Comey misled everybody about Clinton’s emails — again

The FBI doesn’t know what to do about it.

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

FBI director James Comey just can’t get it right when it comes to talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Though the presidential election was now six months ago, Comey is still misleading people about the emails, and the FBI can’t even figure out how to correct it all.

The latest revelation comes from a new report from ProPublica about something Comey said in his testimony last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He claimed that Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s top advisers, made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton’s emails — “some of which contain classified information” — to her husband, Anthony Weiner. According to Comey, she did this so that Weiner could print them out for Clinton to read on paper.

Apparently, that story wasn’t accurate. FBI officials privately confirmed to ProPublica that Comey’s account of Abedin’s actions just doesn’t hold water. In reality, Abedin only forwarded a few emails, not “hundreds and thousands” as Comey claimed. Also, none of the messages she sent were marked as classified at the time they were sent. The FBI suspects other emails appeared on Weiner’s computer as a result of Abedin’s Blackberry backups. It’s unclear if any of the 12 classified emails Comey said they found there had actually been among the handful she forwarded.

The FBI originally planned to send a letter to Congress this week correcting Comey’s version of events, but that plan is apparently still on hold. In the meantime, congressional Republicans have still been using Comey’s story to further litigate Clinton’s emails. During a hearing on Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper how he’d react if an employee had sent “hundreds or even thousands” of emails to their spouse, obviously referencing Comey’s testimony.

This is only the latest example of Comey exaggerating, misrepresenting, or otherwise distorting the details of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails.

When Comey first sent his October 28th letter to Congress claiming to have found new emails — a letter that many, including Clinton herself, believe upended the election — he said they “appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” At the time, the FBI still didn’t even have a warrant to read the emails, so Comey sent the infamous letter with no actual knowledge of what they contained.

During last week’s hearing, Comey also claimed that political considerations didn’t impact his decision to send the letter to Congress. On this point, he insisted, “I sent the letter to Congress, by the way. People forget this; I didn’t make a public announcement. I sent a private letter to the chairs and the rankings of the oversight committees.” He also claimed that it makes him “mildly nauseous” to think the decision “had some impact on the election,” though he’d still have done it the same.

But in a direct contradiction, he explained in an email to his FBI colleagues about that decision, “I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.” And of course, it’d be absurd to think a widely distributed letter like that wouldn’t be made public, especially given the way it could be wielded as a political weapon.

At every step along the way, Comey’s decisions seemed to provide political ammunition for congressional Republicans at the expense of the truth. And though the election was six months ago and Clinton’s emails have little newsworthy relevance, Comey continues to serve as director of the FBI.

UPDATE: Tuesday afternoon, the FBI did follow through on its plan to send a letter to Congress “to supplement” Comey’s testimony.

The letter confirms ProPublica’s reporting that most of the emails were not forwarded, as Comey claimed, but were “the result of a backup of personal electronic devices.” It also specifies that of the 12 emails containing classified emails found on Weiner’s computer, only two were manually forwarded.

Separate from the issue of Clinton’s emails, the letter also offered some clarification about just how many investigations the FBI has underway related to suspected homegrown violent extremists and connections to ISIS, noting that the cases Comey referenced were a “subset” of the FBI’s total number of cases, which is classified.

UPDATE: President Trump has fired Comey. Please see our new story.