The FBI did far more editing of former FBI Director James Comey’s statement on their probe of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email server than previously known, edits that erased serious concerns the FBI initially had, according to a key senator.
In documents provided by Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, there were three major edits to Comey’s statement that seemed to absolve Clinton.
The changes included reducing Clinton’s “culpability” in the scandal, removing references to the intelligence community’s role in the probe, and downgrading the likelihood that spies had penetrated Clinton’s private server stuck in the basement of her New York home.
Johnson is now demanding that everybody connected to the process of writing and editing Comey’s statement be identified. “We are asking for everyone that edited the speech,” said a committee official.
He is also looking into the pro-Clinton, anti-President Trump bias in the probe.
To show the changes in the statement, Johnson produced a copy of Comey’s original statement with the edits that he planned to give in May 2016 closing out his investigation. They are dramatic and show the FBI went soft on Clinton.
Initially, the only major edit revealed was that FBI insiders cut out the reference to Clinton being “grossly negligent.” But it went much further.
For example, they cut out Comey’s initial plan to refer to the “sheer volume” of email on Clinton’s server. Johnson said that was in an effort to “deemphasize the amount of classified information” held on Clinton’s private server.
Johnson’s letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray also cited another major edit. “The edited version also contained a sentence that read, “This is especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on servers not supported by full-time security staff, like those found at the departments and agencies of the U.S. government.” Comey did not use that sentence in his final statement.
Comey was also planning to give credit to the intelligence community for helping in the Clinton probe, but that was cut out.
And there were edits, said Johnson, to “downgrade the likelihood that hostile actors penetrated Secretary Clinton’s private server.”
Before: “We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. Given the combination of factors, we assess it is reasonably likely that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s private email account.”
After: “Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com