FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe
Laptop may contain thousands of messages sent to or from Mrs. Clinton’s private server
By DEVLIN BARRETT
Updated Oct. 30, 2016 7:59 p.m. ET
The surprise disclosure that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation are taking a new look at Hillary Clinton’s email use lays bare, just days before the election, tensions inside the bureau and the Justice Department over how to investigate the Democratic presidential nominee.
Investigators found 650,000 emails on a laptop used by former Rep. Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Huma Abedin, a close Clinton aide, and underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.
It will take weeks, at a minimum, to determine whether those messages are work-related from the time Ms. Abedin served with Mrs. Clinton at the State Department; how many are duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI; and whether they include either classified information or important new evidence in the Clinton email probe.
Officials had to await a court order to begin reviewing the emails—which they received over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter—because they were uncovered in an unrelated probe of Mr. Weiner.
The new investigative effort, disclosed by FBI Director James Comey on Friday, shows a bureau at times in sharp internal disagreement over matters related to the Clintons, and how to handle those matters fairly and carefully in the middle of a national election campaign. Even as the probe of Mrs. Clinton’s email use wound down in July, internal disagreements within the bureau and the Justice Department surrounding the Clintons’ family philanthropy heated up, according to people familiar with the matter.
The latest development began in early October when New York-based FBI officials notified Andrew McCabe, the bureau’s second-in-command, that while investigating Mr. Weiner for possibly sending sexually charged messages to a teenage minor, they had recovered a laptop. Many of the 650,000 emails on the computer, they said, were from the accounts of Ms. Abedin, according to people familiar with the matter.
Those emails stretched back years, these people said, and were on a laptop that hadn’t previously come up in the Clinton email probe. Ms. Abedin said in late August that the couple were separating.
The FBI had searched the computer while looking for child pornography, people familiar with the matter said, but the warrant they used didn’t give them authority to search for matters related to Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement at the State Department. Mr. Weiner has denied sending explicit or indecent messages to the minor.
In their initial review of the laptop, the metadata showed many messages, apparently in the thousands, that were either sent to or from the private email server at Mrs. Clinton’s home that had been the focus of so much investigative effort for the FBI. Senior FBI officials decided to let the Weiner investigators proceed with a closer examination of the metadata on the computer, and report back to them.
At a meeting early last week of senior Justice Department and FBI officials, a member of the department’s senior national-security staff asked for an update on the Weiner laptop, the people familiar with the matter said. At that point, officials realized that no one had acted to obtain a warrant, these people said.
Mr. McCabe then instructed the email investigators to talk to the Weiner investigators and see whether the laptop’s contents could be relevant to the Clinton email probe, these people said. After the investigators spoke, the agents agreed it was potentially relevant.
Mr. Comey was given an update, decided to go forward with the case and notified Congress on Friday, with explosive results. Senior Justice Department officials had warned the FBI that telling Congress would violate policies against overt actions that could affect an election, and some within the FBI have been unhappy at Mr. Comey’s repeated public statements on the probe, going back to his press conference on the subject in July.
The back-and-forth reflects how the bureau is probing several matters related, directly or indirectly, to Mrs. Clinton and her inner circle.
New details show that senior law-enforcement officials repeatedly voiced skepticism of the strength of the evidence in a bureau investigation of the Clinton Foundation, sought to condense what was at times a sprawling cross-country effort, and, according to some people familiar with the matter, told agents to limit their pursuit of the case. The probe of the foundation began more than a year ago to determine whether financial crimes or influence peddling occurred related to the charity.
Some investigators grew frustrated, viewing FBI leadership as uninterested in probing the charity, these people said. Others involved disagreed sharply, defending FBI bosses and saying Mr. McCabe in particular was caught between an increasingly acrimonious fight for control between the Justice Department and FBI agents pursuing the Clinton Foundation case.
It isn’t unusual for field agents to favor a more aggressive approach than supervisors and prosecutors think is merited. But the internal debates about the Clinton Foundation show the high stakes when such disagreements occur surrounding someone who is running for president.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received $467,500 in campaign funds in late 2015 from the political-action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime ally of the Clintons and, until he was elected governor in November 2013, a Clinton Foundation board member.
