As FBI director last year, James Comey began writing drafts of a statement exonerating Hillary Clinton, even before all witnesses in the investigation — including Clinton herself — had been interviewed.
The Senate Judiciary Committee obtained the Comey memos as part of its investigation into his firing by President Trump, which occurred on May 9.
The revelation that Comey had begun drafting memos of his exoneration statement comes from transcripts of interviews given last fall by two FBI officials.
James Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff, and Trisha Anderson, the principal deputy general counsel of national security and cyberlaw at the FBI, gave the interviews as part of an investigation conducted by the Office of Special Counsel into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.
In a July 5, 2016, press conference, Comey said that he would not be recommending charges against Clinton for mishandling classified information despite her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
While the transcripts of those interviews are heavily redacted, they indicate that Comey started working on an announcement clearing Clinton in April or May of last year, before the FBI interviewed 17 witnesses in the case, including Clinton and some of her top aides.
Clinton was interviewed for several hours on July 2, just three days before Comey’s announcement.
In a letter to the FBI, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham also noted that Comey’s draft was prepared even before two Clinton aides, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, had reached what the two Republicans called a “highly unusual” immunity deal with the Justice Department.
The limited immunity deal prohibited investigators and prosecutors from asking about conversations between the two Clinton aides and Platte River Networks, a Denver-based tech firm that maintained Clinton’s server after she left the State Department.
Grassley and Graham questioned whether Comey could have conducted a complete and impartial investigation if he had already made a conclusion about the outcome before all of the information in the case had been collected.
“Conclusion first, fact-gathering second — that’s no way to run an investigation,” Grassley and Graham wrote the FBI. “The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy.”
“The outcome of an investigation should not be prejudged while FBI agents are still hard at work trying to gather the facts,” they added.