Former Top FBI Official: DOJ Didn’t Want To Grant Access To Clinton Attorney Laptops
There’s been so much written about the testimony of former FBI and DOJ officials to Congress and each little bit formulates a more cohesive picture of what was occurring during the probe into Hillary Clinton and that of President Trump’s campaign.
Within the thousands of pages of testimony released over the past month, the public learns more about how the bureau handled the probe into Clinton’s use of a private server to send classified government emails and the investigation into the alleged – now debunked – Trump Russia investigation.
The information raises significant questions of malfeasance, obstruction and bias in the investigations.
The testimony of James Rybicki, who served as chief of staff to former FBI Director James Comey, is one of them.
He left the FBI in January, 2018 to work in the private sector and was often cited in DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report into the bureau’s investigation of Clinton.
DOJ Tried To Block Access To Clinton Attorney Laptops
Rybicki’s testimony before the joint committee with the House Judiciary and House Government and Oversight last year reveals the intricate role of the DOJ in attempting to limit the FBI’s ability to gain access to laptops belonging to two Clinton confidants Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.
Concern over the laptops and the FBI’s immunity agreement with Clinton’s lawyers to gain limited access to them was first reported by Fox New’s Catherine Herridge in 2016. Herridge revealed that Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson were granted immunity by the Justice Department in June, 2016, approximately one month before the FBI closed its criminal investigation into Clinton in exchange for access to the laptops that contained classified information.
Rybicki’s testimony, however, makes clear that the DOJ didn’t want to give the FBI access to the laptops. It’s also revealing in its nature, suggesting the the FBI agents – which believed the laptops contained classified information – chose to act differently than in has in other similar cases. They did not use their prerogative to obtain a Grand Jury subpoena for the equipment or issue a warrant to gain possession of them. Instead, the FBI negotiated and relied heavily on those they were investigating, Clinton and her lawyers, to set the terms of the deal, as previously reported.
As for the laptops, it is uncertain what happened them. According to then-Chairman of the House Judiciary Rep. Bob Goodlatte the FBI had a side agreements to destroy the laptops after conducting the limited search. On the other hand, other reports suggest that the FBI did not destroy the laptops but instead, are still in possession of them.
FBI spokeswoman Carol Cratty referred SaraACarter.com to Inspector General Horowitz report, which did not disclose what happened to the laptops after the FBI investigated. Cratty did not say what happened to the laptops.
Tom Fitton, president of the nonprofit government watchdog group Judicial Watch, said mounting evidence suggests the DOJ and FBI were granting favoritism to Clinton during the ‘Mid-Year’ investigation. His organization is continuing to fight to obtain access to those emails, even those she claimed to have destroyed.
“We never received a full accounting of what happened to the laptop evidence,” Fitton told SaraACarter.com. “As best we can tell it’s a mystery.”
In November, 2016 Real Clear Politics, reporting on recent information uncovered by Fox New’s Bret Baier, stated that the “laptops of Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson” had still not been destroyed.
Rybicki, whose testimony reviewed by SaraACarter.com but has not yet been made public, told lawmakers that the DOJ did not want the FBI to have access to six laptops in Clinton’s lawyer’s possession. And once the laptops were in the possession of the FBI the access was extremely limited. Rybicki also recounts a meeting with then Attorney General Loretta Lynch, suggesting she, along with former FBI Director James Comey and others, discussed whether or not to pursue charges against Clinton.
“Were there disagreements during the — that you’re aware of during the weekly updates, the monthly updates with the Director and disagreements internal to the FBI or with the Justice Department over what investigative techniques to use,” asked the investigator during a joint committee hearing with the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Rybicki says “yes.”
“One instance that I’m recalling is whether to seek access to the two laptops belonging to the attorneys,” he said.
It was a “disagreement between the investigative team and what I will call the prosecution team,” Rybicki added.
The investigator asks “over whether to seek access to the laptops at all, or how to seek access to the laptops?”
“Whether to seek access at all…I don’t know the specific individual, but what I will call the investigative team, so the FBI side was advocating to get access to the laptops, and the Department of Justice — and again, I don’t know the level — did not want access to those laptops, or did not want to authorize access to those laptops.” Rybicki stated.
