TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -A release of documents reveals former FBI Director James Comey's draft statement on the Hillary Clinton email probe was edited several times before he went public with his findings in the case. Comey stated it was “reasonably likely” Clinton was hacked.
FBI documents obtained by Fox News on Thursday show that one of several edits to Comey’s original draft statement written in advance of his interview with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Comey initially wrote that Clinton and her colleagues' handling of classified information was “grossly negligent.” This was later changed to say “extremely careless,” in relation to how Clinton handled the information while she used a private email server during her tenure as the top US diplomat.
According to the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), the documents also reveal that Comey emailed a draft statement to a top FBI official, clearing Clinton of any wrongdoing two months prior to his official conclusion in the case.
In an early draft of his statement, Comey said that it was “reasonably likely” that “hostile actors” gained access to Clinton's private email server. That was later altered in the final statement to say it was “possible” the hostile actors gained access, Fox News reported.
The documents also show that Comey's final statement removed a reference to the “sheer volume” of classified information discussed on Clinton's private email server, according to Fox News.
Senator Johnson referred to these same documents when he sent a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray on Thursday, inquiring about the edits to Comey’s initial draft statement.
In Johnson's letter to Wray, he said: “While the precise dates of the edits and identities of the editors are not apparent from the documents, the edits appear to change the tone and substance of Director Comey’s statement in at least three respects.”
Johnson also mentioned to Wray the legal ramifications related to the edits of Comey’s draft statement in the Clinton probe.
The language Comey used when he determined gross negligence “could be read as a finding of criminality in Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified material,” Johnson said, according to Fox News. “The edited statement deleted the reference to gross negligence – a legal threshold for mishandling classified material – and instead replaced it with an exculpatory sentence.”
Further edits showed that references to specific potential violations of statutes on “gross negligence” regarding classified information and “misdemeanor handling,” had also been removed before Comey’s final statement concluding the investigation.
Johnson noted “repeated edits to reduce Secretary Clinton’s culpability in mishandling classified information.”
Johnson also raised concerns to Wray about text messages from 2016, showing discontent for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, exchanged between former FBI agent, Peter Strzok, who had worked on both Comey’s Clinton probe, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between Trump and Russia, and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Page had also worked on both Mueller and Comey’s probes.
Strzok was the individual who changed the language in Comey’s draft statement from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless,” Fox News reported.
Strzok exchanged the messages with Page while he was working on the Mueller probe, but it should be noted that at the time of the text exchange, Page was not working on Mueller’s probe with Strzok.