Justice Department officials told FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation to “stand down” even though two confidential informants had provided information that agents believed was worth pursuing, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Fox News is also reporting that the investigation of the Clinton family charity is now a “very high priority” at the FBI. Multiple people have been interviewed multiple times during the investigation, which began last summer.
One of the main catalysts for the probe was the book “Clinton Cash,” written by Peter Schweizer, The Journal reports. Schweizer, the head of the Government Accountability Institute, has been interviewed by FBI agents “multiple times” about findings laid out in his book, which is highly critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The newspaper laid out what appears to be an increasingly tense standoff between the FBI and Justice Department over the direction of the investigation. The rift has grown wider since Friday, when FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress stating that he was re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s private emails because of emails recovered from a laptop shared by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her husband, Anthony Weiner.
According to The Journal, the FBI and DOJ had reached an agreement late last year to meet first before taking any major steps in the investigation. But the relationship began its decline in February.
Some DOJ and FBI officials believed that the case, which focuses on whether Clinton Foundation donors received favors from the Clinton State Department, lacks concrete evidence and should not move forward. But agents believe that senior-level officials at the DOJ and FBI are stymieing the investigation to protect Hillary Clinton.
In February, FBI officials, prosecutors with the public integrity unit and the head of DOJ’s criminal division, met in Washington to discuss the case. But after FBI agents offered a presentation of evidence, the public integrity prosecutors believed that the case was weak. After that meeting, DOJ officials told investigators at the several offices with open files on the Clinton Foundation — Washington, New York, Little Rock and Los Angeles — to “stand down,” a source told The Journal.
While “Clinton Cash” was a catalyst for the investigation, some FBI agents believed that the case had advanced well past the book.
That additional evidence included details culled from at least two confidential informants and a secret recording of a suspect in a public corruption case.
While agents who listened to the recordings were not sure of the accuracy of the statements, they believed the lead was worth pursuing, sources told The Journal. But DOJ prosecutors believed that the new evidence did not merit advanced investigative tools such as the use of a grand jury. The suspect who was recorded did not work for the Clinton Foundation.
DOJ officials continued to push back against the investigation. They became “more annoyed” as FBI agents continued to investigate. The agents became more frustrated with the DOJ’s top brass.
Robert Capers, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, told DOJ officials at the national office in Washington D.C. that FBI agents working the case in New York “won’t let it go.”
Those conflicting views of the case sparked an Aug. 12 phone call from a senior DOJ official to Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director. The DOJ official reportedly told McCabe that FBI agents were ignoring instructions to back off the case.
“Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” McCabe reportedly said in the heated conversation.
“Of course not,” the official replied.
According to Fox News, the investigation is picking up steam.
“There is an avalanche of new information coming in every day,” one law enforcement source told Fox. Investigators are drawing evidence from WikiLeaks as well as new emails recovered from the Abedin-Weiner laptop.