Mid-July 2016: The FBI reorganizes its Clinton Foundation investigation, despite the involvement of an FBI official with a potential conflict of interest.

On July 5, 2016, FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not recommend indicting anyone targeted in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. That effectively closed the investigation. The FBI still has an ongoing investigation in the Clinton Foundation, with four FBI field offices taking part.

Andrew McCabe (Credit: public domain)

Andrew McCabe (Credit: public domain)

About one week after Comey’s announcement, the FBI seeks to refocus the Clinton Foundation investigation. Andrew McCabe is the associate deputy FBI director at the time, the number three position in the FBI, but by the end of the month he is promoted to deputy FBI director, the number two position. McCabe decides the FBI’s New York office will take the lead, with assistance from the Little Rock, Arkansas office.

The Washington field office will instead focus on an investigation involving Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D). McAuliffe was a Clinton Foundation board member until he became governor in 2013, and some media reports indicate the investigation concerns a Chinese businessperson who donated millions of dollars to the foundation. McCabe recused himself from the McAuliffe investigation because political organizations linked to McAuliffe donated over $700,000 to the state senate election campaign of McCabe’s wife in 2015. However, McCabe does not recuse himself from the Clinton Foundation investigation.

According to the Journal, “Within the FBI, the decision was viewed with skepticism by some, who felt the probe would be stronger if the foundation and McAuliffe matters were combined. Others, particularly Justice Department anti-corruption prosecutors, felt that both probes were weak, based largely on publicly available information, and had found little that would merit expanded investigative authority.”

The Justice Department previously declined to empanel a grand jury for the foundation investigation, and still doesn’t give it the additional investigative powers that would come with grand jury backing. (The Wall Street Journal, 10/30/2016)

CNN will add that as part of the reorganization, agents in the Los Angeles, Little Rock, and Washington, DC. field offices, are told to turn over their files to the FBI New York office. “Agents were told to continue their work. But the order to the other field offices angered agents there.”

Additionally, during this meeting or in subsequent meetings over the next month, the New York office is told not to take any major steps in the investigation until after the US presidential election on November 8, 2016. CNN will report that “some agents [in New York] chafed at the decision that they had to sit and wait until after the election.” (CNN, 11/2/2016)

Mid-July 2016—August 2016: FBI and Justice Department officials agree to wait until after the 2016 presidential election to decide the next steps in the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation.

According to a November 2016 New York Times article, senior FBI and Justice Department officials have a series of meetings over what to do regarding the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation, which has been in existence since the summer of 2015, but lacks the grand jury authority that would give it subpoena power. The Times will report, “The investigation, based in New York, had not developed much evidence and was based mostly on information that had surfaced in news stories and the book ‘Clinton Cash,’ according to several law enforcement officials briefed on the case.”

These officials “agreed that making the Clinton Foundation investigation public could influence the presidential race and suggest they were favoring [Republican presidential nominee Donald] Trump. But waiting, they acknowledged, could open them up to criticism from Republicans, who were demanding an investigation. They agreed to keep the case open but wait until after the election to determine their next steps. The move infuriated some agents, who thought that the FBI’s leaders were reining them in because of politics.” (The New York Times, 11/1/2016)

A CNN article published shortly after the Times article will quote an unnamed law enforcement official familiar with the meetings as saying, “It’s just a (message of) ‘hold right now until after the elections — no subpoenas issued, no interviews.'” Although the Times says the meetings happen in August 2016, CNN says the decision to wait is made in a mid-July 2016 meeting. (CNN, 11/2/2016)

During this time frame, on August 12, 2016, a Justice Department official unsuccessfully attempts to shut down the investigation.