Mr. McAuliffe had supported Dr. McCabe in the hopes she and a handful of other Democrats might help win a majority in the state Senate. Dr. McCabe lost her race last November, and Democrats failed to win their majority.
A spokesman for the governor has said that “any insinuation that his support was tied to anything other than his desire to elect candidates who would help pass his agenda is ridiculous.”
Dr. McCabe told the Journal, “Once I decided to run, my husband had no formal role in my campaign other than to be” supportive.
In February of this year, Mr. McCabe ascended from the No. 3 position at the FBI to the deputy director post. When he assumed that role, officials say, he started overseeing the probe into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server for government work when she was secretary of state.
FBI officials have said Mr. McCabe had no role in the Clinton email probe until he became deputy director, and by then his wife’s campaign was over.
But other Clinton-related investigations were under way within the FBI, and they have been the subject of internal debate for months, according to people familiar with the matter.
Early this year, four FBI field offices—New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Little Rock, Ark.—were collecting information about the Clinton Foundation to see if there was evidence of financial crimes or influence-peddling, according to people familiar with the matter.
Los Angeles agents had picked up information about the Clinton Foundation from an unrelated public-corruption case and had issued some subpoenas for bank records related to the foundation, these people said.
The Washington field office was probing financial relationships involving Mr. McAuliffe before he became a Clinton Foundation board member, these people said. Mr. McAuliffe has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer has said the probe is focused on whether he failed to register as an agent of a foreign entity.
Clinton Foundation officials have long denied any wrongdoing, saying it is a well-run charity that has done immense good.
The FBI field office in New York had done the most work on the Clinton Foundation case and received help from the FBI field office in Little Rock, the people familiar with the matter said.
In February, FBI officials made a presentation to the Justice Department, according to these people. By all accounts, the meeting didn’t go well.
Some said that is because the FBI didn’t present compelling evidence to justify more aggressive pursuit of the Clinton Foundation, and that the career anticorruption prosecutors in the room simply believed it wasn’t a very strong case. Others said that from the start, the Justice Department officials were stern, icy and dismissive of the case.
“That was one of the weirdest meetings I’ve ever been to,” one participant told others afterward, according to people familiar with the matter.
Anticorruption prosecutors at the Justice Department told the FBI at the meeting they wouldn’t authorize more aggressive investigative techniques, such as subpoenas, formal witness interviews, or grand-jury activity. But the FBI officials believed they were well within their authority to pursue the leads and methods already under way, these people said.
About a week after Mr. Comey’s July announcement that he was recommending against any prosecution in the Clinton email case, the FBI sought to refocus the Clinton Foundation probe, with Mr. McCabe deciding the FBI’s New York office would take the lead, with assistance from Little Rock.
The Washington field office, FBI officials decided, would focus on a separate matter involving Mr. McAuliffe. Mr. McCabe had decided earlier in the spring that he would continue to recuse himself from that probe, given the governor’s contributions to his wife’s former political campaign.
Within the FBI, the decision was viewed with skepticism by some, who felt the probe would be stronger if the foundation and McAuliffe matters were combined. Others, particularly Justice Department anticorruption prosecutors, felt that both probes were weak, based largely on publicly available information, and had found little that would merit expanded investigative authority.
According to a person familiar with the probes, on Aug. 12, a senior Justice Department official called Mr. McCabe to voice his displeasure at finding that New York FBI agents were still openly pursuing the Clinton Foundation probe during the election season. Mr. McCabe said agents still had the authority to pursue the issue as long as they didn’t use overt methods requiring Justice Department approvals.
The Justice Department official was “very pissed off,” according to one person close to Mr. McCabe, and pressed him to explain why the FBI was still chasing a matter the department considered dormant. Others said the Justice Department was simply trying to make sure FBI agents were following longstanding policy not to make overt investigative moves that could be seen as trying to influence an election. Those rules discourage investigators from making any such moves before a primary or general election, and, at a minimum, checking with anticorruption prosecutors before doing so.
“Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” Mr. McCabe asked, according to people familiar with the conversation. After a pause, the official replied, “Of course not,” these people said.
For Mr. McCabe’s defenders, the exchange showed how he was stuck between an FBI office eager to pour more resources into a case and Justice Department prosecutors who didn’t think much of the case, one person said. Those people said that following the call, Mr. McCabe reiterated past instructions to FBI agents that they were to keep pursuing the work within the authority they had.
Others further down the FBI chain of command, however, said agents were given a much starker instruction on the case: “Stand down.” When agents questioned why they weren’t allowed to take more aggressive steps, they said they were told the order had come from the deputy director—Mr. McCabe.
Others familiar with the matter deny Mr. McCabe or any other senior FBI official gave such a stand-down instruction.
For agents who already felt uneasy about FBI leadership’s handling of the Clinton Foundation case, the moment only deepened their concerns, these people said. For those who felt the probe hadn’t yet found significant evidence of criminal conduct, the leadership’s approach was the right response.
In September, agents on the foundation case asked to see the emails contained on nongovernment laptops that had been searched as part of the Clinton email case, but that request was rejected by prosecutors at the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn. Those emails were given to the FBI based on grants of partial immunity and limited-use agreements, meaning agents could only use them for the purpose of investigating possible mishandling of classified information.
Some FBI agents were dissatisfied with that answer, and asked for permission to make a similar request to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. McCabe, these people said, told them no and added that they couldn’t “go prosecutor-shopping.”
Not long after that discussion, FBI agents informed the bureau’s leaders about the Weiner laptop, prompting Mr. Comey’s disclosure to Congress and setting off the furor that promises to consume the final days of a tumultuous campaign.
domingo, 30 de outubro de 2016
FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe / Clinton email inquiry: FBI gets search warrant as agency head accused of 'partisan' actions / Donald Trump just one point behind Hillary Clinton in latest national poll
Clinton email inquiry: FBI gets search warrant as agency head accused of 'partisan' actions
Senate minority leader says Comey may have broken the law
Comey charged with withholding information about Russian email hacks
Will Clinton lose the election because of the FBI email investigation?
Alan Yuhas and Molly Redden
Sunday 30 October 2016 22.59 GMT
The FBI has acquired a warrant to investigate emails found on the laptop of a former aide to Hillary Clinton as part of its investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee’s use of a private email server.
The move came as senior Senate Democrats made an extraordinary attack on the head of the FBI, James Comey, on Sunday over the new investigation, with Senate minority leader Harry Reid warning he may have broken the law.
In a scathing letter, Reid wrote: “Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another.
“My office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan action, you may have broken the law.”
The Hatch Act limits the political activity of federal employees, for instance barring them from seeking public office or using their authority “or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election”.
The former attorney general Eric Holder joined dozens of former federal prosecutors in signing a letter critical of Comey.
The letter obtained Sunday by the Associated Press said Comey broke from justice department policy when he alerted Congress to the new discovery of emails potentially related to the Clinton email investigation.
That policy is meant to prevent the appearance of prosecutors affecting the electoral process.
The former prosecutors said in the letter that Comey’s disclosure had “invited considerable, uninformed public speculation” about the significance of the emails.
In a brief letter to congressional leaders on Friday, 11 days before the election, Comey said he did not yet know whether the newly discovered emails were pertinent or significant. The Trump campaign, trailing in national polls, seized on the news, which the candidate himself said was indicative of a scandal “bigger than Watergate”.
On Sunday, Reid went on, without citing evidence, to accuse Comey of withholding information about the FBI’s investigation into hacks on Democratic organizations, allegedly by Russian security services, and possible links with various former advisers to Donald Trump. In August, Reid wrote to Comey to express concern over alleged links between Trump associates, Russian sources and the hacks.
“There is no danger to American interests from releasing it,” Reid said. “And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.
“By contrast, as soon as you came into possession of the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton, you rushed to publicize it in the most negative light possible.”
