FBI Director James Comey knew that
a document crucial to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was fake and created by Russian intelligence, but it played a large role in how he approached the Clinton email investigation, CNN reported Friday.
The purportedly fake document, first disclosed by The New York Times in late April and described in more detail by the Washington Post on Wednesday, described an email that was sent by Debbie Wasserman Schultz — then the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee — to an official at billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations (OSF).
The memo contained a summary of the email, in which Wasserman Schultz supposedly described to the OSF official how Lynch had privately assured a Clinton staffer during the campaign that the DOJ wouldn’t take the email probe too far.
Comey, whom President Donald Trump fired earlier this month amid the FBI’s probe into Russia’s election interference, apparently doubted the veracity of the memo early. But he told lawmakers about the document in his later briefings with them and did not imply that it could be fake, according to CNN.
Instead, he told them that he feared the document could leak and cast doubt on the credibility and independence of the FBI’s email server probe — part of why he decided to bypass the DOJ and announce the findings of the investigation in an impromptu press conference last July.
“Comey felt it didn’t matter if the information was accurate, because his big fear was that if the Russians released the information publicly, there would be no way for law enforcement and intelligence officials to discredit it without burning intelligence sources and methods,” sources close to Comey told CNN on Friday.
The revelation that a doctored memo planted by the Russians may have impacted Comey’s treatment of the investigation will likely raise more questions about his decision to revisit the email probe 11 days before the election. Comey has said he felt compelled to tell Congress that the bureau had discovered new emails that were possibly relevant to the investigation because he had already gone public with the details of the case — and given congressional testimony about it — three months earlier.
FBI officials briefed Lynch on the existence of the document one month after Comey announced the end of the email investigation. She said that she had “never communicated” with the Clinton campaign staffer in question and offered to be formally interviewed by the FBI about the matter, according to the Post. The bureau did not take her up on the offer, but did warn her that some of the intelligence contained in the document was dubious, the reports said.
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