Top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin has told people she is unsure how her emails could have ended up on a device she viewed as her husband’s computer, the seizure of which has reignited the Clinton email investigation, according to a person familiar with the investigation and civil litigation over the matter.
The person, who would not discuss the case unless granted anonymity, said Abedin was not a regular user of the computer, and even when she agreed to turn over emails to the State Department for federal records purposes, her lawyers did not search it for materials, not believing any of her messages to be there.
That could be a significant oversight if Abedin’s work messages were indeed on the computer of her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, who is under investigation for allegedly exchanging lewd messages with a 15-year-old girl. So far, it is unclear what — if any — new, work-related messages were found by authorities. The person said the FBI had not contacted Abedin about its latest discovery, and she was unsure what the bureau had discovered.
According to federal law enforcement officials, investigators found thousands of messages on Weiner’s computer that they believe to be potentially relevant to the separate, Clinton email investigation. How they are relevant — or if they are significant in any respect — remains unknown.
– Clinton aide Huma Abedin has told people she doesn’t know how her emails wound up on her husband’s computer, Matt Zapotosky, Tom Hamburger and Karen Tumulty, Washington Post, Oct. 29 at 7:29 p.m.
On Friday afternoon Yahoo News reported that Abedin stated when she was interviewed by an FBI agent last April that she had used four different devices and accounts to email Clinton, and that one of the devices was the one now at issue. That report appears to be incorrect.
Here’s what the transcript says:
Q Okay. And what devices did you return for your attorneys to look through with respect to federal records you may have had in your possession to be returned to the State Department?
MS. WOLVERTON: Objection. Beyond the scope.
A My — if my memory serves me correctly, it was two laptops, a BlackBerry, and some files that I found in my apartment.
Apparently neither of those laptops was Weiner’s and therefore the device now at issue.
Also in the transcript of that FBI interview, Abedin told the FBI agent, in answer to a question about whether she deleted her emails from Clinton, that she never deletes emails from anyone, and that she presumed that all her emails dating back many years were still in existence.
Two news reports make it clear that as of late yesterday, the FBI did not yet have the prerequisite court order to read those emails, which appear on a computer taken under a search warrant in an unrelated case concerning an unrelated subject—thus the need for a separate search warrant authorizing access to and review of those emails.
One, on Yahoo News, by Michael Isikoff, titled “Exclusive: FBI still does not have warrant to review new Abedin emails linked to Clinton probe,” says:
As of Saturday night, the FBI was still in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and therefore was still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen.
“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.”
That Comey and other senior FBI officials were not aware of what was in the emails — and whether they contained any material the FBI had not already obtained — is important because Donald Trump’s campaign and Republicans in Congress have suggested that the FBI director would not have written his letter unless he had been made aware of significant new emails that might justify reopening the investigation into the Clinton server.
The other, by four New York Times reporters, titled “Justice Dept. Strongly Discouraged Comey on Move in Clinton Email Case,” reports:
Justice Department officials were particularly puzzled about why Mr. Comey had alerted Congress — and by extension, the public — before agents even began reading the newly discovered emails to determine whether they contained classified information or added new facts to the case.
Law enforcement officials have begun the process to get court authority to read the emails, officials said. How soon they will get that is unclear, but there is no chance that the review will be completed before Election Day, several law enforcement officials said. Many of the emails are most likely copies of messages that the F.B.I. has already read, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.
But Comey himself answered that when he admitted that his motives were political—he wanted the public to know, before election day and as soon before that as possible in states where voting already was underway, that Huma Abedin had provided her husband access to thousands of her email correspondence with Clinton by providing access to them on a computer that Weiner used. In other words, he wanted the public to know, before they voted, that Donald Trump’s allegation that Anthony Weiner had access to State Department-related emails turns out to be true.
Or, apparently more accurately, the FBI agents who told him they had found those emails on Weiner’s computer wanted the public to know this, badly enough to threaten to leak the information before the election if Comey himself did not make it public.
Comey, in other words, appears to have acceded to an extortionate threat to misuse information gained through the FBI’s prosecutorial powers by himself misusing information gained through the FBI’s prosecutorial powers. And this spade is actually being called the spade that it is.
So there are three steps that Huma Abedin should take, immediately. First, she should have her lawyers file an emergency court petition tomorrow requesting the immediate sealing and impoundment of Weiner’s laptop and of all other electronic devices taken through the search warrant concerning Weiner’s online sexual activities.
The petition also should request that she be allowed to have Weiner’s computer examined by an independent, non-government computer forensics experts, in the company of FBI computer forensics experts who are from an office far, far away from NYC and Washington, DC, and who have never worked at either of those offices.
And the petition should request disclosure to her of the identities of the FBI agents who, by Comey’s apparent acknowledgement, threatened him with leaks of what they claim are on Weiner’s computer.
Second, she or her lawyers should file a formal complaint with the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, requesting investigation into who was threatening Comey with leaks and damage to Comey’s reputation if Comey himself did not make public the existence of State Department-related emails on Weiner’s computer.
The complaint also should request inquiry into Comey’s decision to make public raw information gained by dint of the FBI’s police powers and the Justice Department’s prosecutorial powers, for what he himself has stated was for the purpose of affecting votes for national elective office.
Third, she should ask that her lawyers, immediately after those are filed, hold a press conference detailing what is in the emergency petition and the complaint to the Inspector General’s Office.
Also immensely important: that the fact that that information did end up on Weiner’s personal computer—one that given what he did use it for, was not one that he likely would have invited Abedin to use—has not an iota to do with the facts that Clinton used a private email account and a private server. Presumably, all sorts of other high-level government employees, some in sensitive positions, probably access their government email accounts from home and also probably do work from home.
And then, of course, there is this: the fact that the FBI has, since late Friday or early yesterday, pushed the claim that Abedin herself had provided that computer to the FBI last spring—after Comey said that Abedin had NOT produced it during the investigation of the email matter, and that that is why he felt compelled to “update” the public–er, the Congress–does speak quite loudly, doesn’t it?
In any event, I will say this: Trump may well prove right after all in his claim that this is bigger than Watergate.
Okay, well, as big, anyway.