In mid-summer a wave of panic and despair began to wash over key rank-and-file FBI agents who were doggedly working the Hillary Clinton investigations. Agents reluctantly pondered a potential, brutal reality that was creeping into the fabric of the high-profile case. What if their collective work wasn’t meant to bring this case to a grand jury for indictments and justice? What if they themselves, FBI agents sworn to uphold the law, were being used as intelligence pawns by superiors and higher powers to actually shield Clinton and her inner circle from ever seeing a pair of handcuffs and a jail cell?
“I got a pit in my stomach,” a FBI insider said. “That empty, sinking feeling you get in your gut. I thought we may have unknowingly been parties to this entire mess. It’s a blow to the ego. We’re supposed to see these things coming.”
Agents, along with the country, had just absorbed the troubling optics of Attorney General Loretta Lynch meeting privately with the husband of the investigation’s primary target on a jet tarmac just days earlier. And then hours after that debacle, the FBI announced Hillary would venture to its headquarters, in a matter of hours, to finally answer the bureau’s lingering questions about how she handled classified and top secret emails as secretary of state.
We say Clinton investigations, plural, because there were really two parallel inquiries that unfolded during the year-long FBI probe. There was the public email and home server investigation but agents were also building a pay-for-play criminal case involving Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. And that case was growing serious wings.
The FBI case agents and support personnel are forbidden to “go public” or comment on the record to share their frustrations and dismay because they each signed an unprecedented confidentiality agreement prior to signing onto work the Clinton investigation. Violating that agreement would likely cost them their careers and pensions. Regardless, True Pundit conducted interviews with FBI assets and support personnel who collectively painted a dark insiders’ portrait of the Clinton criminal probe which was commissioned to determine how Clinton and her aides handled, maintained, stored and ultimately botched some of the most sensitive information ever breached in the country’s 240-year history. True Pundit’s interviews and intelligence gathering on the Clinton investigation found:
- Allegations of pay-for-play involving the Clinton Foundation were not properly vetted, ultimately white washed
- FBI agents were blocked from serving search warrants to retrieve key evidence
- Attempts to secure Clinton’s medical records to confirm her head injury were sabotaged by FBI Director James Comey
- FBI agents were not allowed to interrogate witnesses and targets without warning
- Clinton and aides were provided special VIP accommodations during interviews
- FBI suspended standard investigative tactics employed in other probes
- FBI agents efforts were often blocked, suppressed by FBI, DOJ brass
- Agents lost faith that their superiors and DOJ wanted to see the case reach a grand jury
Visionary Reads the Tea Leaves
The wheels on the federal investigations started coming loose after the New Year, in January of this year.
John Giacalone was the supervisor of the bureau’s National Security Branch and also the FBI brains and genesis behind the Clinton email and private server investigation. He first approached Comey in 2015 for the green light to probe how the former secretary of state operated her private email server and handled classified correspondences. Rumors had been swirling in intelligence circles. Once approved, Giacalone spearheaded the investigation, and helped hand select top agents who were highly skilled but also discreet. Many of those agents were concerned when Giacalone abruptly resigned in the middle of the investigation.
FBI insiders said Giacalone used the term “sideways” to describe the direction the Clinton probe had taken in the bureau. Giacalone lamented privately he no longer had confidence in the direction the investigation was headed. He felt it was simpler to quietly step aside, walk away instead of fight to keep the investigation on its proper track. Giacalone was a true heavyweight agent at FBI. In fact, he likely should have been running the entire show. His pedigree included running and creating FBI divisions in New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and even serving as deputy commander in the Iraqi theater of operations. But in the midst of the Clinton investigation, Giacalone handed the bureau his retirement papers in Feb.
“John is a strategic thinker. He recognizes patterns and signs and can then see things long before they develop,” a FBI insider said. “Losing him was a major blow. We now know perhaps what he was envisioning. He didn’t want that around his neck.”
Giacalone could not be reached for comment.
In late 2015 through January 2016, Giacalone shared the frustration of many agents who were perturbed about one lingering issue: When was the FBI going to interview Hillary Clinton?
