Comey rushed to close Clinton investigation for fear fake Russian intel would leak: Report

Comey reportedly closed Clinton case over Russian intel he knew was false

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published May 26, 2017 2:58PM (EDT)

Hillary Clinton; James Comey   (AP/Matt Rourke/David Goldman)
Hillary Clinton; James Comey (AP/Matt Rourke/David Goldman)

On Wednesday The Washington Post reported that former FBI director James Comey partially based his bizarre decision to unilaterally close the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server on a dubious document that turned out to be a fake created by Russian officials. Now CNN reports that Comey knew all along that the “intel” was false — but acted on it anyway.

Unnamed officials with knowledge of the situation told CNN that Comey abruptly closed the investigation into Clinton's private email server last summer partly in response to a piece of Russian intelligence purporting that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had secretly assured the Clinton campaign the investigation would not go too deep. The unidentified officials told CNN that Comey feared that if the false information became public it would undermine the investigation as well as the Justice Department itself; Comey evidently believed it would be too difficult to disprove such an accusation in the midst of a campaign without giving up intelligence sources and methods.

“Sources close to Comey tell CNN he felt that it didn’t matter if the information was accurate, because his big fear was that if the Russians released the information publicly, there would be no way for law enforcement and intelligence officials to discredit it without burning intelligence sources and methods,” CNN reported on Friday. “In at least one classified session, Comey cited that intelligence as the primary reason he took the unusual step of publicly announcing the end of the Clinton email probe.”

On July 5, 2016, Comey announced, without notifying the Justice Department, that the FBI was closing the investigation in Clinton’s emails and that there would be no prosecution of the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee. The Post reported earlier this week that, according to sources, Comey also felt he had "little choice" but to close the investigation "because he feared that if . . . the secret document leaked, the legitimacy of the entire case would be questioned."

The report that Comey was, in fact, aware of the dubious source of the information comes one day after Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe traveled to Capitol Hill to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee that the FBI had not been duped by dodgy Russian intelligence, according to CNN.

CNN also reported that when Comey testified before Congress in a closed-door session before being fired by President Donald Trump he failed to inform lawmakers that he doubted the veracity of the intel. 

Perhaps even more troubling, CNN also reported that according to multiple U.S. officials, "to this day Russia is trying to spread false information in the US -- through elected officials and American intelligence and law enforcement operatives -- in order to cloud and confuse ongoing investigations."

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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