Four other senior Senate Democrats – Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Ben Cardin and Thomas Carper – have written to Comey since he announced the review, demanding a full briefing on the new emails by Monday.
The emails belong to Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide, and were found during an investigation into Abedin’s estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, over allegations that he sent sexual messages to an underage girl. On Sunday, anonymous officials told the Associated Press that FBI investigators had known for weeks that they might find pertinent emails on his device, but that Comey was not briefed until Thursday.
On Sunday the Wall Street Journal reported that there are about 650,000 emails to search, including possibly thousands sent to or from Clinton’s private server. In July, Comey announced that the FBI had found no intentional or criminal wrongdoing in Clinton’s use of a private server while secretary of state, although he called her practices “extremely careless”.
Comey’s letter was reportedly sent against the advice of top justice department officials, including attorney general Loretta Lynch, and he admitted in a leaked memo to FBI staff that it was a break from policy and precedent to announce a review.
FBI directors have historically shied from public attention. Even J Edgar Hoover, the controversial and ambitious first head of the agency, studiously protected his own reputation.
Comey served as deputy attorney general under George W Bush and was appointed to head the FBI by Barack Obama. He was a Republican for most of his career, though he told Congress in July that he is no longer registered with the party.
Earlier on Sunday, top officials in Clinton and Trump’s campaigns dueled over the new review. John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, and Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, assailed Comey for defying convention with so few details so close to election day. Both called on Comey to release more information about the content of the emails.
“This was an unprecedented action,” Podesta told CNN, echoing what has become the Clinton campaign’s official defense. “The justice department has had a longstanding tradition of not interfering with elections.”
Podesta called Comey’s letter “long on innuendo and short on facts”.“We’re calling on Mr Comey to come forward and explain what’s at issue here,” he said. “It may not even be about her server. It may not be about her at all.” He added that Comey had “said himself, in his letter to the hill, that these emails may not be significant”.
Trump, speaking on Friday, gleefully responds to new FBI probe into Clinton emails
Speaking in Las Vegas, Trump accused Clinton of bribing Lynch with the promise of reappointment and said she “set up an illegal server for the obvious purpose of shielding her criminal conduct from public disclosure and exposure”.
He also joked: “We never thought we were going to say thank you to Anthony Weiner.”
His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told CNN Comey had done the right thing by announcing the review.
“Had he sat on the information,” she said, “one could argue that he also would have been interfering with the election, by not disclosing to the public that yet again, for the second time this year, Hillary Clinton is under FBI investigation for something of her own doing.
“She is unfit to be president based on her constant flouting of the law.”
Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, echoed the businessman’s accusation of corruption in less explicit terms and mentioned Lynch’s controversial meeting with Bill Clinton at a Phoenix airport this summer, which Lynch herself said “cast a shadow” over the investigation.
The effect of the news on polling, in which according to realclearpolitics.com Clinton leads by four points nationally, was not yet clear.
Clinton broached the letter on Friday, calling Comey’s behavior “strange”, “unprecedented” and “deeply troubling”. “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information just days before an election,” she said.
Her running mate said on Sunday he expected Comey to reach the same conclusion – that Clinton’s actions were not criminal – in light of these new emails.
“This is a distraction,” Kaine told ABC. Like Reid, Kaine suggested that Comey had acted outside the bounds of his office, saying the letter was “in violation of normal justice department protocol, and it involves talking about an ongoing investigation, which also violated protocol.
“It’s just extremely puzzling why you would break these two protocols,” he said, “when you haven’t even seen the emails yourself.”
Reid ended his letter with a personal rebuke of the FBI director. “Please keep in mind that I have been a supporter of yours in the past,” he wrote, noting that he had fought to secure Comey’s confirmation through Republican filibusters, “because I believed you to be a principled public servant”.
“With the deepest regret, I now see that I was wrong.”