By June, that frustration had reached a boiling point, largely fueled by Giacalone’s resignation months earlier. Frustrated FBI personnel were beginning to question the pace of the case and believed their intelligence gathering and analysis were beyond strong enough for a referral to the Justice Department in early 2016, sources said. Agents were left to wonder if their dogged research would ever see public eyes. There was a fear creeping into the case that perhaps the investigation was being politicized, that FBI and DOJ brass were trying to run out the clock, or “slow-walk” the case, on what should be considered an easily warranted criminal indictment prior to November’s general election.
Suddenly, Giacalone’s retirement in Feb. was starting to make more sense to FBI grunts who didn’t have the seasoning and street smarts of the retired New Yorker to digest the landscape, months prior, of the probe’s downward trajectory
“The window here has almost closed,” a federal law enforcement source said told True Pundit in June. “Clinton should have been interviewed months ago. There is no longer enough time to refer it to DOJ, vet the case with AUSA’s (Assistant US Attorney’s), the AG and her staff, prepare the case, call a Grand Jury, and put the case on.”
Officials in June reiterated that all those elements in the legal process, if expedited without delays or legal snags, would put a grand jury decision to indict in late September or October, just weeks before the election.
“Can you imagine the uproar if she was arrested weeks before the election?” a federal law enforcement source said. “There was a window we were shooting for and we could have made it but everything is so slow now. I mean, she hasn’t even been interviewed. It’s incredible.”
The Queen and Her Court
Agents, again, had been trying to interview Clinton since about Dec. 2015 but approval within the bureau has been often delayed, sources said. Agents said the case was running smooth under Giacalone but once he exited, strange things started happening. For starters, in early April Comey said he would personally interrogate Clinton in the coming days about her private server and email use. Days passed. Then weeks. Then months. Comey still had not interviewed Clinton or even allowed her to be interviewed by anyone in the FBI, despite numerous requests. Comey was quickly losing the trust of his frustrated subordinates.
Agents at first thought Comey was joking when he said he would personally interrogate Clinton, who at the time was locked in in a death match to win the Democratic nomination against Sen. Bernie Sanders. Then, when they realized Comey actually made these statements publicly, a wave of dismay quickly built among rank and file FBI.
“He doesn’t know the case well enough to interview witnesses or targets,” a FBI source said. “It makes no sense. It could ruin the case or any case.”
For the first time, FBI personnel started to think Comey was grandstanding for the media while possibly purposely sitting on the case. But why? The FBI was supposed to be above that brand of internal manipulation. They were about to soon discover, that time-tested sentiment, was not shared by Comey.
Three months after professing he would personally interrogate Clinton within days, the FBI arranged with her legal team to finally have the former senator come to FBI headquarters in Washington D.C for questioning. On a Saturday. In the middle of the Fourth of July holiday weekend. When the country was busy relaxing during its extended recreational break. FBI sources said Hillary’s legal team wanted to avoid a media-like circus and the Democratic candidate was not comfortable having to walk through the J. Edgar Hoover Building with FBI agents at their work stations gawking at her or snapping perp walk-like pictures of her with their camera phones. Her fears of course were over dramatized and completely unfounded. Welcome to Clinton’s tactical tool box.
Clinton arrived with her legal entourage in tow. Attorneys David Kendall, Katherine Turner, Heather Samuelson, and Cheryl Mills flanked Clinton. On the government side of the conference room: FBI Section Chief Peter Strzok, David Laufman from the Justice Department, two unnamed DOJ representatives as well as the two confidential FBI agents conducting the interview.
Following the interview, word quickly spread through FBI circles that Mills was permitted to represent Clinton as part of her legal team during the session. Mills served as Clinton’s counsel and chief of staff at State. But some agents immediately thought news of her presence at the table had to be a simple mistake. There was little chance she could be allowed to sit in on an interview with the target of a criminal case, when Mills herself was a case witness and also considered a potential target. It made no sense.
“What the hell was she doing there and who allowed this?” a FBI source fumed.
What did it mean? To seasoned law enforcement agents, Mills’ presence meant the Big interview with Clinton was part of a dog-and-pony show for the media and American public. No legitimate FBI interview would allow another suspect in the same case to sit in on the supposed interrogation of another criminal target. Ever. Case agents realized they had been played. Their earlier fears about FBI brass tampering in the Clinton case were being quickly realized.
