Email: Comey gave FBI agents heads up on Clinton decision

Email: Comey gave FBI agents heads up on  Clinton decision
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Before telling the world in July that the FBI would not be recommending charges against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE or her aides for mishandling sensitive information, Director James Comey first told the agents in his bureau.

In an email sent on July 5 shortly before addressing the media, the bureau's chief defended the decision not to recommend charges as well as the extraordinary revelation of details he was about to give regarding the investigation.

“Folks outside the FBI may disagree about the result, but I don't want there to be any doubt that this was done in an apolitical and professional way and that our conclusion is honestly held, carefully considered, and ours alone,” Comey wrote to his colleagues in an email obtained by Esquire and published on Tuesday.

“I have stayed close to it [the investigation] simply to ensure that the team had the resources they needed and that nobody interfered with them,” he added. “Nobody did.”

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Comey has insisted that Justice Department headquarters staffers were ignorant of his announcement regarding the Clinton case, as was the rest of the Obama administration. But the July email shows that he at least gave his colleagues at the FBI the briefest of warnings about his announcement, which has been criticized by Republicans.

“Nobody elsewhere in government has any idea what I am about to say,” he told bureau officials, “and that's the way it should be.”

The July email was one of three that Comey sent to the FBI which were published by Esquire on Tuesday. The two other emails had been previously released.

On the October day that he sent a letter to Congress notifying lawmakers of new evidence connected to Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, Comey told his employees that there was “significant risk of being misunderstood” and warned about creating “a misleading impression” regarding the case, according to a newly released email.

Yet he insisted that the move was motivated by his previous pledge to keep Congress informed of developments in the Clinton investigation, which had been wrapped up for months.

“Of course, we don't ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed,” Comey wrote.

“I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.

“At the same time, however, given that we don't know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don't want to create a misleading impression,” he wrote. “In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”

Comey’s letter came less than two weeks before Election Day and was blamed for halting Clinton’s momentum in the polls by resurrecting the specter of her email controversy.

The new evidence, which was reportedly discovered as part of an investigation into former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), the estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, ultimately did not lead to new revelations in the Clinton case. After a year-long investigation, the Justice Department decided against filing charges for mishandling classified information in connection to Clinton's bespoke email setup.

Yet to many Democrats, the damage was already done.

Clinton’s allies have said that Comey's letter was the sole reason the Democratic former secretary of State lost the election to Trump.

In September, Comey updated the bureau about materials it had provided to Congress from the investigation, including notes from Clinton's and other key officials' interviews.

In that third email, Comey wrote that he “almost ordered” the Clinton file held until Tuesday, Sept. 6, rather than releasing it on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

“I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend, but my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us,” he wrote. “We don't play games. So we released it Friday.”

In the weeks after the Justice Department’s decision not to file charges, Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch repeatedly testified on Capitol Hill about the investigation. Republican lawmakers accused the Justice Department of creating a double standard by failing to indict Clinton.

“Through public statements, testimony (4 hours and 40 minutes without stopping, but who's counting), and prompt document productions, we have offered unprecedented transparency of the high-quality work your colleagues did in the case,” he wrote.

--This report was updated at 12:50 p.m.