On other issues, Mr. Comey bucked the administration but won praise from his agents, who saw him as someone who did what he believed was right, regardless of the political ramifications.Read more here.
The 6-foot-8 Mr. Comey commanded a room and the spotlight. Ms. Lynch, 5 feet tall, was known for being cautious and relentlessly on message. In her five months as attorney general, she had shown no sign of changing her style.
At the meeting, everyone agreed that Mr. Comey should not reveal details about the Clinton investigation. But Ms. Lynch told him to be even more circumspect: Do not even call it an investigation, she said, according to three people who attended the meeting. Call it a “matter.”
Ms. Lynch reasoned that the word “investigation” would raise other questions: What charges were being investigated? Who was the target? But most important, she believed that the department should stick by its policy of not confirming investigations.
It was a by-the-book decision. But Mr. Comey and other F.B.I. officials regarded it as disingenuous in an investigation that was so widely known. And Mr. Comey was concerned that a Democratic attorney general was asking him to be misleading and line up his talking points with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, according to people who spoke with him afterward.
...As the Clinton investigation headed into its final months, there were two very different ideas about how the case would end. Ms. Lynch and her advisers thought a short statement would suffice, probably on behalf of both the Justice Department and the F.B.I.
Mr. Comey was making his own plans.
A chance encounter set those plans in motion.
In late June, Ms. Lynch’s plane touched down at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as part of her nationwide tour of police departments. Former President Bill Clinton was also in Phoenix that day, leaving from the same tarmac.
Ms. Lynch’s staff loaded into vans, leaving the attorney general and her husband on board. Mr. Clinton’s Secret Service agents mingled with her security team. When the former president learned who was on the plane, his aides say, he asked to say hello.
Mr. Clinton’s aides say he intended only to greet Ms. Lynch as she disembarked. But Ms. Lynch later told colleagues that the message she received — relayed from one security team to another — was that Mr. Clinton wanted to come aboard, and she agreed.
When Ms. Lynch’s staff members noticed Mr. Clinton boarding the plane, a press aide hurriedly called the Justice Department’s communications director, Melanie Newman, who said to break up the meeting immediately. A staff member rushed to stop it, but by the time the conversation ended, Mr. Clinton had been on the plane for about 20 minutes.
The meeting made the local news the next day and was soon the talk of Washington. Ms. Lynch said they had only exchanged pleasantries about golf and grandchildren, but Republicans called for her to recuse herself and appoint a special prosecutor.
Ms. Lynch said she would not step aside but would accept whatever career prosecutors and the F.B.I. recommended on the Clinton case — something she had planned to do all along.
Mr. Comey never suggested that she recuse herself. But at that moment, he knew for sure that when there was something to say about the case, he alone would say it.
...Two days later, on the morning of July 5, Mr. Comey called Ms. Lynch to say that he was about to hold a news conference. He did not tell her what he planned to say, and Ms. Lynch did not demand to know.
On short notice, the F.B.I. summoned reporters to its headquarters for the briefing.
...With a black binder in hand, Mr. Comey walked into a large room on the ground floor of the F.B.I.’s headquarters. Standing in front of two American flags and two royal-blue F.B.I. flags, he read from a script.
He said the F.B.I. had reviewed 30,000 emails and discovered 110 that contained classified information. He said computer hackers may have compromised Mrs. Clinton’s emails. And he criticized the State Department’s lax security culture and Mrs. Clinton directly.
“Any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position” should have known better, Mr. Comey said. He called her “extremely careless.”
The criticism was so blistering that it sounded as if he were recommending criminal charges. Only in the final two minutes did Mr. Comey say that “no charges are appropriate in this case.”
...The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, was first with the salacious story: Anthony D. Weiner, the former New York congressman, had exchanged sexually charged messages with a 15-year-old girl.
The article, appearing in late September, raised the possibility that Mr. Weiner had violated child pornography laws. Within days, prosecutors in Manhattan sought a search warrant for Mr. Weiner’s computer.
