President Obama obliquely criticized FBI director James Comey’s handling of the Clinton email probe in an interview on Wednesday morning, telling NowThis News, “There is a norm that when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo, we don’t operate on incomplete information, we don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”
That was true of the FBI at one point, but the 2016 election has destroyed a lot of norms.
Throughout the election, the Justice Department tried to maintain its policy of not releasing information that might influence the race, according to the New York Times, and for months it was fairly successful. Comey held an odd press conference in July, in which he criticized Clinton but said he would not recommend charges in the email probe, and until last week that was all we knew about the FBI’s interest in the two candidates.
However, following Comey’s announcement of a Clinton investigation revival starring Anthony Weiner, law-enforcement sources decided to blow off some pent-up election-season frustration. In the last few days we’ve learned that the FBI is investigating Donald Trump’s many rumored links to Russia, as well as the Clinton Foundation’s alleged corruption. There’s been a constant leak of details on the feud between the FBI and the Justice Department over how to handle the cases, and now we’re even learning about specific evidence and personal issues within the agency.
Earlier this week, the Times revealed that FBI agents based in New York presented their findings against the Clinton Foundation at a meeting in February. The Justice Department and senior bureau officials ultimately decided there wasn’t enough evidence to move forward with the case, but agreed to keep it open and decide the next steps after the election.
Several law enforcement sources told the Times this week that the New York agents’ case was mostly based on allegations in the book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich by Peter Schweizer, senior editor-at-large for Breitbart News. The book was turned into a film by former Breitbart chairman and current Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon.
The book suggests that the Clintons engaged in shady dealings around the world, using their charity and Hillary’s position at the State Department to benefit themselves financially. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and Fox News made deals with Schweizer for early access to some of his Clinton opposition research. The book contained a number of serious errors and was dismissed by the Clinton campaign. Nevertheless, Schweizer was reportedly interviewed multiple times by the FBI.
Now sources tell The Wall Street Journal that some FBI agents felt they’d advanced the case well past the allegations made in the book. They had collected information on the Clinton Foundation from at least two informants in other public-corruption cases, and they had a secret recording of one of those conversations. The sources say that in the recording a suspect in another corruption case discusses improper deals made by the Clintons.
It was unclear if the suspect’s claims were accurate, and since the person wasn’t inside the Clinton Foundation, corruption prosecutors felt it amounted to hearsay. The two sides have been battling over whether the case is strong enough to take more aggressive action, such as issuing subpoenas, since February.
Disagreements over the merits of a case are common, but it’s unusual that we even know which officials were blamed for the decision within the FBI. Some have accused deputy director Andrew McCabe, the second-in-command at the bureau, of pushing the agents to stop their investigation, while others say most Justice Department officials felt the probe should not go forward.
We also learn from the Journal that some felt the U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, Robert Capers, was “exacerbating the problems by telling each side what it wanted to hear.” FBI agents in New York continued pursuing the Clinton Foundation case though their superiors told them to back off. Capers reportedly told the Justice Department that the agents on the case just “won’t let it go.”
While a number of FBI agents and Justice Department officials appear to be airing their grievances about how the Clinton and Trump investigations were handled, a few are going even further by sharing their predictions about the outcomes. Fox News’s Bret Baier said Wednesday that two FBI sources said the Clinton Foundation probe is likely to lead to an indictment. One of the sources said the bureau has collected “a lot of” evidence, and “there is an avalanche of new information coming every day.”
The FBI hasn’t confirmed that it’s investigating the Clinton Foundation, but they can probably stop wasting their energy. If the leaks continue at this pace, we’ll soon have enough evidence for a jury — or rather, an angry mob led by Chris Christie — to “lock her up.”