October 31, 2016: A senator wants to know if the FBI ever asked for subpoena power in the Clinton email investigation, and if not, why not.

Senator Charles Grassley (Credit: Brendan Smialowski / Agence France Press / Getty Images)

Senator Charles Grassley (Credit: Brendan Smialowski / Agence France Press / Getty Images)

Following the October 28, 2016 revelation that FBI Director James Comey has at least partially reopened the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sends him a letter with a series of questions.

He points that in May 2016, “I wrote to you expressing concern about the appearance that political appointees at the Justice Department might be withholding approval for the FBI to seek search warrants and grand jury subpoenas. These standard investigative tools are usually approved in criminal investigations of this scope and importance. However, it remains unclear to this day whether the FBI requested the use of a grand jury in the Clinton email investigation to compel documents and testimony, and if so, whether the [Justice Department] denied that request. These concerns are only magnified by these latest developments [regarding the reopening of the investigation].”

He adds, “If the FBI is denied the ability to gather evidence through compulsory means, Secretary Clinton and her aides have enormous leverage to negotiate extraordinary concessions in exchange for voluntary cooperation. It is critical for the public to know whether the FBI has requested from the Justice Department vital investigative tools such as grand jury subpoenas and search warrants and whether it has been denied access to them.” (Politico, 11/1/2016) (US Congress, 10/31/2016)

Two days later, it will be reported that the FBI never asked the Justice Department for the grand jury legal backing needed for subpoena power, but this has not been officially confirmed.

On September 28, 2016, Comey hinted that he preferred making immunity deals with key witnesses over using subpoena power in order to bring the investigation to a faster conclusion.

 

October 31, 2016: Loretta Lynch and James Comey have a private meeting, and agree to work together to get faster answers.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey meet in person to discuss Comey’s announcement on October 28, 2016 that he is at least partially reopening the FBI’s Clinton email investigation due newly discovered evidence. It has been reported that one day before his announcement, Lynch made clear that she disagreed, passing that message to him through intermediaries.

Lynch and Comey have a regular national security meeting at the FBI, and after the meeting ends, Lynch and Comey talk in private. (CBS News, 11/1/2016)

Peter Kadzik (Credit: CSpan)

Peter Kadzik (Credit: CSpan)

Later in the day, Justice Department legislative liaison Peter Kadzik tells Congress that the department will dedicate all necessary resources and work “as expeditiously as possible” to learn something about the new evidence, since Election Day is only eight days away.

Politico reports that “Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates are now seeking a kind of detente with [Comey] after the extraordinary rift between Comey and the Justice Department” regarding his decision to ignore the Justice Department’s wishes for him not to send the letter.

One unnamed “top Justice official” says that Lynch and Yates “felt they needed to make clear that they disagreed with Comey’s decision. But no one is dragging their feet here. The Justice Department is committed to working with the FBI to move the case forward.” (Politico, 10/31/2016)

October 31, 2016: The New York Times’ editorial board heavily criticizes “James Comey’s Big Mistake.”

That is the title of the op-ed published four days after FBI Director Comey announced the at least partial reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. The editorial states, “Now, thanks to Mr. Comey’s breathtakingly rash and irresponsible decision, the Justice Department and FBI are scrambling to process hundreds of thousands of emails to determine whether there is anything relevant in them before [the US presidential election on November 8, 2016] — all as the country stands by in suspense. This is not how federal investigations are conducted. In claiming to stand outside politics, Mr. Comey has instead created the hottest political football of the 2016 election.

“And he clearly failed to consider the impact of the innuendo he unleashed just days before the election, seemingly more concerned with protecting himself from recrimination by critics in Congress and the FBI. … The Clinton campaign and its supporters are apoplectic. But top federal law enforcement officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations have been just as swift and fierce in their condemnation of Mr. Comey.

“In an election that has featured the obliteration of one long-accepted political or social norm after another, it is sadly fitting that one of the final and perhaps most consequential acts was to undermine the American people’s trust in the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.” (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)

November 1, 2016: Obama indirectly criticizes Comey, saying “we don’t operate on innuendo.”

