FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and other top FBI officials were aware for at least a month of new Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop before alerting Congress and reopening its investigation, according to a report.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that McCabe learned about the thousands of emails by September 28, 2016, but it was not until October 28, 2016, that then-FBI Director James Comey informed Congress about them, 11 days before the election.
The lag time is one focus of the Justice Department inspector general’s investigation into whether political bias at the FBI affected the Clinton email investigation or the Trump Russia investigation, according to the report.
McCabe stepped down as FBI deputy director on Monday, reportedly after FBI Director Christopher Wray got an update on the inspector general’s investigation and considered moving McCabe to another job, which would be an effective demotion. Since McCabe was planning to retire in mid-March — the earliest he could do so and receive full retirement benefits – he decided to go on terminal leave instead.
Wray said in a note to FBI employees announcing McCabe’s resignation that he would not comment on the inspector general investigation, according to the report.
The lag time was revealed in text messages reviewed by the WSJ sent from senior FBI official Peter Strzok, who led the investigation into Clinton’s email server, to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
“Got called up to Andy’s earlier,” Strzok wrote in a September 28, 2016, text to Page. “Hundreds of thousands of emails turned over by Weiner’s atty to sdny, includes a ton of material from spouse. Sending team up tomorrow to review … this will never end ….”
“SDNY” refers to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which was investigating Weiner, Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband.
McCabe had already been under scrutiny by the president and Republican lawmakers for his role in the Clinton investigation.
His wife Jill McCabe had unsuccessfully run for a Virginia state Senate seat in 2015, and had received more than $500,000 in donations from close Clinton-ally Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. McCabe was later promoted to become the FBI’s No. 2 and oversaw the Clinton email investigation, but did not recuse himself from the case until a week before the election.
McCabe defenders tell the WSJ that it was “natural” for him to deliberate carefully on what to do with the emails, but critics suspect he was trying to avoid looking into them until after the election.
After Comey told Congress about the emails, the FBI then “scrambled” to get access to Weiner’s laptop to search through the Clinton emails before the election. Strzok and a team of agents then spent the weekend before the election reviewing 3,000 emails before determining there were no new classified emails found.
Democrats and Clinton partially blame Comey’s announcement for her loss.
“The three of us are going through the 3k (1000 each) to narrow down so the team can come back tomorrow early. and de-dupe,” Strzok wrote Page on Sunday, Nov. 6, referring to culling duplicate emails the FBI had already reviewed.
Of 30,000 work-related emails turned over by Clinton’s lawyers to the State Department, about 110 had varying levels of classified information, Comey found. He called it “extremely careless,” but said there was no “criminal intent” and did not recommend prosecution.
Strzok also reportedly watered down the language in the statement from “grossly negligent,” which could have held criminal implications for Clinton.