Former FBI Director James Comey’s July 2016 statement recommending against charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was reportedly watered down during drafting — raising further questions about the impartiality of the FBI.
Both the Associated Press and Fox News obtained edits to the May 2016 draft, which the AP reported “appear to soften the gravity of the bureau’s findings.” One instance was the toning down of the description of Clinton’s handling of sensitive information from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless.”
This partly confirms a CNN report that claimed that Peter Strzok — the FBI investigator demoted after it was discovered he exchanged anti-Trump text messages with fellow FBI official Lisa Page — was behind the substantive change.
The AP reports that Comey’s July statement, made in the midst of a bruising presidential campaign in which Clinton was one of the pugilists, edited out language that stated that the “sheer volume” of classified information justified a conclusion of gross negligence.
Comey statement was initially penned to say that it was “reasonably likely” that hostile actors accessed Clinton’s email server — a common fear about Clinton’s use of a homebrew server to conduct business as secretary of state. Instead, the text was watered down to mention that such access was only “possible.”
Reacting to the edits, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray, noting that the edits “appear to change the tone and substance” of the statement, and asking which officials were responsible for the changes.
“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, according to Fox News.
Strzok’s high-profile involvement in the Clinton probe, in which he is reported to have interviewed top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, has opened the FBI to charges of bias and a lack of impartiality in both the Clinton probe under Comey and the Russia probe under FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said the Strzok messages confirm “what we all suspected” about the investigation.
“High ranking FBI officials involved in the Clinton investigation were personally invested in the outcome of the election and clearly let their strong political opinions cloud their professional judgment and this was only an initial disclosure containing heavy redactions,” he said.
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.