The FBI posted a document Monday that suggests former FBI Director James Comey began drafting what became his infamous July 2016 statement about Hillary Clinton’s private server months ahead of time, releasing a heavily redacted copy of the exchange.
The bureau posted the document to its “Vault” Freedom of Information Act reading room, titled “Drafts of Director Comey’s July 5, 2016 Statement Regarding Email Server Investigation Part 01 of 01.”
The five-page document included a list of nearly 50 deleted pages and a mostly redacted email chain titled “Midyear Exam.” Though the email is marked unclassified, the only visible content is FBI official James Rybicki forwarding a redacted email from Comey to other top officials asking for “any comments on this statement so we may roll it into a master doc for discussion with the Director at a future date.”
The Rybicki email is dated May 16, 2016, and the original Comey email is dated May 2, 2016. Newsweek was first to report the release.
Comey announced in July 2016 that the FBI would not recommend charges in the Clinton investigation in an unprecedented statement, during which he also heavily criticized Clinton and her team for their handling of sensitive information in her use of a private email server while at the State Department.
The FBI declined to comment further on the documents.
The release of the confirmation that Comey’s controversial speech was drafted months earlier than its release will give fuel to his critics that question whether he had political motives in his actions toward Clinton during the campaign. Comey was fired by President Donald Trump earlier this year, with Trump citing the Clinton investigation as part of the justification. Comey has since testified before Congress that Trump had several interactions with him as President that the former FBI director felt were inappropriate, including asking him to let go of the investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
As CNN previously reported, two Republican senators first made public that Comey had drafted the statement months before, citing transcripts reviewed by the judiciary committee of interviews with FBI aides.
“Conclusion first, fact-gathering second — that’s no way to run an investigation,” wrote Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham. “The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy.”
A person familiar with the matter pushed back last month on the notion that Comey had already reached a conclusion that affected the investigation.
This individual said by April 2016 the FBI had reviewed most of the evidence and didn’t find evidence suggesting that Clinton had violated federal law.
That letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray sought all drafts of Comey’s final statement by September 13. The committee majority staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In declining to comment, the FBI also declined to explain what “Midyear Review” meant in the subject line.