“This wasn’t a legitimate interrogation,“ a FBI source said. “It was more of a proffer passed off to the media as a tough criminal interview so the public would think she (Clinton) was being grilled.”
A proffer. That is when a defense lawyer brings their client to talk directly to the government. It is the result of considerable negotiation and legal maneuvering prior the meeting, with defense lawyers ironing out permissible questions and ground rules for the interview with an alleged criminal target. Clinton’s lawyers knew the questions she would be asked before they stepped into the J. Edgar Hoover Building and could coach and rehearse her accordingly. The interview was a farce. FBI agents who toiled building this case were bewildered and angry.
For any other criminal target not shrouded by the Clinton’s protective legal machine and political bubble, two or more FBI agents show up at your front door at dawn and ask you questions while you’re in your pajamas and making breakfast for your kids on a school day. There’s no time to contact your lawyer or your legal team. The element of surprise is a powerful tactic and through the years this methodology has paid untold riches and intelligence dividends for the FBI. But Hillary and her aides were exempt from this investigative tool. Why?
Any other suspect would have had a search warrant served at their home while the sun was coming up and had agents rifle through your belongings while the target was isolated in a separate room with two agents peppering them with questions. It’s a known tactic. Agents toss your house room by room in front of you and your loved ones to instill fear as the proverbial stick to get you to talk or agree to cooperate. That never happened with Hillary. Or her aides. Their varying legal teams set the parameters before meetings with the FBI. In fact, from the dozens of interviews conducted with witnesses in the Clinton investigations, agents could only remember perhaps a handful happening at the home of a witness or target. Instead, each key witness talked to the FBI flanked by their legal teams at FBI facilities or legal offices of their counsel. This is far from standard practice and puts the investigation at a severe disadvantage by not showing up without warning at a target’s home.
“You tell the target(s) hey, you agree to cooperate and start talking and I can shut this whole thing down here today,” an FBI agent said. “We pack up, we put our guns away, we stop going through your rooms and underwear, you don’t go to jail today, you get to have dinner with your family tonight and tuck your kids into bed, and we continue this at a later date away from your house and family. You are offering them an immediate out to restore things back to normal. It is a powerful tool and it works.”
Kid Gloves Instead of Warrants
There were similar special accommodations in play for physical evidence too, sources said. Mills’ legal team worked to get her immunity from DOJ for allowing the FBI to examine her Dell laptop which was believed to contain thousands of unseen Clinton emails from her tenure at State. This was a recurring theme during the investigation because Comey would not allow agents to serve search warrants on the primary players. FBI agents had never seen any case where warrants could not be served which truly handcuffed the investigation and evidence collection.
“Who the f— is she (Mills) to negotiate for her laptop?” a FBI source ranted. “We get a warrant; we show up at her house and take whatever we want to take. Why is she so goddamn special? Let her lawyers negotiate after we raid her house and vehicles and get to see everything we want to see. Why are we asking her for permission for anything? Do the warrant; hit the house, get everything including Clinton Foundation documents and emails we wanted to get. The FBI has been doing this for decades. It’s a methodology. Why do we keep breaking protocol in this case?
“While we were playing footsie with her (Clinton) and her aides, instead of raiding their homes and offices, they had time to turn over incriminating evidence to their attorneys so we could not get at it. If we hit them by the book, we would have that evidence.”
Mills turned the lap top over to her lawyers. At least one other Clinton associate did the same with an old lap top sought by the FBI. Once in a lawyer’s possession the physical evidence becomes more difficult to obtain as it is protected under the Work Product doctrine between attorney and client and not privy to law enforcement eyes, warrant or not.
“If we hit everyone’s house or office on the same morning with warrants, we would have had it all,” the FBI source said. “We could have conducted interviews too without their legal counsel there to negotiate terms and make our jobs more difficult.”
No special treatment. No negotiating proffer sessions. No hiding evidence via legal loopholes. No immunity agreements before you first provide the FBI with actionable case intelligence. If the case had been handled like other criminal cases, perhaps DOJ wouldn’t have been able to hand out immunity to individuals, including the computer specialist who deleted Clinton’s emails after a federal subpoena to preserve her archived correspondences. All told, FBI sources said there are at least five players who were granted immunity in this investigation and many believe the number could likely total six because it is widely believed Huma Abedin received her own immunity deal for cooperating, sources said.
