According to former FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who testified last summer before the House Judiciary Committee in a closed-door appearance, Hillary Clinton’s legal team “negotiated” an agreement with the Justice Department to ensure that the FBI didn’t have access to the emails from her private servers related to the Clinton Foundation. After realizing that tax documents showed a dive in the incoming donations after Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, Republicans renewed their devotion to look into the Clinton Foundation late last year. The tax documents gave a bit of proof to the allegations of the possible “pay to play” transactions in the Clinton Foundation.
While Strzok was being questioned by Judiciary Committee General Counsel Zachary Somers, he pointed out that Clinton’s private email server had a mixture of emails related to the Clinton Foundation, her work as secretary of state as well as other personal matters. “Were you given access to [Clinton Foundation-related] emails as part of the investigation?” Somers asked Strzok. He responded with: “We were not. We did not have access. My recollection is that the access to those emails were based on consent that was negotiated between the Department of Justice attorneys and counsel for Clinton.” Strzok continued by explaining that even though the FBI eventually took possession of Clinton’s servers, the possession was “based upon the negotiation of Department of Justice attorneys for consent.”
According to Strzok, the FBI employed “a significant filter team to work through the various terms of the various consent agreements.” The limitations that were imposed on the searches conducted by the agents included the names of people and domains, date ranges as well as other things.
Strzok believes the agreement was reached because “according to the attorneys, we lacked probable cause to get a search warrant for those servers and projected that either it would take a very long time and/or it would be impossible to get to the point where we could obtain probable cause to get a warrant.” Strzok didn’t clarify whether or not the prosecutors attempted to get a search warrant, which would have precisely described what the agents could and couldn’t search.
Strzok later said that when the FBI agents used search terms to look through the contents of the servers, they had access to the “entire universe” of information that was on them. He also said to Somers that “we had it voluntarily,” even though it’s unsure whether he meant all of the emails on the servers, including the ones related to the Clinton Foundation.
Former Representative of Utah, Jason Chaffetz, who chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee until 2017, said the arrangement meant that the agents wanted to be willfully blind during the search. “What’s bizarre about this, is in any other situation, there’s no possible way they would allow the potential perpetrator to self-select what the FBI gets to see. The FBI should be the one to sort through those emails — not the Clinton attorneys,” explained Chafettz, noting that the FBI knew that they were dealing with classified information in an unclassified setting. According to Chaffetz, the DOJ’s goal was to “make sure they hear no evil, see no evil — they had no interest in pursuing the truth.”
Chaffetz also added that the DOJ was clearly showing a double standard in their investigation, including the immunity of Clinton’s top aides early in the investigation. “They didn’t go make a deal with anyone in Trump’s orbit. They seized it. They used guns and agents — and just went in there and took it,” explained Chaffetz. “The Clinton Foundation isn’t supposed to be communicating with the State Department anyway. The foundation — with her name on it — is not supposed to be communicating with the senior officials at the State Department,” he continued.
In recent days, Republicans have shown concern that the DOJ was a bit too easy with Clinton’s team during the 2016 presidential campaign. Just this week, Fox News reviewed a chart that was prepared by the federal investigators that were working on the “Midyear Exam” into Clinton’s emails. In the chart, next to a key statute on mishandling classified information were the words “NOTE: DOJ not willing to charge this.” The note seems to contradict the claims that FBI Director James Comey made about his teaming making the decision that Clinton shouldn’t have to face criminal charges on her own. But in Strzok’s door-closed interview he denied that the DOJ exercised undue influence over the FBI. He also insisted that the DOJ’s lawyers were only involved with the agents working on the case in an advisory capacity.
Fox News also confirmed that the chart was a piece of crucial evidence that provided the grounds for Rep. John Ratcliffe to question former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. In that interview, Page agreed with Ratcliffe in his description that the DOJ told the FBI that “you’re not going to charge gross negligence.”
While in the closed-door interview, Strzok defended the relationship that he had with Page, while frequently denying that their relationship had been a security risk when challenged by the GOP aides. When he was asked if he was cheating on his wife during his interview on June 27, 2018, Strzok, who was fired from the FBI after the investigation into the anti-Trump texts between him and Page, confirmed that he was indeed involved in an extramarital affair. He was also questioned by the GOP investigative counsel for the committee, Art Baker, whether Strzok believed that the affair could have made him “vulnerable to potential recruitment” by “hostile intelligence service[s].” Strzok answered by saying: “Yeah, I don’t think I would characterize it that way. I think it is not so much any particular action as it is the way that action might be used to coerce or otherwise get somebody to do something. I can tell you that in no way would that extramarital affair have any power in coercing me to do anything other than obeying the law and doing honest, competent investigation.”