In a memo sent to FBI employees, director James Comey defended how the agency conducted its email investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and denied accusations that releasing documents related to the investigation on the Friday of a holiday weekend was an attempt to bury their importance.
Comey said the agency “leaned very far forward” in providing transparency in the case.
“In order to afford Congress ample opportunity to discharge its oversight responsibilities, we took the unusual step of sending relevant 302s [witness interview summaries], our case summary Letter Head Memorandum, and the classified emails we recovered during the investigation to the House and Senate security offices,” Comey wrote in the memo. “That permitted them to be reviewed by a number of committees with jurisdiction, instead of requiring that committee staff come to FBI headquarters to review the documents as we would normally require.”
Advertisement – story continues below
Comey, who has been facing criticism in recent weeks in meetings with former FBI agents over the agency’s decision not to bring criminal charges against Clinton, used the memo to relay to employees the same message he’s been giving the former agents: That the decision not to recommend an indictment against Clinton was a no-brainer.
“Despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case,” Comey said. “The hard part was whether to offer unprecedented transparency about our thinking.”
When the FBI released documents Friday related to its July interview with Clinton, critics charged the agency used the Friday before the three-day weekend to “dump” the documents at a time when they might not get the same coverage and media attention as they would at the start of a news cycle.
Advertisement – story continues below
Friday “news dumps” are common in the business world, especially among publicly traded companies that want to avoid press and investor scrutiny prior to the next day of stock market trading.
As it relates to the Clinton case, the FBI director said the timing of the release had nothing to do with the holiday weekend. He admits he realized he would be scrutinized for choosing when to release the information, but said he chose Friday because that’s when all of the pertinent information was first available.
“I almost ordered the material held until Tuesday because I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend,” Comey said. “But my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us. We don’t play games. So we released it Friday.”
Comey added the agency is processing more material related to the investigation and will release additional documents “as they are ready, no matter the day of the week.”
While some Clinton supporters felt vindicated when the agency announced it would not indict Clinton, they also felt Comey made Clinton seem guilty in the court of public opinion by making public statements that were highly critical of how the former secretary of state handled classified information on her private email server.
Comey said his goal with the investigation was not only to sort out the facts, but also to protect the integrity of the agency and its employees.
“I explain to our [former agents] that I’m okay if folks have a different view of the investigation (although I struggle to see how they actually could, especially when they didn’t do the investigation), or about the wisdom of announcing it as we did (although even with hindsight I think that was the best course),” Comey said. “But I have no patience for suggestions that we conducted ourselves as anything but what we are — honest, competent, and independent. Those suggesting that we are ‘political’ or part of some ‘fix’ either don’t know us, or they are full of baloney (and maybe some of both).”
Advertisement - story continues below
Comey is scheduled to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee during the last week of this month as part of the agency’s regular annual oversight hearing.
“This is our regular annual oversight hearing, so I’m hoping to cover many aspects of the Bureau’s great work,” he wrote. “Of course, I’m guessing folks will want to ask about the email investigation.”
Facebook has greatly reduced the distribution of our stories in our readers' newsfeeds and is instead promoting mainstream media sources. When you share to your friends, however, you greatly help distribute our content. Please take a moment and consider sharing this article with your friends and family. Thank you.