by WorldTribune Staff, February 6, 2019
The FBI official who was overseeing the agency’s Clinton email and Trump campaign investigations told Congress that he was often excluded from key meetings and decisions in the investigations.
During closed-door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in June 2018, Bill Priestap, former head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, said FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI analyst Jonathan Moffa were the individuals who were mostly “driving the train” for the Clinton and Trump probes.
A transcript of the June 5, 2018 testimony was viewed by The Epoch Times.
Upon inheriting the position as assistant director of the counterintelligence division in January 2016, Priestap described an investigative team in the Clinton and Trump probes that had been previously handpicked by an unknown high-ranking official at the FBI.
In the Trump campaign probe, which the FBI team dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane,” Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz obtained text messages sent between Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page which suggest then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was a preferred line of direct communication for Strzok. The texts also indicate that both Strzok and Page frequently met directly with McCabe.
In his June 5 testimony, Priestap admitted he did not know the frequency of such meetings.
Asked about the frequency of Strzok and Page meeting with McCabe without Priestap being present, Preisetap responded:
“No. I have no idea of the frequency in which that might have occurred. But while responsible for this case, I couldn’t drop the thousands of others cases and matters, issues I was responsible for. And so I had numerous regular meetings outside of the office with other U.S. Government entities, what have you.
“And as a result, in this particular case, Pete would often be a point person if I was, for example, half the day at the Central Intelligence Agency, and things came up, they could go direct – ‘they’ meaning my 7th floor, EAD, deputy director, would know they could go straight, of course, with Pete.
“So I would think – I have no idea of the exact numbers, but these meetings absolutely would have occurred without me.”
Related: Who is John Huber? 7th floor at FBI called center of power in nation’s capital, August 24, 2018
Priestap also said he did not know of the meeting between the anti-Trump agents Strzok and Page and the deputy director that was described in the now-infamous “insurance policy” text message.
In a text on Aug. 15, 2016, following a meeting with Page and McCabe in the deputy director’s office, Strzok wrote: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office – that there’s no way he (Trump) gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
When the Judiciary Committee asked him about the text, Priestap said he knew nothing of the insurance policy – or the discussion – until he saw public reporting on the texts.
“I know of the text, I mean, I saw in the media, the text that you’re referring to, but I’m at a loss for what they were referring to. I was not aware of the Counterintelligence Division or the FBI having this insurance policy thing.”
While testifying that he did receive readouts of meetings, Priestap said he received no readouts pertaining to the Aug. 15, 2016 meeting, noting that he would have remembered seeing one if it had existed.
“Somebody talking about an insurance policy, I would have asked, ‘What the heck do you mean by that?’ ” Priestap said.
Priestap also testified that he did not know of DOJ official Bruce Ohr’s role in acting as a conduit between anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele and the FBI. The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s unverified dossier in obtaining a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
Asked if he was familiar with Ohr, Priestap told lawmakers, “I think I’ve seen Bruce Ohr, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a meeting with Bruce Ohr.” Priestap also said he never worked with Ohr on a counterintelligence investigation.
The FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server was opened on July 10, 2015 by Randall Coleman, Priestap’s predecessor. At the time, McCabe was the assistant director in charge at the Washington Field Office and Strzok was an assistant special agent in charge at the Washington Field Office.
On July 30, 2015, McCabe was promoted to the No. 3 position within the FBI as associate deputy director and was transferred to FBI headquarters. Strzok would soon be transferred to headquarters as well.
Approximately two months after the opening of the Clinton investigation, FBI leadership asked for the transfer of hand-selected agents from the Washington Field Office. Strzok was one of those chosen, and he was moved to FBI headquarters probably in September or October 2015, the Epoch Times’ report said.
According to Priestap, Coleman had “set up a reporting mechanism that leaders of that team would report directly to him, not through the customary other chain of command” in the Clinton email investigation. Priestap, who said he didn’t know why Coleman had “set it up,” kept the chain of command in place when he assumed Coleman’s position in January 2016.
“I inherited the investigation and I inherited the investigative team,” Priestap testified.
The decision to prosecute the Clinton case as a counterintelligence matter, instead of a criminal investigation, also occurred before his tenure, Priestap said.
Priestap repeatedly stated that he “wasn’t there for those decisions.”
James Comey was the only senior FBI leadership official known to have remained a constant during the entirety of the Clinton email investigation.
About two months after opening the Clinton investigation, FBI headquarters reached out to the Washington Field Office, saying they needed greater staffing and resources “based on what they were looking at, based on some of the investigative steps that were under consideration.” Strzok was one of the agents selected.
Priestap said that Strzok and Moffa were the chief leaders of the Clinton investigation, dubbed the “Mid-Year Exam.”
According to the Epoch Times report, Strzok was promoted to deputy assistant director, a position that came under Priestap’s normal line authority, sometime around September or October 2016. By that time, the Clinton email investigation was formally closed, and Strzok had already opened the counterintelligence probe into then-candidate Trump on July 31, 2016.
During Priestap’s June 5, 2018 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the possibility of access by a foreign adversary to Clinton’s unsecure server was discussed.
“The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an ‘anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,’ ” Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, said.
“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia,” Gohmert added.
The Clinton email server investigation originated from an assessment contained within a June 29, 2015, memo from the inspectors general of the Intelligence Community and the State Department, which detailed the existence of “hundreds of potentially classified emails.”
On July 6, 2015, the IGs for the Intelligence Community made a referral to the FBI, pursuant to the Intelligence Authorization Act. The FBI then formally opened an investigation on July 10, 2015.
In either late 2015 or early 2016, the IC inspector general, Chuck McCullough, sent Frank Rucker and Janette McMillan to meet with the FBI in order to detail the anomaly that had been uncovered. That meeting was attended by four individuals, including Strzok, then-Executive Assistant Director John Giacalone, and then-Section Chief Dean Chappell. The identity of the fourth individual remains unknown, though Moffa, who also met with the IG at various times, is a possible candidate. Charles Kable, who also met with the ICIG at several points, is another possible candidate.
Priestap testified that he had not been briefed on the Clinton server anomaly by Strzok, noting “this would have been a big deal.”
“I am not aware of any evidence that demonstrated that. I’m also not aware of any evidence that my team or anybody reporting to me on this had advised me that there were anomalies that couldn’t be accounted for. I don’t recall that,” Priestap said.
Priestap’s admission that this was all new information to him, prompted an observation from Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican, that Strzok appeared to be exercising significant investigative control.
Meadows: “It sounds like Peter Strzok was kind of driving the train here. Would you agree with that?”
Priestap: “Peter and Jon (Moffa), yeah.”
As Meadows noted during testimony, this matter still had to be officially “closed out” by the FBI before the official closing of the Clinton investigation. Strzok personally called the IC inspector general within minutes of Comey’s July 5, 2016, press conference on the Clinton investigation, telling him that the FBI would be sending a “referral to close it out.”
Meadows seemed genuinely surprised that Strzok had apparently kept this information successfully hidden from Priestap, noting, “I’m a Member from North Carolina, and you’re saying that I have better intel than you do?”