Putin meets with members of the Valdai Discussion Club on October 27, 2016. (Credit: The Valdai Discussion Club)

Vladimir Putin meets with members of the Valdai Discussion Club on October 27, 2016. (Credit: The Valdai Discussion Club)

In a public speech at the Valdai Discussion Club, a Russian think tank outside of Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses allegations that the Russian government is behind the hacking of US political entities.

“Another mythical and imaginary problem is what I can only call the hysteria the USA has whipped up over supposed Russian meddling in the American presidential election. The United States has plenty of genuinely urgent problems, it would seem, from the colossal public debt to the increase in firearms violence and cases of arbitrary action by the police. You would think that the election debates would concentrate on these and other unresolved problems, but the elite has nothing with which to reassure society, it seems, and therefore attempt to distract public attention by pointing instead to supposed Russian hackers, spies, agents of influence and so forth.”

He adds, “I have to ask myself and ask you too: Does anyone seriously imagine that Russia can somehow influence the American people’s choice? America is not some kind of ‘banana republic’, after all, but is a great power.” (Valdaidclub.com, 10/27/2016)