Russian Intelligence Prompted James Comey's Blistering Presser On Clinton Emails, But He Knew It Was Fake

Matt Vespa
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Posted: May 27, 2017 8:00 AM
Russian Intelligence Prompted James Comey's Blistering Presser On Clinton Emails, But He Knew It Was Fake

When the FBI knew the Russians were trying to interfere in our election, they could—from time to time—peer into their networks and see what was taken. What they found reportedly influenced former FBI Director James Comey to hold a press conference on July 5, 2016 and issue that strongly-worded rebuke of Hillary Clinton and her team concerning how they handled classified information. A memo reportedly from a Democratic operative reportedly made assurances that the FBI’s email probe would not go too far, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch would ensure that. If the investigation ended with no charges and this was leaked, the credibility of the FBI would be in the crosshairs. The New York Times had a lengthy piece in April about Mr. Comey’s attempts to keep the FBI out of the political spotlight during the 2016 cycle, which proved all but impossible (via NYT):

During Russia’s hacking campaign against the United States, intelligence agencies could peer, at times, into Russian networks and see what had been taken. Early last year, F.B.I. agents received a batch of hacked documents, and one caught their attention.

The document, which has been described as both a memo and an email, was written by a Democratic operative who expressed confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far, according to several former officials familiar with the document.

Read one way, it was standard Washington political chatter. Read another way, it suggested that a political operative might have insight into Ms. Lynch’s thinking.

The notion that the Democratic-led DOJ could be playing favorites for Mrs. Clinton were further amplified by Ms. Lynch telling Mr. Comey not to call the email probe an investigation, but a matter. Also, that 20-30-minute meeting between Ms. Lynch on former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac in Phoenix days before the July 5 presser. Mr. Clinton boarded Ms. Lynch’s plane where the two reportedly spoke about golf and grandkids. That was never going to suffice and the screams that a 'fix was in' should no charges be filed would be deafening. The only problem was that Mr. Comey didn’t see intent, he saw gross negligence, but the former was the standard he wanted to go by, despite the letter of the law not having such a statute concerning the mishandling of classified information. That explains the blistering indictment of Mrs. Clinton’s judgment at the presser, and that of her staff. Mr. Comey wanted to show that the Democratic–run DOJ was not putting its thumb on the scales. At the same time, Republicans were infuriated that he declined to file charges when it seems apparent that he should have. That's all settled however. Now, we know that the memo from the Democratic operative that former FBI Director James Comey took into account was not genuine and he knew it (via CNN):

Then-FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email was fake -- created by Russian intelligence -- but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the process.

As a result, Comey acted unilaterally last summer to publicly declare the investigation over -- without consulting then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch -- while at the same time stating that Clinton had been "extremely careless" in her handling of classified information. His press conference caused a firestorm of controversy and drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

Comey's actions based on what he knew was Russian disinformation offer a stark example of the way Russian interference impacted the decisions of the highest-level US officials during the 2016 campaign.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that this Russian intelligence was unreliable. US officials now tell CNN that Comey and FBI officials actually knew early on that this intelligence was indeed false.

President Trump fired Mr. Comey earlier this month over his conduct during this investigation, though Democrats find that explanation ludicrous. At the same time, the October 28, 2016 letter Mr. Comey sent to Congress informing them that more emails would be reviewed sent Democrats into a rage, with many calling for the then-FBI director to resign. When Trump did fire Mr. Comey, the outrage continued, but this time Democrats thought the move reeked of Watergate. That’s also patently false.