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Thursday, December 14, 2017
Comey edits revealed: Remarks on Clinton probe were watered down, documents show
Newly released documents
obtained by Fox News reveal that then-FBI Director James Comey’s draft
statement on the Hillary Clinton email probe was edited numerous times before
his public announcement, in ways that seemed to water down the bureau’s
Sen. Ron Johnson,
R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to
the FBI on Thursday that shows the multiple edits to Comey’s highly scrutinized
n an early draft, Comey
said it was “reasonably likely” that “hostile actors” gained access to
then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email account. That was
changed later to say the scenario was merely “possible.”
Another edit showed
language was changed to describe the actions of Clinton and her colleagues as
“extremely careless” as opposed to “grossly negligent.” This is a key legal
Johnson, writing about
his concerns in a letter Thursday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, said the
original “could be read as a finding of criminality in Secretary Clinton’s
handling of classified material.”
The final statement also
removed a reference to the “sheer volume” of classified information discussed
“While the precise dates
of the edits and identities of the editors are not apparent from the documents,
the edits appear to change the tone and substance of Director Comey’s statement
in at least three respects,” Johnson wrote Thursday.
That includes, Johnson
said, “repeated edits to reduce Secretary Clinton’s culpability in mishandling
Johnson continued, “In
summary, the edits to Director Comey’s public statement, made months prior to
the conclusion of the FBI’s investigation of Secretary Clinton’s conduct, had a
significant impact on the FBI’s public evaluation of the implications of her
Johnson referenced newly
revealed anti-Trump text messages exchanged between FBI officials who at one
point worked on the Robert Mueller Russia probe.
Fox News has confirmed
that one of those officials, Peter Strzok, a former deputy to the assistant
director for counterintelligence at the FBI, was the person who changed the
language from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”
“This effort, seen in
light of the personal animus toward then-candidate Trump by senior FBI agents
leading the Clinton investigation and their apparent desire to create an
‘insurance policy’ against Mr. Trump’s election, raise profound questions about
the FBI’s role and possible interference in the 2016 presidential election and
the role of the same agents in Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation by
President Trump,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson,
Comey emailed a draft statement to top FBI officials clearing Clinton of
criminal wrongdoing in May of 2016 -- two months before the FBI completed two
dozen interviews, including with Clinton herself.
“I’ve been trying to
imagine what it would look like if I decided to do an FBI only press event to
close out our work and hand the matter to the DOJ,” Comey wrote at the top of
the draft. “To help shape out discussions of whether that, or something
different, makes sense, I have spent some time crafting what I would say, which
follows. In my imagination, I don’t see me taking any questions. Here is what
it might look like.”
Comey delivered his
statement on the Clinton case in July 2016, calling her actions “extremely
careless” while recommending against criminal charges.
The Senate Homeland
Security Committee is doing oversight of the Justice Department's Office of
Special Counsel's investigation into whether Comey violated the Hatch Act with
his statement. The Hatch Act limits the political activities of federal
Fox News’ Alex Pappas
contributed to this report.
Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News
Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.