President Obama and new FBI Director James Comey during his installation ceremony in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2013. (Credit: Saul Loeb / Getty Images)

President Obama publicly comments for the first time about FBI Director James Comey’s letter on October 28, 2016 that effectively announced the reopening of the Clinton email investigation just 11 days prior to the 2016 US presidential election.

Obama doesn’t directly mention Comey. But he says, “I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo and we don’t operate on incomplete information and we don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”

Obama says, “I’ve made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don’t look like I am meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes for making these assessments.”

But then he makes comments that clearly are supportive of Clinton, by  downplaying the implications of reopening the investigation. “Obviously, it’s become a political controversy. The fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton, having been in the arena for 30 years, oftentimes gets knocked around and people say crazy stuff about her and when she makes a mistake, an honest mistake, it ends up getting blown up as if it’s some crazy thing. I trust her. I know her.”

Obama also notes, “When this was investigated thoroughly last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable.” (CNN, 11/2/2016) (CNN, 11/2/2016)

Contrary to Obama’s claims that he has made an effort not to meddle, in October 2015 he made comments supporting Clinton in her email controversy that were criticized. Then he did so again in April 2016.

November 2, 2016: It is revealed that the FBI and Justice Department agreed not to have grand jury subpoenas for the Clinton email investigation, arguing that would lead to a faster conclusion.

CNN reports, “During the Clinton email server investigation, investigators and prosecutors debated whether to issue subpoenas to Clinton’s aides, officials say. Leaders at the FBI and at the Justice Department thought it would be faster to come to voluntary agreements with aides. Subpoenas could cause delays, particularly if litigation is necessary, officials said. And the FBI and Justice Department wanted to try to complete the probe and get out of the way of the 2016 election.”

Presumably this meant it was agreed not to get Justice Department approval to empanel a grand jury, because an FBI investigation cannot issue subpoenas without the legal authority of a grand jury.  (CNN, 11/2/2016)

Two days earlier, Senator Charles Grassley (R) sent FBI Director James Comey a letter asking for an official answer regarding this issue. Comey hinted in September 2016 that he didn’t seek a grand jury in the interest of quickly concluding the investigation.

November 2, 2016: The FBI allegedly has not destroyed the laptops of two Clinton aides, and their immunity deals may have been voided.

In October 2016, it was reported that Clinton’s aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson got immunity deals in return for their cooperation in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation, and in return for turning over their computer laptops, the FBI promised to destroy those laptops after analyzing the data on them.

However, on this day, Fox News reporter Bret Baier claims, “As a result of the limited immunity deals to top aides, including Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, the Justice Department had tentatively agreed that the FBI would destroy those laptops after a narrow review. We are told definitively that has not happened. Those devices are currently in the FBI field office here in Washington, DC, and are being exploited. The source points out that any immunity deal is null and void if any subject lied at any point in the investigation.” (Real Clear Politics, 11/2/2016)

November 2, 2016: Suspicions of partisan political decisions has been causing increasing conflict within both the FBI and Justice Department, as well as between them.

CNN publishes a front-page article with the title “Turmoil in the FBI,” which is based on interviews with more than a dozen anonymous government officials close to the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. It states that since the investigation began in July 2015, “infighting among some agents and officials has exposed some parts of the storied [FBI] to be buffeted by some of the same bitter [political] divisions as the rest of American society.”

Loretta Lynch (Credit: ABC News)

Loretta Lynch (Credit: ABC News)

CNN alleges, “Some of the sharpest divides have emerged between some agents in the FBI’s New York field office, the bureau’s largest and highest-profile, and officials at FBI headquarters in Washington and at the Justice Department. Some rank-and-file agents interpreted cautious steps taken by the Justice Department and FBI headquarters as being done for political reasons or to protect a powerful political figure [Clinton]. At headquarters, some have viewed the actions and complaints of some agents in the field as driven by the common desire of investigators to get a big case or, perhaps worst, because of partisan views.”

The tensions are said to have “multiplied” since FBI Director James Comey announced in July 2016 that he would not recommend indicting Clinton. In addition to increasing conflicts within the FBI, his announcement “also opened up sharp divides between Justice [Department] and FBI officials, and even within the Justice Department itself, where some officials have pushed for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to more forcefully assert her power over the FBI.”

The tensions in the Clinton email investigation have been duplicated by the Clinton Foundation investigation, with some FBI agents again frustrated at what they consider political obstructionism from FBI leaders and the Justice Department to protect Clinton. That has also led to friction between FBI headquarters and the New York field office.

Since then, conflicts have increased still more due to the reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation on October 28, 2016. Potentially relevant evidence was discovered on the computer of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, shortly after October 3, 2016. “The longer it took for officials at FBI headquarters and at the Justice Department to decide how to proceed with the matter, the more conspiracies spread among some agents that perhaps senior FBI officials were trying to cover up the matter.”

Rick DesLauriers (Credit: Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters)

Rick DesLauriers (Credit: Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters)

One unnamed “senior law enforcement official” says, “It’s the times we are living in. No one has emerged from this election unscathed.”

Rick DesLauriers, who was head of the FBI’s Boston field office until he retired three years ago, says, “Politics is running rampant. Passions are high.” He adds that “[Comey] made a decision that angered Republicans in July [2016] and one that angered Democrats in October [2016]. That’s a pretty good indication he’s nonpartisan.”

CNN also notes that “Some of the tensions are built-in because of the FBI’s unique position as part of the Justice Department but also projecting a large measure of independence. The FBI director’s job has a 10-year tenure, spanning presidential administrations, while his bosses at the Justice Department are politically appointed and they leave when the administration ends.” (CNN, 11/2/2016)

November 3, 2016: It is alleged leakers inside the FBI are upset at Clinton, James Comey, and/or the Justice Department.

Photo captured from NBC News report about FBI Director James Comey re-opening the Clinton email investigation. (Credit: NBC Nightly News)

Photo captured from NBC News report about FBI Director James Comey reopening the Clinton email investigation on October 28, 2016. (Credit: NBC Nightly News)

The Guardian reports that “Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI,” according to multiple FBI sources, “spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.” Both current and former anonymous FBI officials “have described a chaotic internal climate that resulted from outrage over [FBI Director] James Comey’s July [2016] decision” not to recommend indictment.

One current agent says, “The FBI is Trumpland,” referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Clinton is “the antichrist personified to a large swath of FBI personnel,” and “the reason why they’re leaking is they’re pro-Trump.”

However, “other sources dispute the depth of support for Trump within the [FBI], though they uniformly stated that Clinton is viewed highly unfavorably.”

A former FBI official says, “There are lots of people who don’t think Trump is qualified, but also believe Clinton is corrupt. What you hear a lot is that it’s a bad choice, between an incompetent and a corrupt politician. … Many FBI agents were upset at the director, not because he didn’t [recommend to] indict, but they believe he threw the FBI under the bus by taking the heat away from [the Justice Department].”

While FBI agents are upset at Comey and his handling of the investigation, agents are also upset with what is seen as obstructionism from the Justice Department. The Guardian comments, “Some feel Comey needs to address the criticism and provide reassurance that the [FBI], with its wide-ranging investigative and surveillance powers, will comport itself in an apolitical manner.” But since October 28, 2016, when Comey announced the reopening of the investigation, he has stayed silent. (The Guardian, 11/3/2016)

November 3, 2016: The FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation is still facing an impasse between FBI investigators and top officials.

Since October 30, 2016, there have been a number of news reports that the FBI’s Clinton Foundation investigation exists, but also that it has been hobbled by disagreements between FBI agents, who believe the evidence against the foundation is strong, and high-ranking FBI officials and Justice Department officials who believe the evidence is weak. Major decisions have been postponed until after the November 8, 2016 US presidential election.

ABC News reports that “Investigators and higher-ups have continued to discuss the matter, but there has been no change in posture, sources said. Authorities still believe there is no evidence of wrongdoing, and they do not believe there is a sufficient reason to pursue charges…” (ABC News, 11/3/2016)