Former FBI Director James Comey drafted his statement exonerating Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server months before several key interviews, including with Clinton herself, FBI documents released Monday suggest.
The draft of the July 5, 2016, statement, first reported by Newsweek, was released into the FBI’s “vault” reading room Monday. The release was called “Drafts of Director Comeys [sic] July 5, 2016 Statement Regarding Email Server Investigation Part 01 of 01,” but almost all of it is redacted.
The FBI record shows an email titled “Midyear Exam — UNCLASSIFIED” sent from Comey on May 2, 2016, to a group including Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, general counsel James Baker and chief of staff James Rybicki.
The document also shows a May 16 response from Rybicki requests comments “so we may roll into a master doc for discussion with the Director at a future date.”
The release would appear to confirm the contents of a letter sent by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to FBI Director Christopher Wray in August in which he wrote that “it appears that in April or early May of 2016, Mr. Corney had already decided he would issue a statement exonerating Secretary Clinton.”
According to Newsweek, in the months between May and the July statement, Comey interviewed Clinton as well as several other key figures.
In that nationally televised July statement, Comey blasted Clinton at length for being “extremely careless” with classified information when she served as secretary of state. However, crucially for Clinton and her presidential campaign, he did not recommend charges to the Justice Department — effectively killing off the chances of Clinton being prosecuted by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s Justice Department.
The early drafting of the statement raised eyebrows among FBI analysts, suggesting such a move was highly unusual.
“To me, this is so far out of bounds it’s not even in the stadium,” Chris Swecker, who retired from the FBI in 2006 told Newsweek. “That is just not how things operate…. It’s built in our DNA not to prejudge investigations, particularly from the top.”
Comey’s statement kept Clinton’s campaign alive, at least until October when Comey announced the reopening of the investigation after the discovery of related emails on a laptop belonging to disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner — the husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Clinton has repeatedly blamed that announcement for sinking her campaign and losing her the White House.
Trump, in turn, pointed to the initial revelations in August that Comey had drafted the July statement in May as proof of a “rigged system.”
Wow, looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over…and so much more. A rigged system!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2017
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY