by WorldTribune Staff, October 30, 2016 [Updated at 10 p.m. EST]
Until Sunday evening, the FBI was not yet able to review any of the new material in the re-opened Hillary Clinton email investigation because the investigative bureau had not received a search warrant from the Justice Department, government officials told Yahoo News Saturday. Sunday evening, the FBI received the warrant, officials said.
At the time Comey wrote a letter to Congress about the new developments, “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails,” one of the officials said, referring to recently discovered emails.
Meanwhile, investigators found some 650,000 emails on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, the Wall Street Journal reported. Metadata suggested that several thousand of the emails had been exchanged with the private server of Hillary Clinton.
The massive number of emails raises many questions including the possibility of cyber security vulnerabilities or even espionage, analysts said.
Weiner is the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin who previously worked for both the Clintons at at the same time both at the State Department and at the Clinton Foundation.
The FBI, as of Oct. 29, was in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails.
“We do not have a warrant,” a senior law enforcement official said. “Discussions are under way [between the FBI and the Justice Department] as to the best way to move forward.”
In a message Comey wrote to all FBI agents on Oct. 28 seeking to explain his decision to write the letter to Congress, he told agents that he had only been briefed on Oct. 27 about the matter and that the “recommendation” of investigators was “with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case.”
“Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them,” he told agents.
Justice Department officials were described by a government source as “apoplectic” over the letter. Senior officials “strongly discouraged” Comey from sending it, saying it would violate longstanding department policy against taking actions in the days before an election that might influence the outcome, a U.S official familiar with the matter told Yahoo News.
“He was acting independently of the guidance given to him,” said the U.S. official.
In his message to agents, Comey said he felt he had “an obligation” to inform Congress about the new material because he had previously testified that the bureau’s investigation into the Clinton email server was completed. He said it would be “misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.” He added, “Given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.”
The decision to send the letter “wasn’t easy,” said the senior law enforcement official. Comey and top FBI officials debated what course to take once they learned about the discovery on Weiner’s laptop – said to include thousands of Abedin’s emails. In the end, the official said, Comey feared that if he chose to move forward and seek access to the emails and didn’t immediately alert Congress, the FBI’s efforts would leak to the media and the director would be accused of concealing information.
“This was the least bad choice,” the senior official said.