Was Comey effectively extorted by NYC-based FBI agents? And did those agents illegally look at some of those emails without the prerequisite court order?
Most Democrats were outraged. “Mr. Comey said he was duty bound to inform Congress,” Bob Kerrey, the former senator and governor, told me. “Quite the opposite is the case. He was duty bound to make an announcement after he completes his examination of the emails.“
Indeed, he broke with the longstanding F.B.I. policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations.
— Comey, Clinton and This Steaming Mess, Frank Bruni, New York Times, today
Bob Kerrey is exactly right, and I’ve posted two posts making that point, the second of them urging Newsweek to retract its representation yesterday that the law required Comey to do what he did, because Comey had told Congress under oath last summer that the FBI investigation was closed—a claim that is utter nonsense.
In response to the first of my posts, reader BillB, in replying to a comment by reader BKrasting, described what I believe amounts to a bizarre decision by some FBI agents involved in the Weiner investigation to effectively extort Comey into disclosing the discovery of the emails (which may be duplicates of ones already investigated).
Here’s what BillB wrote to me in the comments thread to the second of my posts:
BillB / October 29, 2016 4:25 pm
You are absolutely right. I’ll just resubmit what I put in your previous posting in response to bkrasting:
“Would you have preferred that the head of the FBI deliberately break the law?”
Broken what law? Name the law or you are just blowing smoke. There is no law requiring the FBI director to release preliminary information on an investigation it hasn’t even done yet.
Are the emails from or to Clinton? He doesn’t know because he hasn’t seem them yet. Are they related to any other investigation that the FBI has done? He doesn’t know because he hasn’t seen them yet.
The responsible thing to do was to wait until he had a determination of their relevance before making a public announcement. He is not withholding anything because at this point he doesn’t even know what he is holding. It may be absolutely nothing.
But Clinton is correct. At this point Comey has muddied the waters and the only way he can fix it is to immediately tell the public everything he knows and everything he does not know.
The back story to this is management incompetence. The New York FBI office is upset at the DC office because they pulled off and replaced the local FBI agents in the investigation of the Eric Garner case because they were refusing to aggressively pursue the case.
In retaliation, the New York agents were threatening to prematurely leak the email information in defiance of FBI protocol. Comey fell prey to the blackmail and felt that he had to get ahead of the leakers to preserve his credibility with Republicans in Congress. Comey was just covering his own ass. The fact that he can’t control his own office indicates gross incompetence.
Beverly Mann / October 29, 2016 4:34 pm
That in itself is a BIG story. But since when does the FBI director make a premature or otherwise inappropriate announcement about a pending investigation because FBI agents are threatening to do so themselves?
This was an appallingly inappropriate use of the FBI itself–of the agency itself and its investigatory powers–in the service of a political goal.
If Comey was effectively extorted, that strikes me as itself a criminal act.
BillB / October 29, 2016 4:58 pm
I don’t think there is any criminality involved. In any large government or private corporation the saying is that “Information is power.” And people will trade that information as a lever to further their own political interests within the organization. It happens all the time and it isn’t criminal.
But it is despicable. It is evidence that Comey is an incompetent leader. It is evidence that, contrary to Comey’s claims of acting out of ethical imperative, he was simply acting in his own self-interest to preserve his Republican credibility and cover up his own lack of leadership to control his staff.
I dunno. This wasn’t trading information within an organization. This was threatening to reveal to the public information that Comey himself already knew—raw, preliminary information obtained through a nascent FBI investigation—unless Comey himself made it public, in order to impact an election for president and for control of Congress.
Sure sounds to me like misuse of information obtained in an incomplete FBI investigation.
It also appears that these agents may have looked at some of the emails without the prerequisite court order as required by the Fourth Amendment. Descriptions of the nature of the emails have now been leaked, according to Greg Sargent this morning, who also questioned how this information was known to FBI agents when apparently no search warrant had yet been issued as of early this morning.
How about the report on the Yahoo face page that the FBI interviewed Ms. Abedin last April in the Clinton investigation and she told them she used 4 different devices and accounts to email Clinton, one of which was the one now at issue in the Weiner investigation but they didn’t follow up and check out any of them. So the downstroke is that Comey felt obligated to make public the discovery of emails that they already knew about. Why would that be necessary, you ask? Well, something might turn up on the Wiener investigation that was missed in the Clinton investigation.
In other words, Cromey is covering Cromey’s ass. How unusual for a public servant, particularly one in law enforcement!
It appears that report was erroneous, Jack. I just posted on that.
