Former FBI Director James Comey’s controversial decision to make a public statement outlining the FBI’s findings in the Hillary Clinton email investigation back in July was largely influenced by bad Russian intelligence that may have been planted as a fake to confuse the FBI, according to a bombshell new report by The Washington Post.
“In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season,” WaPo’s Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett report. Comey’s FBI “received a purported Russian intelligence document describing a tacit understanding between the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.”
The secret Russian document, which purported to be a piece of reliable Russian intelligence, claimed that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had “privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter — a conversation that if made public would cast doubt on the inquiry’s integrity.”
The Post reports:
Current and former officials have said that document played a significant role in the July decision by then-FBI Director James B. Comey to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.
But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable.
The document, obtained by the FBI, was a piece of purported analysis by Russian intelligence, the people said. It referred to an email supposedly written by the then-chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and sent to Leonard Benardo, an official with the Open Society Foundations, an organization founded by billionaire George Soros and dedicated to promoting democracy.
The Russian document did not contain a copy of the email, but it described some of the contents of the purported message.
In the supposed email, Wasserman Schultz claimed Lynch had been in private communication with a senior Clinton campaign staffer named Amanda Renteria during the campaign. The document indicated Lynch had told Renteria that she would not let the FBI investigation into Clinton go too far, according to people familiar with it.
“It was a very powerful factor in the decision to go forward in July with the statement that there shouldn’t be a prosecution,” a person familiar with the matter told the Post. “The point is that the bureau picked up hacked material that hadn’t been dumped by the bad guys involving Lynch. And that would have pulled the rug out of any authoritative announcement.”