Rybicki And Strzok Testimony
IG Horowitz’s investigation did reveal the concern among FBI agents investigating the case and the limited access they had of the laptops.
“(FBI) Agents 1 and 2 told us that there were six laptops that Clinton’s attorneys had provided the FBI early in the investigation with consent to store, but not search, and that they would have liked to search these laptops.”
FBI “Agent 2 stated that he believed that these laptops may have been used to review Clinton’s emails before Clinton’s attorneys produced her work-related emails to the State Department. Agent 1 told us that he believed these laptops were used by Clinton’sWilliams and Connolly attorneys to do the “QC of the 30,000 emails after they were culled by Mills and Samuelson,” the Horowitz report stated.
Rybicki’s testimony also coincides with that provided by former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok. Strzok stated which revealed that the DOJ also intervened on behalf of Clinton when it refused to grant the FBI access to Clinton Foundation emails.
Fitton said Rybicki and Strzok’s testimony show a pattern of behavior by the DOJ to interfere on behalf of Clinton. Judicial Watch has been in and out of the courts for years attempting to gain access to the thousands of Clinton emails.
“The court is interested and granted us discovery to see if more emails can be recovered,” said Fitton. “The FBI sought to recover the emails that Clinton deleted but of those 33,000 only 5,000 have been recovered. Typically, if the bureau believes that evidence has been destroyed they take a very aggressive approach, they raid your office or home- like they did in the (Paul) Manafort raid. That’s was the excuse they used.”
Fitton said the “DOJ should never have limited the FBI’s ability to gather evidence. And now we know something was up because we have a top FBI official complaining about it. Comey was bad enough but it was pretty clear he saw the writing on the wall with the DOJ.”
Who Made The Call To Block Access
Rybicki then tells the investigators that he can’t recall who in the DOJ upper-esccholones made the decision.
The investigator then asks, “What do you mean by authorize? You said they didn’t want to authorize?”
“(They) didn’t want to authorize access to any of it,” Rybicki answered.
“Authorize to whom,” questioned the investigator.
“The FBI,” Rybicki stated.
Rybicki also recounts a meeting in July, 2016 with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch. He said it was during that meeting that they discussed whether or not to pursue charges on Clinton. Several days earlier on July 2, the FBI interviewed Clinton for the first time. It was several months after former FBI Director Comey had already drafted an exoneration report on her. On July 5, Comey made his controversial announcement that ‘no reasonable prosecutor’ would pursue charges against Clinton.
The FBI and DOJ reached an agreement on June 10, 2016 to obtain six the laptops but it came with extraordinary conditions. Both lawyers were given immunity. Mills, who was a witness and State Department confidant of Clinton, was allowed to sit in as an attorney for Clinton’s FBI interview. The FBI did not record the interview with Clinton and the FBI agreed to destroy the laptops after the limited search, according to then Judiciary Chairman Goodlatte.
Q & A testimony
“You said you briefed the Attorney General at the end, at the end of what,” asked the investigator.
“So at the, I forgot the exact date, I believe it was July 6th when the Attorney General convened a meeting to decide whether to pursue charges they briefed the Attorney General,” Rybicki answered.
Rybicki recalls discussions at meetings with Comey as whether or not to pursue a Grand Jury subpoena or warrants for the laptops.
“In the discussions with the Director (Comey) that were happening monthly and then weekly, was there ever a discussion of using Grand Jury subpoenas to obtain information,” the congressional investigator asks.
Rybicki responds, “I can’t recall specifics. I know there were discussions about whether – I’m thinking of one instance- whether to seek legal process from two specific items, I’m recalling that so.”
“Was it for laptops?” asks the investigator.
“It was for laptops,” responds Rybicki.
“Whose laptops?” for two attorney’s related to the case.
“For two attorney’s related to the case,” Rybicki answered.
The investigator then asks if the “FBI issued any Grand Jury subpoenas in this case.” Rybicki’s attorney objected to the question saying it violated the “Rules under the Criminal Procedure.”
Rybicki says “I am not sure” if the FBI sought search warrants for the laptops.
The investigator follows up asking if the bureau conducted any electronic or physical surveillance and again Rybicki does not recall. He did say, however, that the FBI conducted “forensic examinations of various, sort of, electronic devices.”