The story you are about to read is true. No names were changed because few were innocent. There are some heros though. The main hero is an unnamed FBI Agent in the New York field office.
On September 26, 2016, the New York field office of the FBI executed a search warrant and obtained the i-Phone, i-Pad, and laptop computer from former Congressman Anthony Wiener. The FBI was investigating Wiener for child sex-related crimes.
The case agent assigned to the investigation was also certified as a Digital Extraction Technician and was conducting a search of the contents of the laptop for evidence in the Anthony Wiener investigation. Sometime during the evening of September 26 or morning of September 27 the agent noticed that there were over 300,000 e-mails on the laptop.
At one point during the processing the program appeared to be hung up. The agent clicked on the e-mail folder to try to determine what might be causing the system to stop. He immediately noticed a couple of e-mails between Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton. He also saw what appeared to be a message from a Blackberry device between Huma and Hillary.
The agent felt that he had stumbled on to something important and called another agent to come look at the e-mail addresses that were visible. The case agent immediately reported what he had observed to the Supervisory Special Agent.
Because the search warrant was related to Anthony Wiener, the Supervisory Special Agent and case agent both agreed that the case agent would not review the contents of the e-mails that were associated with Clinton or Huma. The case agent was able to determine the various e-mail domains and approximate count of mails. Initially the case agent reported 141,000 e-mails with addresses of @clinton.com/gov, @state.gov, @clintonemail.com, @AW.com, @clintonfoundation.org, @presidentclinton.com, and @hillaryclinton.com.
On September 28, the case agent and Supervisory Special Agent briefed the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the New York field office. The Assistant Special Agent in Charge directed the case agent to stay focused on the Anthony Wiener case and to stay completely out of the Clinton e-mail case until they could get direction from FBI Headquarters.
The Assistant Special Agent in Charge reported the information to the Acting Special Agent in Charge that same day. The Acting Special Agent in Charge also contacted Deputy U.S. Attorney Joon Kim who also advised caution because the warrant to search the laptop was for Anthony Wiener only.
Keep in mind that James Comey had closed the Clinton e-mail investigation the prior July. The events described thus far took place during a period of literally a matter of hours. At this point from the case agent up to the the Deputy US Attorney had been made aware of the discovery of at least 141,000 e-mails related to Hillary Clinton on Anthony Wiener’s laptop.
On September 28 at approximately 3:30 pm in between regular Secure Video Conference calls with the Washington office, the FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge advised William Sweeney, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office, of the discovery of the e-mails. When the Secure Video Conferencing call resumed, Sweeney notified the participants on the call of the discovery.
The Washington FBI Headquarters was unable to provide a roster of the individuals on that video call but normally there would have been 39 FBI executives on the call from FBI headquarters. James Comey was not on that call because he was testifying at the Capitol at that time.
One of the participants on the call was Paul Abbate, the Acting Director in Charge of the Washington FBI field office. He recalled Sweeney telling the participants that agents in the NY office had discovered “a large volume of e-mails that might be relevant to the Clinton e-mail matter.” He said that Sweeney emphasized the significance of what they discovered.
Abbate said that Sweeney’s report was like “dropping a bomb in the middle of the meeting” and “everybody realized the significance of this, like, potential trove of information.” Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said that he would call Sweeney later to discuss off-line.
Text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page indicate that Strzok had also been made aware of the thousands of e-mails. He indicated to Lisa Page that he wanted to go to New York the next day to “coordinate this.” As it turned out Strzok did not lead a team to New York but instead scheduled a conference call. Strzok later told the OIG that he did not recall how he learned of the e-mails on Anthony Wiener’s laptop.
FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe told the OIG that he did not recall being briefed on the video call. The OIG, then presented McCabe with McCabe’s own notes from that meeting which read: “NY – … Weiner – atty took data off cloud – 2007 emails.” McCabe said that he still could not recall but that the notes “would be a pretty good indication” that he was made aware.
