Former FBI official James Rybicki was among those who testified in closed-door sessions last summer before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees. Although the transcript has not yet been publicly released, investigative reporter Sara Carter was allowed to review it. Rybicki served as fired FBI Director James Comey’s Chief of Staff throughout their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Rybicki revealed that the DOJ “did not want” the FBI to gain access to the laptops of Hillary Clinton’s lawyers, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, due to a prior agreement. The DOJ allowed the FBI only “extremely limited” access.
If this case had involved anyone other than Hillary Clinton, the FBI would have exercised one of several options available to them. They could either have issued a warrant or obtained a Grand Jury subpoena to gain access to the laptops. And, although the FBI believed the laptops may have contained classified information, they did neither.
According to Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, the immunity deals for Clinton attorneys Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson were granted by the Justice Department on June 10, 2016, in exchange for access to their laptops, one month before the FBI closed its criminal investigation. The two lawyers who decided which emails could be destroyed were shielded from prosecution for obstructing justice.”
No one knows the fate of the laptops. According to then-Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the FBI had a side agreement to destroy the laptops after conducting the limited search. Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch has tried to find out if they still exist and says only that it “remains a mystery.”
Back to Rybicki. During his testimony, he was asked about a meeting he attended between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Comey in which they discussed whether or not to charge Hillary Clinton.
Investigator: Were there disagreements during the — that you’re aware of during the weekly updates, the monthly updates with the Director and disagreements internal to the FBI or with the Justice Department over what investigative techniques to use?
Rybicki: Yes. One instance that I’m recalling is whether to seek access to the two laptops belonging to the attorneys. It was a disagreement between the investigative team and what I will call the prosecution team.
Investigator: Over whether to seek access to the laptops at all, or how to seek access to the laptops?
Rybicki: Whether to seek access at all…I don’t know the specific individual, but what I will call the investigative team, so the FBI side was advocating to get access to the laptops, and the Department of Justice — and again, I don’t know the level — did not want access to those laptops, or did not want to authorize access to those laptops.
The DOJ Inspector General’s report prepared by Michael Horowitz which was released in June 2018 revealed the concern among FBI agents investigating the case and the limited access they had of the laptops. It said:
(FBI) Agents 1 and 2 told us that there were six laptops that Clinton’s attorneys had provided the FBI early in the investigation with consent to store, but not search, and that they would have liked to search these laptops.
FBI Agent 2 stated that he believed that these laptops may have been used to review Clinton’s emails before Clinton’s attorneys produced her work-related emails to the State Department. Agent 1 told us that he believed these laptops were used by Clinton’s Williams and Connolly attorneys to do the “QC of the 30,000 emails after they were culled by Mills and Samuelson.”
Rybicki’s testimony also corroborates earlier testimony of FBI Official Peter Strzok, who told lawmakers that “the DOJ also intervened on behalf of Clinton when it refused to grant the FBI access to Clinton Foundation emails.”
Fitton said that their testimonies:
Show a pattern of behavior by the DOJ to interfere on behalf of Clinton. Judicial Watch has been in and out of the courts for years attempting to gain access to the thousands of Clinton emails.
The court is interested and granted us discovery to see if more emails can be recovered. The FBI sought to recover the emails that Clinton deleted but of those 33,000 only 5,000 have been recovered. Typically, if the bureau believes that evidence has been destroyed they take a very aggressive approach, they raid your office or home- like they did in the (Paul) Manafort raid. That’s was the excuse they used.
The DOJ should never have limited the FBI’s ability to gather evidence. And now we know something was up because we have a top FBI official complaining about it. Comey was bad enough but it was pretty clear he saw the writing on the wall with the DOJ.
On July 2nd, Clinton was interviewed by the FBI. She was allowed to bring in Mills as her attorney. In another departure from standard practices, the FBI did not record the interview. Several days later came the meeting (referenced above) in which Lynch and Comey discussed whether or not to charge Clinton. Then, on July 5th, Comey made his public announcement to exonerate Clinton.
Rybicki: I can’t recall who in the DOJ upper-echelons made the decision.
Investigator: What do you mean by authorize? You said they didn’t want to authorize?
Rybicki: (They) didn’t want to authorize access to any of it.
Investigator: Authorize to whom?
Rybicki: The FBI.
Investigator: You said you briefed the Attorney General at the end, at the end of what?
Rybicki: So at the, I forgot the exact date, I believe it was July 6th when the Attorney General convened a meeting to decide whether to pursue charges they briefed the Attorney General.
(Rybicki recalls discussions at meetings with Comey about whether or not to pursue a Grand Jury subpoena or warrants for the laptops.)
Investigator: In the discussions with the Director (Comey) that were happening monthly and then weekly, was there ever a discussion of using Grand Jury subpoenas to obtain information?
Rybicki: I can’t recall specifics. I know there were discussions about whether – I’m thinking of one instance – whether to seek legal process from two specific items, I’m recalling that so.
Investigator: Was it for laptops?
Rybicki: It was for laptops.
Investigator: Whose laptops? For the two attorney’s related to the case?
Rybicki: For two attorney’s related to the case.
Investigator: Did the FBI issue any Grand Jury subpoenas in this case?
(Rybicki’s attorney objected to the question saying it violated the “Rules under the Criminal Procedure.”)
Rybicki: I am not sure.
Investigator: Did the bureau conduct any electronic or physical surveillance?
Rybicki: I don’t recall. But the FBI conducted forensic examinations of various, sort of, electronic devices.
Rybicki’s testimony corroborates what has been learned about Loretta Lynch’s role in Mid-Year Exam, particularly the agreement negotiated between the DOJ and Clinton’s lawyers.
And it’s great that the picture keeps becoming more and more clear. There is now more than enough evidence to justify opening a formal investigation. This will pull all of the separate bits of information together in an organized way and will determine what additional evidence is needed and which witnesses must be called to prove the conspiracy.
Are you listening Mr. Barr?