Curiouser and curiouser. And curiouser.
Can’t read the Post article.
I would assume that the FBI had a warrant for the computer in the Weiner case. How does that work if they find “evidence” regarding another case?
I guess it would be like serving a warrant for one illegal activity in a house, and finding evidence of another illegal activity in that house.
I have no idea what the law states in that case.
A search warrant issued in the Weiner investigation would authorize confiscation of electronic devices for the sole purpose of searching for sexual videos and email and social media exchanges between Weiner and possibly underage teens and preteens. Anything else must be the subject of a separate search warrant.
4th Amendment violation for Mr. Weiner. He will not be going to trial anytime soon if ever now. Comey tossed Weiner a bone in his quest to hang HRC out to dry.
No, there clearly was a search warrant issued to allow them to take the computer and examine it for things related to the underage-sexting thing between him and a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. And they have the evidence on that through her Twitter account or whatever. They probably were looking for child porn or some such, and other evidence of underage sexting. They took his phone and his computer and whatever other electronic devices he has; a tablet, whatever. All of that was properly covered under the search warrant.
But the State Dept. email thing is unrelated to that, so they need a separate search warrant authorizing access to the emails.
I think he’ll be charged on the underage-sexting thing. His defense apparently is that he was tricked into it. I don’t know whether he’s claiming he thought she was older, or whether instead there’s evidence that she told him her real age.
Yeah, it’s somewhat similar to searching a house under a search warrant for one thing that’s illegal, and finding evidence another illegal activity in the house. But in that case, there’s a rule called the “plain view” doctrine. If something’s in plain view in the house, they probably would not need a separate warrant to take it. But if they’re rifling through a drawer and find something unconnected to the subject of the search warrant, they probably would not be able to take it and I think they might not be able to get a search warrant for it, since the only reason they know of it is that they were rifling through the drawer looking for something covered by the search warrant.
I think. Fourth Amendment search jurisprudence isn’t something I know all that much about. It also changes often, since the Supreme Court hears cases on that seemingly relatively often.
In this case, obviously they learned of the emails only because they had a search warrant to search for something else entirely. I think that maybe the hangup in their getting a search warrant to read the emails is that, obviously, the emails weren’t in plain view. They were discovered (so they claim) because they were searching the computer under a search warrant for something unrelated to the earlier email investigation.
But, again, I don’t know enough about this area of law to be sure I know what I’m talking about.
Yup. I was right in my analysis on “plain view.” A Washington Post legal-issues blogger discussed it this morning: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/10/30/was-it-legal-for-the-fbi-to-expand-the-weiner-email-search-to-target-hillary-clintons-emails/?utm_term=.131bc807abbf
But the FBI got he warrant this afternoon anyway.
Latest news is that Weiner gave up computer voluntarily. No fire nor smoke there.
Nope. Those reports are incorrect. Please read my brand new post.
But the fact that that is the line that the FBI has pushed since late Friday or early yesterday—after first saying that Abedin did NOT produce those emails during the investigation of the email matter, and that THAT is why Comey felt compelled to “update” the public–er, the Congress, does speak pretty loudly, doesn’t it?
“lots of people are saying………”
A link would be nice.
What are you referring to?
Just giving this some more thought. I do not think Comey was blackmailed, I think he made a career choice decision.
He had to know when he violated the rules to talk about HRC’s actions while finding there were no criminal charges that could be brought back this summer that he cemented his career path into serving Rep admins and/or Fox or Trump News. Not a chance HRC was keeping him in his position.
This thing is just pumping up his resume for those positions.
I believe that the FBI director must be confirmed–in his case, reconfirmed–by the Senate, which might go Dem in January, and anyway there are a few Senate Repubs who aren’t happy about Comey’s move either. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t occur to senators that Comey could pull the same type of thing on them, say, just before a primary. And even Trump would figure out–or be told by someone close to him–that Comey’s shtick is to play holier than thou, something he thought this would show but is recognized widely instead as the opposite but that in any event he might try to prove by allowing some investigation into Trump.
No, Comey thought he’d be pilloried by the right if it became public after the election that State Dept.-related emails were available to Weiner, or if it was leaked before the election.
In light of Abedin’s reported communications with friends in the last 48 hours that she does not know how any of her emails would have ended up on Weiner’s computer–which she did not use and which, contrary to reports, she did not turn over during the email investigation BECAUSE she did not use her husband’s computer–it appears to me, as I just said in a new post, quite possible that FBI agents investigating the Weiner case planted those emails on that computer.
I was responding to CoRev.