Sweeney said that McCabe did not call him back so Sweeney called McCabe. By that point, September 28, the program processing the laptop showed that there were 347,000 e-mails on the laptop.
According to phone records, McCabe called James Comey that evening, but McCabe could not recall the content of their conversation. He also did not recall meeting in Comey’s office earlier in the day; however, McCabe said that he told Comey about the e-mails around the same time that he learned about them. Comey had no recollection of being told of the e-mails until late in October, nearly a full month later.
In addition to those on the video conference call on September 28, William Sweeney also contacted Executive Assistant Directors over the Criminal Branch, National Security, and Counterintelligence. There were a few more meetings over the next few days in Washington which involved Comey, McCabe, and others.
The OIG report had the phrase “could not recall” multiple times. There must have been a temporary amnesia virus in the air in DC between September 28 and October 4, 2016.
There was no record of any action by Washington on the case for nearly a month. Reasons given to the OIG included delays in processing the Wiener laptop, prioritization of the Russia investigation, lack of specific information, and questions about legal authority. The OIG found these reasons “unconvincing.”
The hero in this saga is the unamed case agent. As early as October 3, less than a week after the discovery of the e-mails, the case agent began to feel uneasy about the lack of response from Washington. His statement to the OIG is revealing:
“The crickets I was hearing was really making me uncomfortable because something was going to come crashing down…. And my understanding, which is uninformed because…I didn’t work the Hillary Clinton matter. My understanding at the time was I am telling you people I have private Hillary Clinton emails, number one, and BlackBerry messages, number two. I’m telling you that we have potentially 10 times the volume that Director Comey said we had on the record. Why isn’t anybody here?”
When he had not heard anything by October 19, he scheduled a meeting with two Assistant US Attorneys assigned to the Wiener investigation. One of the attorneys observed that the case agent “was getting, for lack of a better word, paranoid that, like, somebody was not acting appropriately, somebody was trying to bury this.”
The Assistant US Attorneys notified their superiors in the Department of Justice. Let me offer a bit of clarification. The FBI and the US Attorneys are two different groups with two different chains of command until you get to the very top level.
Imagine two different paths through the woods coming together at some point. The communication in the case was going up two different paths that finally converged at the high level in Washington.
On October 26, the Washington DC FBI agents, including Peter Strzok finally talked with the case agent in New York. The case agent said that they were asking him questions that he had already repeatedly answered in other calls reported up the chain of command. On October 27, the Washington FBI office finally secured a search warrant.
The OIG determined that the probable cause for the search warrant issued on October 27 was the same information the Washington office had on September 29. The OIG starkly concluded:
“We found that what changed between September 29 and October 27 that finally prompted the FBI to take action was not new information about what was on
the Weiner laptop but rather the inquiries from the SDNY prosecutors and then from the Department. The only thing of significance that had changed was the calendar and the fact that people outside of the FBI were inquiring about the status of the Weiner laptop.”
The simple truth is that it was the case agent in New York whose professionalism and conscience would not allow him to turn away from his responsibility as an FBI agent. He was true to his oath of office.
Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe, were desparately trying to run out the clock until the November 8, 2016 elections. They were convinced that Hillary would win and this would all just go away. That pesky case agent in New York fouled up their plans.
This story is still not over. The search warrant was only for e-mails specifically between Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin. Even the e-mails where Huma Abedin used a Clinton.com domain were not searched.
Huma was known to be considered a “conduit” for Hillary. She would sometimes receive e-mail messages that she forwarded to Anthony to print and then she would give them to Hillary.
This means that there are still thousands of unreviewed e-mails on the laptop. Even some in the Washington FBI office were shocked that those e-mails were not included in the search warrant.
I have a feeling that this is not over. This OIG report – and others to come – will likely lead to a reopening of this case.
Like the villan in the Scooby Doo cartoons, we may hear Hillary saying, “I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for that meddling New York office FBI agent.”
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