How Rogue Agents in the FBI’s NY Field Office Helped Elect Trump

No one has done a better job than Kevin Drum in documenting the fact that it was former FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress announcing the re-opening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails that tilted the election in Trump’s favor.

Once again: Clinton did nothing particularly wrong in her campaign. She didn’t ignore working-class whites. She wasn’t too cautious on policy. She didn’t overestimate the impact of educated voters. She wasn’t complacent. What happened was simple: 12 days before the election, the FBI director released a letter saying he had found a brand-new trove of emails and implying that this might finally be the smoking gun about her private email server. That’s it.

We’ll never know for sure if James Comey did this because he’s terminally stupid and didn’t realize what impact it would have, or if he did it knowing full well what impact it would have. But he did it. And that’s why Donald Trump is president.

A transcript of Comey’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last Friday gives us the former FBI director’s answer as to why he wrote the letter.

I was concerned that there appeared to be in the media a number of stories that might have been based on communications reporters or nonreporters like Rudy Giuliani were having with people in the New York field office. In particular, in I want to say mid October, maybe a little bit later, Mr. Giuliani was making statements that appeared to be based on his knowledge of workings inside the FBI New York. And then my recollection is there were other stories that were in the same ballpark that gave me a general concern that we may have a leak problem — unauthorized disclosure problem out of New York, and so I asked that it be investigated.

You might recall that on October 26th (two days before Comey released his letter), Giuliani told Fox News’s Martha MacCallum, “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton are beginning to have an impact. [Trump’s] got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.”

What Comey didn’t mention is that the FBI was also leaking the information to Rep. Devin Nunes, as he later went on to tell Laura Ingraham.

Josh Marshall noted that the FBI’s New York field office discovered Clinton emails on Weiner’s laptop on September 26th or 27th. By “late September,” they were leaking that information to Rep. Nunes and someone eventually spilled the beans to Rudy Giuliani, who was an advisor to the Trump campaign at the time.

In her testimony to the Justice Department’s Inspector General, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch relayed a conversation she had with Comey not long after he released his letter.

And [Comey] said, and he said to me that it had become clear to him, he didn’t say over the course of what investigation or whatever, he said it’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton. And he said it is, it is deep. It’s, and he said, he said it was surprising to him or stunning to him.

…But he was saying [bias] did exist, and it was hard to manage because these were agents that were very, very senior, or had even had timed out and were staying on, and therefore did not really feel under pressure from headquarters or anything to that effect.

This is the same New York field office that was intent on investigating the Clinton Foundation, even after being told by prosecutors that they didn’t have a case.

Justice Department officials became increasingly frustrated that the agents seemed to be disregarding or disobeying their instructions…

As prosecutors rebuffed their requests to proceed more overtly, those Justice Department officials became more annoyed that the investigators didn’t seem to understand or care about the instructions issued by their own bosses and prosecutors to act discreetly.

In the transcript quoted above from Comey’s latest testimony, he indicated that an investigation had been launched into the leaks that were coming from the FBI’s New York field office during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to a report from Reuters in April 2018, the Inspector General planned to release the results of his investigation last May. But so far, we’ve seen nothing. On Monday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced that they are suing the FBI for documents related to that investigation.

The FBI is in violation of the law for failing to turn over documents related to the FBI’s investigation into the leak of information to Rudy Giuliani in October 2016 that then-FBI Director James Comey was going to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email system, according to a lawsuit filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)…

An investigation was later launched into who leaked the information to Giuliani, which would violate the law. In April, CREW requested copies of all records of the investigation into the source of the leak, but has yet to receive any.

“The FBI legally has to give us these records or explain why they cannot,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “It is important for the public to have all of the information that the law requires be made available.”

While it is important to investigate all of the ways that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election and to what extent the Trump campaign conspired with them to do so, it is also clear that rogue agents in the FBI’s New York field office played a significant role in electing Donald Trump due to their extreme anti-Clinton bias. We need to get to the bottom of that one too.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .