During Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FBI oversight, FBI Director James B. Comey refused to publicly address significant questions about the reported existence of a document written by a Democratic operative that allegedly indicated Attorney General Loretta Lynch would have protected Hillary Clinton in the email probe.
According to a report last month in the New York Times, the FBI had information that the alleged Lynch document had been hacked by Russian intelligence, leading Comey to fear that Moscow could leak the document to call into question the independence of the U.S. government’s Clinton email probe.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) questioned Comey about the purported document.
Grassley inquired: “Okay, moving on to another subject, the New York Times recently reported that the FBI had found a troubling email among the ones the Russians hacked from Democrat operatives. The email reportedly provided assurances that Attorney General Lynch would protect Secretary Clinton by making sure the FBI investigation ‘didn’t go too far.’
“How, and when, did you first learn of this document? Also, who sent it and who received it?”
Comey replied, “That’s not a question I can answer in this forum, Mr. Chairman, because it would call for a classified response. I have briefed leadership of the intelligence committees on that particular issue, but I can’t talk about it here.”
Grassley continued with his line of inquiry, even asking the FBI to provide him with the alleged document. Comey repeatedly explained that he could not address the subject in an unclassified setting.
Here is the relevant portion of the transcript:
GRASSLEY: What steps did the FBI take to determine whether Attorney General Lynch had actually given assurances that the political fix was in no matter what? Did the FBI interview the person who wrote the email? If not, why not?
COMEY: I have to give you the same answer. I can’t talk about that in an unclassified setting.
GRASSLEY: Okay, then you can expect me to follow up on that. I asked the FBI to provide this email to the committee before today’s hearing. Why haven’t you done so and will you provide it by the end of this week?
COMEY: Again, to react to that, I have to give a classified answer and I can’t give it sitting here.
GRASSLEY: So that means you can give me the email?
COMEY: I’m not confirming there was an email, sir. I can’t — the subject is classified and in an appropriate forum I’d be happy to brief you on it. But I can’t do it in an open hearing.
Last month, the New York Times reported on the alleged document. The newspaper described “a document written by a Democratic operative that seemed — at least in the eyes of Mr. Comey and his aides — to raise questions about [Lynch’s] independence.”
The newspaper further described the reported document:
During Russia’s hacking campaign against the United States, intelligence agencies could peer, at times, into Russian networks and see what had been taken. Early last year, F.B.I. agents received a batch of hacked documents, and one caught their attention.
The document, which has been described as both a memo and an email, was written by a Democratic operative who expressed confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far, according to several former officials familiar with the document.
Read one way, it was standard Washington political chatter. Read another way, it suggested that a political operative might have insight into Ms. Lynch’s thinking.
The Times reported that concern about Russia releasing the allegedly hacked document changed the calculus of Comey’s thinking and led him to take the public lead instead of Lynch’s Justice Department in how to handle the Clinton email probe.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
With additional research by Joshua Klein.