It looks like I owe you an update. Things move fast in the FBI vs Huma Abedin case. When only some 24 hours ago I started writing my article “Throw Huma Under the Bus?”, there was one thing I did not know at all, one thing I was guessing at as much as the reporters who brought it up, and one I couldn’t verify sufficiently to feel comfortable about including it in the piece.
First, what I did not know at all was the role of Department of Justice head and US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. Nobody I had read wrote a single word about her role, and I said “Wait a minute! Anybody seen Loretta Lynch lately?”. 24 hours later we know that Lynch, and the DOJ, actively attempted to keep James Comey from writing his infamous letter to members of Congress.
These attempts were ostensibly based on a ‘longstanding’ tradition of the DOJ and FBI to minimalize any potential interference in (presidential) elections. Given that Comey didn’t have ‘enough’ solid evidence gathered from the emails, Lynch et al apparently told him he should not come forward. But it turns out there’s a dark flipside to this argument, please bear with me.
Second, there was the ‘rumor’, or whatever we may call it, that Comey faced pressure from agents (or ‘assets’) in the Bureau to either come forward or risk having details leaked into the press from within the FBI. This is still not verified, and maybe never will be, but it does fit a narrative that’s starting to take shape. Though perhaps not quite the way one might have suspected.
Third, something I couldn’t verify sufficiently, was the issue of a warrant the FBI would need to examine the emails on devices owned by, and in at least some cases shared by, Huma and husband Anthony Weiner. I had seen this, and wrote in yesterday’s Debt Rattle at the Automatic Earth that “The NY Post suggests that NBC suggests that the FBI needs a fresh warrant to study the new batch of emails..”. Nobody else mentioned it though.
But now there’s more on that aspect, and it changes the story, perhaps a lot. In an overall pretty good article, Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff has this:
When FBI Director James Comey wrote his bombshell letter to Congress on Friday about newly discovered emails that were potentially “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, agents had not been able to review any of the material, because the bureau had not yet gotten a search warrant to read them, three government officials who have been briefed on the probe told Yahoo News.
At the time Comey wrote the letter, “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails,” one of the officials said, referring to recently discovered emails that were found on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly sending illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl.
As of Saturday night, the FBI was still in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and therefore was still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen. “We do not have a warrant,” a senior law enforcement official said.
When I saw that confirmed, a whole new picture started emerging. You have on the one side James Comey who does something ‘unprecedented’, for which he knows he’ll face a lot of flack. On the other you have Loretta Lynch, a staunch Democrat not known to be nearly as impartial as Comey, trying to keep him from sending the letter.
And on top of that you have ‘negotiations’ between the DOJ and FBI about obtaining a warrant to get access to the emails. The DOJ can, and still may, refuse to grant the FBI that warrant. But that chance is a lot smaller now than if Comey had not sent his letter. By bringing the matter out into the open, he’s hugely increased the pressure on Lynch to issue the warrant.
What we have here in fact is a power struggle. And as I hinted before, this may not be Lynch vs Comey directly, but it may come from within the FBI. Where various ‘assets’ have become so frustrated with how the investigations have been conducted so far that they have put pressure on Comey that may even have taken the form of an ultimatum. “We’ll leak unless we get a warrant”.
But it’s quite possible that Comey himself is the one behind the pressure on the DOJ, it’s quite possible that he has grown as weary as his people of the ‘progress’ in the entire Hillary email proceedings.
There is no indication from the eight-page FBI report on the interview, however, that the agents ever pressed her on what has now turned into an explosive issue in the final days of the 2016 campaign: Did Weiner have access to any classified government documents on his laptop and iPhone – devices that, he apparently used to exchange sexually charged messages with women he met online, including in one alleged case, an underage teenager in North Carolina?
The fact that FBI agents failed to follow up on this shows that the original probe into the Clinton email server was “not thorough” and was “fatally flawed,” said Joseph DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney and independent counsel who has been a strong critic of Comey and the FBI probe. “The first thing they should have done was gotten a sworn affidavit about all her accounts and devices,” he said, adding that agents should have immediately attempted to obtain the devices, including Weiner’s.
We don’t know why the agents haven’t. The suggestion I referred to yesterday that Huma Abedin may have been granted a ‘secret immunity’ deal could have played a big part in that. After all, there must be some reason why no devices were seized in ‘part 1’ of the investigation; even if that reason is not exactly public knowledge. The ‘secret immunity’ and the lack of devices seized, of course remind us again of Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton on a tarmac in Phoenix back in June.
Agents may simply not have had the authority to ‘obtain’ the devices. Whether that was because the DOJ actively frustrated their investigation, or the orders came from Comey, we don’t know and we never may. But something’s changed since then. That’s what Comey’s letter, and its timing, strongly seems to suggest.
About the material found on Weiner’s devices, Hillary’s side of course has a good idea what’s in the emails. Huma has been thoroughly grilled by now, if she hadn’t been before. The FBI probably has at least a partial idea: it’s highly likely they have seen things when investigating Weiner that would now be a part of the Hillary email investigation if the warrant were issued.
Hillary and other Dems can now protest Comey’s actions all they want, and demand full openness, but they know full well that this openness depends on ‘their own Loretta Lynch’ granting the FBI that warrant. And every single second that the warrant is not issued is a dark cloud on Hillary’s campaign, and indeed on the whole of America.
Of course the Democrats would love to lift this whole thing over November 8, and that’s why they seek to play for time and focus -again- not on the content but on the process, the proceedings and the individuals involved. People inside the FBI -whether that includes Comey or not- appear to think that would not serve democracy. But they have tens of thousands of mails to dig through even if they get the warrant, and that takes time. Will they get that time?
There’s no way Comey is not smart enough to have seen coming what’s happening now. From the Democrats’ favorite son he’s become in their eyes so incompetent they even suggest he may be yet another of Putin’s assets in America.
Is he seeking to right a wrong? Did he think that no matter what he did he would be fed to either the Republican or the Democrat sharks anyway? Or was he pressured by his ‘assets’? Right now, it seems too soon to tell. But don’t be surprised if James Comey comes out of this looking like a true American Hero. Even if it costs him his job.