FBI Director James B. Comey overstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation during testimony to Congress last week, according to people close to the inquiry.
In defending the probe, Comey offered seemingly new details to underscore the seriousness of the situation FBI agents faced last fall when they discovered thousands of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s emails on the computer of her husband, Anthony Weiner.
“Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information,” Comey said, adding later, “His then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of state.”
At another point in the testimony, Comey said Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain classified information.’’
Neither of those statements is accurate, said people close to the investigation. The inquiry found that Abedin did occasionally forward emails to her husband for printing, but it was a far smaller number than Comey described, and it wasn’t a “regular practice,” these people said. None of the forwarded emails were marked classified, but a small number — a handful, one person said — contained information that was later judged to contain classified information, these people said.
Justice Department and FBI officials are considering whether and how to clarify the misstatements, said people familiar with the matter. The issue of the misstatements was first reported by ProPublica.
Not giving accurate statements to Congress under oath has a name, and that's perjury. From that ProPublica story linked above:
According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the “hundreds and thousands” cited by Comey. It does not appear Abedin made “a regular practice” of doing so. Other officials said it was likely that most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.
It was not clear how many, if any, of the forwarded emails were among the 12 “classified” emails Comey said had been found on Weiner’s laptop. None of the messages carried classified markings at the time they were sent.
Comey’s Senate testimony about Abedin came as he offered his first public explanation for his decision to reveal the existence of the emails on Oct. 28, days ahead of the 2016 election and before FBI agents had examined them.
When agents obtained a search warrant that allowed them to read the messages, they turned out to be mostly duplicates of emails the bureau had obtained earlier in the investigation. Comey announced just before Election Day that nothing had changed in the Clinton case, which had been closed four months earlier without criminal charges.
During his testimony, Comey said that part of the reason for revealing the existence of the messages was that some appeared to fill an eight-week gap in records from early in Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. Comey said the FBI viewed them as “the golden missing emails that would change this case” because they might provide insights into Clinton’s intent when she set up her private server.
Comey testified that investigators searching Weiner’s laptop in the days before the election also found that “somehow, her emails are being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information, by [Clinton’s] assistant, Huma Abedin.” Abedin, he later testified, “appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him, for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the Secretary of State.”
In other words, even if you don't buy that Comey perjured himself (and the FBI is apparently still trying to figure out how to get out of that mess), Comey clearly jumped the gun and never should have gone public with what was massively misleading information in an ongoing investigation because -- surprise! -- it directly affected the outcome of a presidential election.
So yeah, Comey's in trouble at this point. It's all starting to come unglued.