Donald Trump just one point behind Hillary Clinton in latest national poll
Scott Clement, Emily Gushkin
Republicans' growing unity behind their presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has helped pull him just 1 percentage point behind Hillary Clinton and has placed GOP leaders who resist him in a vulnerable position
A majority of all likely voters say they are unmoved by the FBI's announcement Friday that it may review additional emails from Clinton's time as secretary of state, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll.
Just more than 6 in 10 voters say the news will make no difference in their vote, while just more than 3 in 10 say it makes them less likely to support her; 2 percent say they are more likely to back her as a result.
The issue may do more to reinforce preferences of voters opposed to Clinton than swing undecided voters. Roughly two-thirds of those who say the issue makes them less likely to support Clinton are Republicans or Republican-leaning independents (68 percent), while 17 percent lean Democratic and 9 percent are independents who lean toward neither party.
When asked about House Speaker Paul D. Ryan's decision not to campaign for Trump in the final weeks before the election, two-thirds of Republican-leaning likely voters disapprove of the Wisconsin Republican's move (66 percent), including nearly half who disapprove “strongly” (48 percent). Barely 1 in 5 approve of Ryan's decision (21 percent).
The Post-ABC Tracking Poll continues to find a very tight race, with Clinton at 46 percent and Trump at 45 percent among likely voters in interviews from Tuesday through Friday. The two major-party nominees for president are followed by Libertarian Gary Johnson, at 4 percent, and the Green Party's Jill Stein, at 2 percent. The result is similar to a 47-to-45 Clinton-Trump margin in the previous wave released Saturday, though it is smaller than what was found in other surveys this week. When likely voters are asked to choose between Clinton and Trump alone, Clinton stands at 49 percent, and Trump is at 46 percent, a statistically insignificant margin.
Greater Republican unity has buoyed Trump's rising support, which has wavered throughout the year. Trump's 87 percent support among self-identified Republicans, ticking up from 83 percent last week, nearly matches Clinton's 88 percent support among Democrats. Independents also have moved sharply in Trump's direction, from favoring Clinton by eight points one week ago to backing Trump by 19 points.
Clinton maintains clear edge on qualifications, but not on empathy
Clinton is still widely seen as more qualified for the presidency, leading that measure by an 18-point margin, 54 to 36 percent. She has held a clear advantage over Trump in qualifications throughout the campaign.
But Trump receives more unified backing among those who see him as better qualified. Fully 99 percent of this group supports him, compared with Clinton's 84 percent support among those who see her as better qualified. Seven percent of this group supports Trump, while 4 percent are for Johnson and 2 percent are for Stein.
Clinton also lost a once-large advantage on empathy, a trait on which voters now split 46 percent for her and 43 percent for Trump when asked which candidate understands the problems of people like them. Clinton had led Trump by an eight-point margin on this measure in early September among likely voters and by a 20-point margin among all adults in August.
Clinton has a narrow eight-point edge over Trump on which candidate has stronger moral character, 46 to 38 percent. A sizable 13 percent said that neither candidate possesses this trait. A larger share of Trump supporters than Clinton supporters say that neither candidate has strong moral character (12 percent vs. 2 percent).
Republicans' reactions to Ryan
Ryan's decision not to campaign for Trump this fall has proved unpopular among his fellow partisans. This comes as Ryan's status as House speaker is in peril because of Republican infighting.
Rejection of Ryan's stance swells to 75 percent among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents who identify as “very conservative” compared with smaller majorities of “somewhat conservative” Republicans (63 percent) and those who are moderate or liberal (56 percent).
Ryan's stand against Trump is being handled differently by several other prominent Republicans. For one, Rep. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has said that even though he could not endorse Trump or his actions, he still plans to vote for the Republican nominee.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a popular Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, has spoken out against Trump, a move that was widely popular with independents and Democrats in the state, but Republicans were split on whether they approved of the decision.
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 25 to 28 among a random national sample of 1,781 adults, including landline and cellphone respondents. Overall results have a margin-of-sampling error of plus-or-minus-2.5 points; the error margin is plus-or-minus-three points among the sample of 1,160 likely voters. Sampling, data collection and tabulation are by Abt-SRBI of New York.
Copyright: Washington Post