Judicial Watch: FBI Used Redacted Documents to Question Clinton Aides

Barbara Hollingsworth | September 30, 2016 | 5:34pm EDT
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FBI Director James Comey testifying before Congress. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) –  Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton revealed on Thursday that the FBI didn’t question aides to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about her use of a private email server to conduct government business until Judicial Watch was about to do so, and then used redacted documents the watchdog group had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Judicial Watch first uncovered the existence of Clinton’s private email server after receiving documents under FOIA during its investigation of the Benghazi scandal.

“It was our litigation that forced the FBI to do the half-baked investigation it did,” Fitton pointed out during a panel discussion on the Clinton email scandal.

 “As we find out more details about the FBI investigation, we found out that a lot of these investigations that the FBI was undertaking did not take place but for Judicial Watch’s pressure from the litigation. The witnesses weren’t questioned until it became clear Judicial Watch was either going to get discovery or was getting discovery and would be questioning some of these same witnesses,” Fitton said.

“It was so bad that we just learned in the latest FBI document dump that the FBI was using documents that were produced to Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act with redactions. So they couldn’t even get the full document. They were using those documents to question the witnesses.

“And of course there’s a lot of outrage about the FBI immunity agreements, the Department of Justice immunity agreements granted the Clinton aides at issue in this case,” he added.

Fitton noted that due to his group’s ongoing litigation, nearly 3,000 of Clinton’s 14,900 deleted emails will be made public before the November presidential election.

As a result of the latest revelations, Fitton predicted that there will be a “more significant criminal investigation” of Clinton’s email scandal under the next administration.

 “So no matter what happens on Election Day, this Clinton email scandal is going to continue. There’s going to be continued pressure for a criminal investigation of what we know went on no matter who is elected president.

“And so I wouldn’t necessarily count out a criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton even under a Clinton administration because I don’t think the attorney general that Mrs. Clinton would appoint would have much in the way of an argument to stop a special counsel from being appointed. … I think the public would demand it,“ Fitton said.

FBI Director James Comey appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday defending his decision not to recommend that Clinton be prosecuted for mishandling classified information because he claimed there was no evidence she intended to compromise national security.

“I know there’s lots of questions, lots of controversy. I’m very proud of the way this was done,” Comey told members of Congress, adding that he had no intention of reopening the case.

But some of the other panelists had harsh words to say about Comey, whom they accused of “taking a dive” and doing “institutional damage” to the FBI.

Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney now in private practice, bluntly said that “this investigation was a farce, and Comey knows it,” adding that “I do not believe at this point that Director Comey is fit to continue in office. I believe that a resolution of no confidence in him should be filed in the Senate….

“I believe that he has violated his oath as the director of the FBI because after looking at the entire record that he has made public – and it is not the entire record – it is very clear that from the moment he took control of this investigation, he decided that he was not going to recommend the prosecution of the first female nominee of a major party for president of the United States,” the former prosecutor stated.

The FBI director made a political decision. He did not make a law enforcement decision,” diGenova continued. 

“James Comey said that ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would bring the case that they had come up with based on the facts. That is utter nonsense.

“His news conference - and it wasn’t a news conference because he didn’t answer any questions, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt – where he explained most of the details of [Clinton’s] transgressions, and then concluded to the amazement of most of the FBI agents in that building and almost all of the former FBI agents in the United States that there was no crime because there was no intent, was absolutely ludicrous,” he said.

DiGenova described Comey’s follow-up memo to his staff defending his decision as an “embarrassment piled upon embarrassment”.

“It is evident to me that what Mr. Comey should have done at the beginning of this investigation was impanel a grand jury. He did not do that. When you want to investigate crimes involving classified national security information, you don’t do interviews. You issue subpoenas to witnesses, third parties for documents, you make people come into court and fight them in front of a federal judge…

“Director Comey didn’t do that… because he didn’t want to investigate. He wanted to conclude this investigation before the election. And the only thing he could do to conclude it was to find that Mrs. Clinton did not commit a crime,” diGenova stated.

“That conclusion, again by anyone who’s looked at this evidence who’s a reasonable prosecutor, is absolutely ludicrous. There were multiple crimes here committed by her, there were certainly crimes committed by lawyers involved in the case, by employees of the Clinton apparatus: the destruction of evidence, the manner in which witnesses were handled, one lawyer representing three or four witnesses  - the Justice Department never permits that, but Comey and the attorney general allowed it - deletion of emails after they were subpoenaed by Congress, destruction of evidence by lawyers, which Mr. Comey says he found no criminal intent in that…

“You’d have to be a loon not to question the integrity of his investigation. It’s so blatantly obvious,” diGenova continued. “This was like a cheap prize fight and he took a dive.”

DiGenova added that Comey’s decision not to recommend prosecution has done “incalculable and irreparable” damage to the FBI because it created “a double standard of justice…for people who have classified information clearances: The big shots get a pass and the little people go to prison. It is as simple as that.”

Former military counterintelligence officer Chris Farrell, who is currently director of investigations and research at Judicial Watch, agreed that there will be long-term impacts “beyond Mrs. Clinton’s reckless treatment of classified information and her absconding with federal records”.

“I think everybody needs to appreciate that Mrs. Clinton was the subject of a national security crime investigation. This wasn’t a security review. It wasn’t an argument over classification levels. This was a violation of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 793(f), mishandling national defense information.

“And contrary to what the American public has been told repeatedly, intent is not an element of the crime. There’s no requirement to prove any sort of intent at all. And so when Mr. Comey talks about intent, he wasn’t able to prove it, or there’s no sort of specification that showed an intent, it’s a red herring, it’s a false argument. It isn’t a requirement of the crime,” Farrell explained.

“So we know, from the inspector general of the intelligence community, that 22 top secret SCI – which is “Sensitive Compartment Information’, it’s a special category of intelligence information – messages or emails went across Mrs. Clinton’s unsecured server. It’s a fact. It’s a finding of the inspector general.

“That’s the root of the referral to the Department of Justice that caused them to begin this inquiry. The fact that that has occurred puts the United States at grave risk. That’s the definition of compromising top secret material. That is the issue that is really the focal point of what the FBI should have been looking at."

“And it’s a yes or no question,” Farrell pointed out. “It’s not what did you intend? It’s not how did you feel about it? It’s not what were you really trying to accomplish?’…

"Did this event occur? Yes or no? And if it did occur, who is responsible for it?... And if you walk it back to find the person who made it happen, that’s who’s prosecuted.

“This whole intent thing is nonsense. Mr. Comey is lying to the American public when he goes down that path,” Farrell said.

“The unintended consequence of all this… is that the FBI director, Mr. Comey, is personally compromised. He’s complicit in this scandal,” he continued. 

“And besides that very unfortunate, very sad circumstance, the larger thing is the institutional damage done to the FBI. …They’ve been shamed by this. It’s corrosive to the public’s trust, to the justice system, and to law enforcement generally.”

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