Even with his notoriety, this would have had little impact on national politics but for one coincidence. Mr. Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, was one of Mrs. Clinton’s closest confidantes, and had used an email account on her server.
F.B.I. agents in New York seized Mr. Weiner’s laptop in early October. The investigation was just one of many in the New York office and was not treated with great urgency, officials said. Further slowing the investigation, the F.B.I. software used to catalog the computer files kept crashing.
Eventually, investigators realized that they had hundreds of thousands of emails, many of which belonged to Ms. Abedin and had been backed up to her husband’s computer.
Neither Mr. Comey nor Ms. Lynch was concerned. Agents had discovered devices before in the Clinton investigation (old cellphones, for example) that turned up no new evidence.
Then, agents in New York who were searching image files on Mr. Weiner’s computer discovered a State Department document containing the initials H.R.C. — Hillary Rodham Clinton. They found messages linked to Mrs. Clinton’s home server.
And they made another surprising discovery: evidence that some of the emails had moved through Mrs. Clinton’s old BlackBerry server, the one she used before moving to her home server. If Mrs. Clinton had intended to conceal something, agents had always believed, the evidence might be in those emails. But reading them would require another search warrant, essentially reopening the Clinton investigation.
The election was two weeks away.
Mr. Comey learned of the Clinton emails on the evening of Oct. 26 and gathered his team the next morning to discuss the development.
Seeking a new warrant was an easy decision. He had a thornier issue on his mind.
Back in July, he told Congress that the Clinton investigation was closed. What was his obligation, he asked, to acknowledge that this was no longer true?
It was a perilous idea. It would push the F.B.I. back into the political arena, weeks after refusing to confirm the active investigation of the Trump campaign and declining to accuse Russia of hacking.
The question consumed hours of conference calls and meetings. Agents felt they had two options: Tell Congress about the search, which everyone acknowledged would create a political furor, or keep it quiet, which followed policy and tradition but carried its own risk, especially if the F.B.I. found new evidence in the emails.
...The next morning, Friday, Oct. 28, Mr. Comey wrote to Congress, “In connection with an unrelated case, the F.B.I. has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.”
His letter became public within minutes. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a Republican and a leading antagonist of Mrs. Clinton’s, jubilantly announced on Twitter, “Case reopened.”
...Mr. Trump immediately mentioned it on the campaign trail. “As you might have heard,” Mr. Trump told supporters in Maine, “earlier today, the F.B.I. … ” The crowd interrupted with a roar. Everyone had heard.
Polls almost immediately showed Mrs. Clinton’s support declining. Presidential races nearly always tighten in the final days, but some political scientists reported a measurable “Comey effect.”
“This changes everything,” Mr. Trump said.
...A few hours later, Mr. Strzok and his team were back in Mr. Comey’s conference room for a final briefing: Only about 3,000 emails had been potentially work-related. A dozen or so email chains contained classified information, but the F.B.I. had already seen it.
And agents had found no emails from the BlackBerry server during the crucial period when Mrs. Clinton was at the State Department.
Nothing had changed what Mr. Comey had said in July.
That conclusion was met with a mixture of relief and angst. Everyone at the meeting knew that the question would quickly turn to whether Mr. Comey’s letter had been necessary.
That afternoon, Mr. Comey sent a second letter to Congress. “Based on our review,” he wrote, “we have not changed our conclusions.”
...Many factors explained Mr. Trump’s success, but Mrs. Clinton blamed just one. “Our analysis is that Comey’s letter — raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be — stopped our momentum,” she told donors a few days after the election. She pointed to polling data showing that late-deciding voters chose Mr. Trump in unusually large numbers.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
The Clinton email "matter"
Did you know that FBI Director Jim Comey is 6'8" and his former boss Loretta Lynch is 5' tall? That is one of the details in a report in yesterday's New York Times by Matt Apuzzo, Michael S. Schmidt, Adam Goldman, and Eric Lichtblau. The report takes a look at the ways in which the decisions made by Comey may have influenced the November election (like Putin?).