The FBI is investigating President Donald Trump’s 2016 call for Russian hackers to “find the 30,000 emails” Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server.
The Justice Department disclosed the existence of an investigation in a recent court filing in response to a lawsuit by Ryan Shapiro, a researcher at Harvard University, and Jason Leopold, a BuzzFeed News reporter. Shapiro and Leopold sued the FBI after they did not fulfill a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any “and all records, including investigative records, mentioning or referring to Donald J. Trump’s statement on 27 July, 2016” on former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s deleting of 30,000 emails from her private server.
The FBI initially said it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any documents to fulfill the FOIA request, but eventually admitted there’s an “active, ongoing investigation” into Trump’s comments and “records that are responsive to the Russia Request” could interfere with “enforcement proceedings.”
The FBI has until July 25 to explain why releasing such records would interfere with enforcement proceedings.
Clinton deleted about half the 60,000 emails stored on a private server in her New York home. Clinton told reporters in 2015 the emails were deleted “because they were personal and private” and had nothing to do with work.
But doubts surrounded Clinton’s reasoning, especially in Republican circles. In July, Trump called on Russian hackers to “find” Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails. Russians were blamed for released emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The FBI eventually recovered more than 17,000 emails Clinton’s team deleted or did not give to the State Department. Many of those emails were work-related.
News of the investigation broke the day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on the recommendation of two top Justice Department officials.
Ironically, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein based his recommendation on Comey’s handling of Clinton’s email investigation
“I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump sent a letter to Comey Tuesday informing him he had been “terminated” from his position, while also thianking him for “informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”
But Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request pertains directly to comments made by Trump himself, not any of campaign staff or surrogates.
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