by WorldTribune Staff, December 15, 2017
Then-FBI Director James Comey’s original draft statement on Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified material was revised to eliminate references to “criminality,” a senator with knowledge of the original statement said.
Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to the FBI on Dec. 14 that shows multiple edits to Comey’s statement. Johnson’s letter was obtained by Fox News.
Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, wrote to current FBI Director Christopher Wray that Comey’s original statement “could be read as a finding of criminality in Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified material.”
The original statement described the actions of Clinton and her colleagues as “grossly negligent.” Fox News confirmed that the statement was changed by Peter Strzok to read “extremely careless.”
Johnson said: “The edited statement deleted the reference to gross negligence – a legal threshold for mishandling classified material – and instead replaced it with an exculpatory sentence.”
Comey delivered his statement on the Clinton case in July 2016, recommending against criminal charges.
In an early draft of the statement, Comey said it was “reasonably likely” that “hostile actors” gained access to Clinton’s private email account. That was changed later to say the scenario was merely “possible.”
The final statement also removed a reference to the “sheer volume” of classified information discussed on email.
“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 said.
That includes, Johnson said, “repeated edits to reduce Secretary Clinton’s culpability in mishandling classified information.”
Johnson continued: “In summary, the edits to Director Comey’s public statement, made months prior to the conclusion of the FBI’s investigation of Secretary Clinton’s conduct, had a significant impact on the FBI’s public evaluation of the implications of her actions.”
Johnson also referenced newly revealed anti-Trump text messages exchanged between FBI officials who at one point worked on the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
“This effort, seen in light of the personal animus toward then-candidate Trump by senior FBI agents leading the Clinton investigation and their apparent desire to create an ‘insurance policy’ against Mr. Trump’s election, raise profound questions about the FBI’s role and possible interference in the 2016 presidential election and the role of the same agents in Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation by President Trump,” Johnson said.
Related: Stranger than fiction: Key FBI players discussed ‘insurance policy’ against Trump election, December 14, 2017
According to Johnson, Comey emailed a draft statement to top FBI officials clearing Clinton of criminal wrongdoing in May of 2016 – two months before the FBI completed two dozen interviews, including with Clinton herself.
“I’ve been trying to imagine what it would look like if I decided to do an FBI only press event to close out our work and hand the matter to the DOJ,” Comey wrote at the top of the draft. “To help shape out discussions of whether that, or something different, makes sense, I have spent some time crafting what I would say, which follows. In my imagination, I don’t see me taking any questions. Here is what it might look like.”
The Senate Homeland Security Committee is doing oversight of Mueller’s investigation into whether Comey violated the Hatch Act with his statement. The Hatch Act limits the political activities of federal employees.