September 28, 2016: Comey isn’t sure if the FBI was aware of Paul Combetta’s Reddit posts and won’t comment if Combetta committed a crime by deleting them.

When FBI Director James Comey answers questions before a House Judiciary Committee public hearing, two of the committee members ask him key questions about Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks (PRN) employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server.

Darrell Issa (Credit: Jeff Malet)

Darrell Issa (Credit: Jeff Malet)

Representative Darrell Issa (R) asks: “Director, I have a lot of concerns but one of them refers to Reddit. At the time that the Department of Justice at your behest, or your involvement, gave Paul Combetta immunity, did you do so knowing about all of the posts he had on Reddit…?”

Comey replies: “I am not sure sitting here. My recollection is and I’ll check this and fix it if I am wrong, that we had some awareness of the Reddit posts, I don’t know whether our folks had read them all or not. We had a pretty good understanding of what we thought he had done, but that is my best recollection.”

Issa then asks: “OK, in the last week, [Combetta] has been deleting [his] Reddit posts. Is that consistent with preserving evidence? … You know, I guess my question to you is, is he destroying evidence relevant to Congressional inquiries? And I will answer it for you: yes he is. And what are you going to do about it?”

Comey answers, “That’s not something I can comment on.”

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

Bob Goodlatte (Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

Later in the same hearing, committee chair Representative Bob Goodlatte (R), similarly asks: “Paul Combetta, with PRN, posted to Reddit, asking how to strip out a VIP’s, very VIP email address from a bunch of archived email. … This clearly demonstrates actions taken to destroy evidence by those operating Sec Clinton’s private server and by her staff.  … [W]as the FBI aware of this Reddit post prior to offering Mr. Combetta immunity on May 3, 2016?”

Comey responds, “I am not sure. I know that our team looked at it. I don’t know whether they knew about it before then or not.” (House Judiciary Committee, 09/28/2016)

September 28, 2016: FBI Director James Comey denies Paul Combetta attempted to cover up Clinton’s emails.

In a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Comey comments on a July 2014 Reddit post by Paul Combetta, a Platte River Networks employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server.

Comey says, “Our team concluded that what he was trying to do was when they produced emails not have the actual address but have some name or placeholder instead of the actual dot-com address in the ‘From:’ line.” As a result, the FBI believes Combetta was not engaged in a secret cover-up when he used his “stonetear” alias on the Reddit website to ask for a tool that could delete Clinton’s email address throughout a large file.

However, Republican lawmakers believe Combetta’s Reddit post reveals an effort to hide Clinton’s emails from investigators. For example, committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R) says he believes it was “obviously part of a cover-up. … This clearly demonstrates an action to destroy evidence by people operating Clinton’s private server and her staff.” (Politico, 09/28/2016)

September 28, 2016: Comey suggests he didn’t try to get subpoena power for the Clinton email investigation in order to complete it faster.

Representative Tom Marino (Credit: Getty Images)

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Tom Marino (R) asks FBI Director James Comey why he made immunity deals with key figures in the Clinton email investigation instead of using subpoena power. In particular, he wants to know why deals were made to get access to the laptops of Clinton’s lawyers Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.

Comey replies, “Anytime you’re talking about the prospect of subpoenaing a computer from a lawyer, it involves the lawyer’s practice of law, you know you’re getting into a big Megillah.”

Marino, who was a district attorney and US attorney before being elected to Congress, then asks, “I understand that, clearly. Why did you not decide to go to an investigative grand jury? It would have been cleaner, it would have been much simpler, and you would have had more authority to make these witnesses testify. Not the target, but the witnesses testify. That seems the way to go, Director. We’ve done it thousands of times. This was just too convoluted.”

Comey replies, “Again, I need to steer clear of talking about grand jury use in a particular matter. In general, in my experience, you can often do things faster with informal agreements, especially when you’re interacting with lawyers. In this particular investigation, the investigative team really wanted to get access to the laptops that were used to sort these emails. Those are lawyers’ laptops. That is a very complicated thing. I think they were able to navigate it pretty well to get us access.”

Later in the hearing, Comey adds that the investigation “couldn’t be concluded professionally without doing our best to figure out what was on those laptops. So, getting the laptops was very important to me and to the investigative team.” (Politico, 11/1/2016) (C-SPAN, 9/28/2016)

In contradiction to his answer on this day, in April 2016, he said of the investigation, “The urgency is to do it well and promptly. And ‘well’ comes first.” And in May 2016, he said “I don’t tether to any external deadline” to finish the investigation, such as the Democratic convention in July 2016.

September 28, 2016: FBI Director James Comey defends the FBI and claims “we are not weasels.”

In a surprising moment during FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, he defends the character and integrity of the FBI officials who took part in the FBI’s Clinton investigation.

FBI Director Comey passionately defends his agents to the House Oversight Committee on September 28, 2016. (Credit: CSpan)

FBI Director Comey defends his agents before the House Oversight Committee. (Credit: CSpan)

Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D) asks, “The foot soldiers, your agents on the ground, you take issue with whether or not they were compromised or they were adhering to somebody elses message. Is that what you’re saying?”

Comey answers, “You can call us wrong, but don’t call us weasels. We are not weasels. We are honest people and … whether or not you agree with the result, this was done the way you want it to be done.”

Politico describes the impassioned moment, “The normally stoic FBI chief grew emotional and emphatic as he rejected claims from Republican lawmakers that the FBI was essentially in the tank for Clinton when it recommended that neither she nor any of her aides be prosecuted in connection with the presence of classified information on Clinton’s private email server. He acknowledged he has ‘no patience’ for such allegations.”(Politico, 09/28/2016)

September 28, 2016: When asked if he would reopen the Clinton email investigation, Comey says he “would certainly look at any new and substantial information.”

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: public domain)

Representative Lamar Smith (Credit: public domain)

During an appearance before a Congressional committee, FBI Director James Comey is questioned by Representative Lamar Smith (R): “[W]ould you reopen the Clinton [email] investigation if you discovered new information that was both relevant and substantial?”

Comey replies, “It is hard for me to answer in the abstract. We would certainly look at any new and substantial information.”

Smith then asks, “In general – and let’s personalize it – in general, if you discover new information that was substantial and relevant, you would reopen an investigation, would you not?”

Comey replies, “Again, even in general I don’t think we can answer that in the abstract. What we can say is that any investigation if people have new and substantial information we would like to see it so we can make an evaluation.” (US Congress, 9/28/2016)

Exactly one month later, on October 28, 2016, Comey will announce that he is at least partially reopening the investigation, due to newly discovered emails.

September 28, 2016: FBI Director James Comey thinks Paul Combetta is the Reddit user “stonetear.”

Representative Steve King (Credit: Charlie Neibergall / The Associated Press)

Representative Steve King (Credit: Charlie Neibergall / The Associated Press)

FBI Director James Comey says he thinks Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks employee who helped manage Clinton’s private server, is the Reddit user “stonetear.” In a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee public hearing, Comey is asked by Representative Steve King (R), “Listening in the exchange between yourself and [Representative Darrell] Issa, I would just like to confirm that you were confirming that Mr. Combetta made the Reddit posts?”

Comey replies, “I’m not confirming it. I think he did, it is my understanding. That’s my understanding, I think he did. I haven’t dug into it myself. I’ve been focused on other things as we’ve been talking about, but I think that’s right.” (CSpan 01:27:39, 09/28/2016)