The manner and circumstances surrounding Clinton’s proffer were disturbing enough. But that was pale in comparison to how Clinton answered questions during the three-hour session. Her legal strategy was to feign ignorance and blame a jostled memory for not being able to recall details of events, emails, conversations with staffers. FBI agents were not seemingly prepared for this type of defense. What normally should have been be a very long proffer session was ultimately cut short because Clinton repeatedly claimed she couldn’t remember even basic details about just about every faction of the interview. Clinton blamed her failing memory on a 2012 concussion she said she suffered after passing out, strangely enough, right after she was notified by the House Select Committee on Benghazi that she was being called to testify. She was excused from that hearing in late 2012.
But ultimately, the concussion tact was working again in 2016 and FBI agents were left scratching their own heads about Clinton’s head. How could she not remember? Well, head injuries, as her lawyers had interjected, are complicated matters. But agents realized Clinton did remember selective details prior to December 2012, but conveniently, nothing about potentially damning events prior to what she described as a serious concussion.
According to the FBI’s 302 report detailing her interview and the bureau’s general report of the email investigation, Clinton could not “recall” the answers to 27 different questions about her private email server and did not “remember” details of her emailing and classification habits at least another 12 times. But those were the numbers released just for public consumption. Agents said during the interview, Clinton didn’t remember details for dozens more questions and scenarios not detailed in the declassified 302.
How do you cross examine someone with amnesia? Or purporting to have amnesia? You simply can’t. It was a frustrating exercise for agents and the team working the Clinton case. If nothing else, agents thought Clinton could perhaps provide bogus answers to some of the questions and perhaps set herself up for possible violations of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001, making false claims to government agents, a felony charge which could perhaps be used as leverage after an indictment during a possible plea. That went out the window as well with the amnesia drama.
Perhaps this was the master plan of the collective defense to counter the government’s probe. FBI 302s for the interviews with Meyer, top aide Abedin and other Clinton aides all had a similar pattern. No one could recall any details to the most critical breaches of State Department data and emails. The more sensitive the breach, the dumber Clinton and her aides acted. Mills, at one juncture, told FBI agents that she didn’t even know what a computer server was. Mills has a law degree from Stanford.
Abedin couldn’t remember much during her time at State, according to FBI documents, including how to consistently print documents or emails from her secure Dept. of State system. Abedin told FBI agents in an April interview that she struggled to print secure docs and emails from her secure PC. Instead, she would forward the sensitive emails to:
- Her personal Clinton.com email address
- Her personal yahoo.com address
- Her email linked to husband Anthony Weiner
Abedin said she would then access those email accounts via webmail from an unclassified computer system at the State Dept. and print the documents, many of which were classified and top secret, from the largely unprotected webmail portals. Clinton did not have a computer in her office on Mahogany Row at the State Dept. so she was not able to read timely intelligence unless it was printed out for her, Abedin said. Abedin also said Clinton could not operate the secure State Dept. fax machine installed in her Chappaqua, NY home without assistance.
Perhaps more alarming, none of the multiple FBI agents and Justice Department officials who conducted Abedin’s interview pressed her to further detail what were repeated and obvious violations of a host of federal laws.
Word spread fast through the FBI’s investigative team handling Clinton that she simply didn’t remember any details to any questions that mattered. She with her cabal of aides, in effect, had stymied the probe and agents spent Saturday night largely licking their wounds while outraged that their bosses were buying Clinton’s antics. But even more alarming, they were being permitted by FBI brass and DOJ officials to get away with this anti-law enforcement behavior. No one was pressing them to come clean. Excuses and defenses were taken at face value, absent follow up. For example, Clinton’s legal team called questions about the Clinton Foundation off limits during her sit down with the FBI. Why didn’t the bureau ask her Clinton Foundation questions anyway? Instead, the agents and DOJ official submitted to her legal terms at the expense of a criminal investigation.
