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Newly released internal FBI emails showed the agency’s highest-ranking officials scrambling to answer to Hillary Clinton’s lawyer in the days prior to the 2016 presidential election, on the same day then-FBI Director James Comey sent a bombshell letter to Congress announcing a new review of hundreds of thousands of potentially classified emails found on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
The trove of documents turned over by the FBI, in response to a lawsuit by the transparency group Judicial Watch, also included discussions by former FBI lawyer Lisa Page concerning a potential quid pro quo between the State Department and the FBI — in which the FBI would agree to effectively hide the fact that a Clinton email was classified in exchange for more legal attache positions that would benefit the FBI abroad, and allow them to send more agents to countries where the FBI’s access is ordinarily restricted.
The quid pro quo would have involved the FBI providing some other public reason for withholding the Clinton email from disclosure amid a Freedom of Information Act request, besides its classification level. There are no indications the proposed arrangement ever took place.
And, in the face of mounting criticism aimed at the FBI, the documents revealed that Comey quoted the 19th century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson by assuring his subordinates, “To be great is to be misunderstood.”
The FBI did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the released emails.
On Oct. 28, 2016, Comey upended the presidential campaign by informing Congress that the FBI would quickly review the Weiner laptop. The Justice Department’s internal watchdog later faulted the FBI for failing to review the Weiner laptop through much of the fall of 2016, and suggested it was possible that now-fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok may have slow-walked the laptop analysis until other federal prosecutors pressured the FBI to review its contents.
On the afternoon of Oct. 28, Clinton lawyer David Kendall demanded answers from the FBI — and the agency jumped into action, the emails showed.
Many of the emails found on the computer were between Clinton and her senior adviser Huma Abedin, Weiner’s now-estranged wife. Despite claims by top FBI officials, including Strzok, several of those emails were determined to contain classified information.
“I received the email below from David Kendall and I called him back,” then-FBI General Counsel James Baker wrote to the agency’s top brass, including Comey, Page and Strzok, in an email. “Before doing so I alerted DOJ via email that I would do that.”
Page and Strzok eventually were revealed to be having an extramarital affair, and Strzok was terminated after a slew of text messages surfaced in which he and Page derided Trump and his supporters using their government-issued phones. Republicans, citing some of those text messages, have accused Strzok and Page of orchestrating a coordinated leak strategy aimed at harming the president.
Although a portion of Kendall’s email was redacted, Baker continued: “He said that our letter was ‘tantalizingly ambiguous’ and made statements that were ‘inchoate and highly ominous’ such that what we had done was worse than transparency because it allows people to make whatever they want out of the letter to the prejudice of Secretary Clinton. … I told him that I could not respond to his requests at this time but that I would discuss it with others and get back to him.
“To be great is to be misunderstood.”
— Fired FBI Director James Comey, quoting Emerson
“I suggest that we have some kind of follow up meeting or phone call with this group either this evening or over the weekend to address this and probably other issues/questions that come up in the next 24 hours,” Baker concluded. “Sound reasonable?”
In a partially redacted response, Strzok agreed to spearhead a conference call among the FBI’s top officials the next day.