FBI argued it had probable cause for pre-election Clinton email warrant

FBI argued it had probable cause for pre-election Clinton email warrant
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The FBI told a federal judge that it believed there was probable cause that a laptop seized as part of its investigation of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) contained classified information, a warrant unsealed Tuesday revealed.

The warrant — granted in connection with the agency’s investigation into whether Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats seek leverage for trial Davis: Trump vs. Clinton impeachments – the major differences Sharice Davids to vote for Trump impeachment articles: 'The facts are uncontested' MORE mishandled classified information — shows that investigators found emails they thought might be pertinent when they sorted and scanned the header information of messages stored on Weiner's computer.

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News about the FBI's actions came out days before the presidential election and was falsely described as a "reopening" of the case by some Republicans.

The Clinton campaign has attributed her surprise loss in part to the eleventh-hour decision by FBI Director James Comey to look for Clinton-related emails on the Weiner laptop.

The former New York congressman was under investigation for allegedly sending sexually explicit messages to a minor. Weiner is married to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, though the two are separated.

The bureau's Clinton case centered on the private email system she used while secretary of State and whether that unusual setup compromised classified information. 

Some of the accounts used on the seized computer correlated with accounts used by Clinton and her aides during her tenure at Foggy Bottom — accounts that investigators had previously concluded had been used inappropriately, the newly released documents show. Names of people other than Clinton are redacted. 

“Because it has been determined… that many emails were exchanged between [redacted] using [redacted] and/or [redacted] accounts, and Clinton that contained classified information, there is also probably cause to believe that the correspondence between them located on the Subject Laptop contains classified information,” the approved warrant request reads.

Democrats immediately criticized the justification for the warrant as thin.

The document showed that "Comey’s intrusion on the election was as utterly unjustified as we suspected at time,” according to Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon.

"There was nothing in search warrant filing to controvert Comey's statements from July and truly establish probable cause of a crime," Fallon tweeted.

Investigators asked to search the computer for information about who had accessed protected information as well as evidence that the device had been hacked.

In July, Comey announced that the bureau had completed its investigation into Clinton’s server and would not be recommending criminal charges.

But days before the election, Comey informed Congress that investigators had discovered emails believed to be pertinent to the Clinton investigation in the course the Weiner investigation.

Comey made his official statement to lawmakers before the FBI obtained the warrant to go through the emails, sparking claims that he had broken long-standing bureau policy of not interfering in politics.

A subsequent missive from Comey to Congress stating that a search of the emails did not change the bureau’s original finding — that Clinton had been “careless” but not criminal with classified material — did little to quell the political maelstrom.

The warrant application — filed two days after Comey’s letter — asked that the affidavit be maintained under seal. A judge on Monday ruled that the documents be made public after a California lawyer filed to force their release.

--Updated 4:29 p.m.