Moreover, once agents had access to the completed 302 report detailing what precisely went down during the Clinton interview, agents thought it might be missing pages or portions because it failed to contain key ingredients. There were not questions about the Clinton Foundation and what role it played in her setting up and employing her private server. There were no questions about Clinton’s emails and her aides’ thousands of emails to and from Clinton Foundation personnel. The FBI’s interview, Agents criticized, also never truly pressed Clinton with follow up to her answers. Agents and DOJ officials never presented her with contradictory evidence to counter her claims and statements. Clinton, they summarized, was given a free ride. Any other person would have been skewered for hours, or brought to tears, or simply muscled into contemplating a future plea. They had the dirt on her to do just that but chose to let her off easy, seemingly sensitive to her alleged medical woes. These tough questions were, again, off limits.
Frustrated field agents hedge that Clinton’s head injury was simply a well-played ruse to serve as a get-out-of-FBI-interview free card.
“She (Clinton) was bullshitting,” a FBI source said. “We didn’t believe a word about memory loss. How can she testify for 10 or 11 hours at a Benghazi hearing in Congress with no memory problems but loses her memory when she steps into FBI?”
Agents Hatch A New Attack
Agents searched for a solution to counter her legal team’s maneuvering. By Monday (July 4th), FBI rank and file came up with a plan. On Tuesday, investigators would put the legal wheels in motion to independently obtain Clinton’s medical records. Monday was a national holiday so they would have to wait it out until the next morning. Clinton’s medical records would verify whether she indeed, did suffer a head injury and if it was serious enough to incapacitate her from recalling key details. This would be an investigative lay-up. Agents didn’t even have to go through a formal subpoena process. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 regulations, health care companies can comply with law enforcement requests for such records, absent a subpoena or warrant signed by a judge. A simple request via facsimile or even email could quickly yield a target’s medical records, and sometimes, even a prescription history.
Plans to obtain Clinton’s medical records leaked up the chain of command and by Monday evening Comey issued a directive ultimately putting the cabash on what otherwise seemed like a smart investigative grab. No one in the FBI was permitted to obtain Clinton’s official medical records. No exceptions. The directive set off chaos within the bureau, especially on the heels of the fake criminal interview with Clinton just days earlier. This wasn’t the first time FBI brass had blocked agents from obtaining Clinton-related intelligence crucial to the probe. Now, it was a pattern. How were agents supposed to work the case to drill holes in Clinton’s interview defenses and tactics without confirming she had a severe head injury?
Despite the explicit impromptu directive, Comey and his inner circle were not out of the woods on the medical records issue. Some agents vowed to do an end run around the FBI itself through a former intelligence contact who could obtain just about any record quietly and quickly for a price. To Hell with Comey, these agents thought. We’re going to get these records one way or another. These medical records could potentially to be an ace up their collective sleeve.
“Can you imagine we have to go to the equivalent of dark web for information,” the FBI source said. “We’re supposed to be the FBI.”
The clandestine contact said it would take approximately 72 hours to obtain Clinton’s medical history documents. But agents said Comey knew the FBI grunts would not sit still and simply accept his directive not to pursue Clinton’s health details. Agents believed the Clinton case would follow the mold of other cases following the interview with the primary target: They would have weeks to vet Clinton’s statements from the interview to determine if she was lying. It turned out, Comey made sure they only had hours.
Tuesday morning came fast and its events even faster. The Hoover building was swarming with media, packing a first floor conference room at FBI. Without any warning, Comey had called a press conference for a major announcement about the Clinton case. Agents thought perhaps Clinton or her aides had agreed to a plea deal. Abedin instantly came to mind, as she openly admitted to sending classified and top secret materials to her personal unsecured email addresses. Had Abedin or another player in this investigation worked out a deal even prior to an indictment? No. That wasn’t even close to the the flavor of this press conference.
Comey stepped to the lectern at 11 a.m., Tuesday July 5, to wake the country up from its Independence Day weekend hangover. Comey proceeded to absolve Hillary Clinton, her aides, her foundation, and her husband of any and all criminal wrongdoing from the parallel investigations
Comey’s subordinates were blindsided.
“You spend time away from family chasing bad people, then realize you might have been professionally manipulated to help them,” a downtrodden FBI source said. “I mean, who in the hell were we all working for?”