Senate panel questions Lynch over ‘political interference’ in Clinton probe

The Senate Judiciary Committee has formally asked ex-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and others to respond to allegations of “political interference” in the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email probe, according to a letter released Friday.

The inquiry was prompted, in part, by a series of media reports raising questions about whether Lynch tried to stifle the investigation into former Secretary of State Clinton’s use of a private email server. Fired FBI Director James Comey also suggested in recent Senate testimony that Lynch sought to downplay the investigation.

“The reports come amidst numerous allegations of political inference in controversial and high-profile investigations spanning the current and previous administrations,” Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s office said in a statement.

While Democrats have questioned whether President Trump tried to interfere in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, Republicans have countered by stepping up scrutiny of Lynch’s actions.

The letters released Friday, though, were bipartisan. Grassley, R-Iowa; ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., penned letters to Lynch and others seeking documentation and other details.

Graham already had expressed interest in Lynch testifying before the committee in the wake of Comey’s testimony.

In the latest letters, the senators sought information that might determine the veracity of media reports suggesting Lynch may have offered assurances to the Clinton campaign about the probe.

Those articles are based on hacked documents whose authenticity has not been confirmed.

The letter cited an April New York Times article about a batch of hacked files obtained by the FBI, including one reportedly authored by a Democratic operative who voiced confidence Lynch would keep the Clinton probe from going too far.

Lynch and others who received the committee’s letters have until July 6 to comply with the request.

The senators also refer to concerns stemming from Comey’s testimony about being uncomfortable with Lynch’s tarmac meeting last summer with Bill Clinton.

Comey also told Congress “the attorney general directed me not to call it an investigation and call it a matter — which confused me.”

Comey says Lynch tarmac meeting, directive to downplay probe prompted him to go rogue on Clinton case

Brooke Singman

Former FBI Director James Comey revealed in Senate testimony Thursday that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch directed him to describe the Hillary Clinton email probe as a “matter” and not an “investigation.”

He also said that the directive, combined with Lynch’s unusual Arizona tarmac meeting with former President Bill Clinton, led him to make his independent announcement regarding the Clinton email probe last July.

In his closely watched Senate Intelligence Committee testimony otherwise devoted to discussing the circumstances of his firing, Comey said that tarmac meeting was a “deciding factor” in his decision to act alone to update the public on the Clinton probe — and protect the bureau’s reputation.

“There were other things, significant items,” he added, citing how “the Attorney General directed me not to call it an investigation and call it a matter—which confused me.”

“That was one of the bricks in the load that I needed to step away from the department,” Comey said, later adding he was concerned Lynch was trying to align the DOJ’s comments with the way the campaign was talking about the probe. “That gave me a queasy feeling,” he said.

Lynch and former President Bill Clinton met on a tarmac in Phoenix, Ariz. on June 27, 2016, which immediately raised questions about whether she—or the Justice Department—could be impartial in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Days later, Comey called Hillary Clinton’s actions “extremely careless” but declined to recommend charges.

Comey’s statements on Thursday could potentially damage Lynch’s reputation as an impartial, leading top law enforcement officer.

“Yes, that was the thing that capped it for me,” Comey said. “I needed to protect the investigation and the FBI.”

Comey added: “There were other things that contributed to that one thing … but the committee has been briefed on classified facts.”

But Comey told lawmakers he wouldn’t have done things differently with regard to his decision on the Clinton email case.

“You have been criticized on your Clinton email decision. Did you learn anything that would have changed how you chose to inform the American people?” Chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr, R-N.C., asked the fired FBI director.

“Honestly, no,” Comey answered. “It caused a lot of personal pain for me – I think it was the best way to protect the justice institution—including the FBI.”

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and Jennifer Bowman contributed to this report. 

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Sources: Comey acted on Russian intelligence he knew was fake

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(CNN)Then-FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email was fake — created by Russian intelligence — but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the process.

As a result, Comey acted unilaterally last summer to publicly declare the investigation over — without consulting then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch — while at the same time stating that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information. His press conference caused a firestorm of controversy and drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

Comey’s actions based on what he knew was Russian disinformation offer a stark example of the way Russian interference impacted the decisions of the highest-level US officials during the 2016 campaign.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that this Russian intelligence was unreliable. US officials now tell CNN that Comey and FBI officials actually knew early on that this intelligence was indeed false.

In fact, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe went to Capitol Hill Thursday to push back on the notion that the FBI was duped, according to a source familiar with a meeting McCabe had with members of the Senate intelligence committee.

The Russian intelligence at issue purported to show that then-Attorney General Lynch had been compromised in the Clinton investigation. The intelligence described emails between then-Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a political operative suggesting that Lynch would make the FBI investigation of Clinton go away.

In classified sessions with members of Congress several months ago, Comey described those emails in the Russian claim and expressed his concern that this Russian information could “drop” and that would undermine the Clinton investigation and the Justice Department in general, according to one government official.

Still, Comey did not let on to lawmakers that there were doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to sources familiar with the briefings. It is unclear why Comey was not more forthcoming in a classified setting.

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. There were other factors behind Comey’s decision, sources say.

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.

In that briefing, Comey did not even mention the other reason he gave in public testimony for acting independently of the Justice Department — that Lynch was compromised because Bill Clinton boarded her plane and spoke to her during the investigation, these sources told CNN.

Multiple US officials tell CNN that 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.

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect that there were additional factors behind Comey’s decision and to clarify the description of the political operative.

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.

Manchester terror attack suspect identified as Salman Abedi

British authorities on Tuesday identified the suicide bomber who launched a deadly attack at a Manchester Ariana Grande concert, hours after the Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the blast.

Salman Abedi, 22, was identified as the man who detonated an improvised explosive device at about 10:30 p.m. local time Monday, killing more than 20 people, some of them children, and injuring dozens more, Manchester police confirmed in a news conference on Tuesday. At least 12 children under the age of 16 were injured, emergency responders said. An 8-year-old girl was among the dead.

A European security official told the Associated Press that Abedi was British. No additional details about Abedi were immediately available.

TIMELINE OF RECENT TERROR ATTACKS AGAINST THE WEST

It was previously reported that Abedi was 23, but police clarified that another 23-year-old man was arrested. Two warrants have been issued at two separate residences. Officers used a police-controlled explosive device to gain entry into one home.

ISIS claimed on Tuesday that “a soldier of the caliphate planted bombs in the middle of Crusaders gatherings” then detonated them, but Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that the U.S. had not yet verified that the terror group was responsible.

The explosion unfolded outside Manchester Arena as Grande’s concert was coming to a close. The pop star, who wasn’t injured, reportedly suspended her Dangerous Woman Tour following the attack. She wrote on Twitter, “broken. from the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. I don’t have words.”

Officials believe the device was packed with shrapnel, built to inflict as much human damage as possible, according to U.S. law enforcement sources. Manchester police said one of their priorities is to investigate whether the attacker acted alone or had some kind of support.

Politicians both at home and abroad condemned the attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May called the attack “appalling, sickening cowardice.”

MANCHESTER ARENA WAS PACKED WITH ARIANA GRANDE’S YOUNG FANS

“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not as a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage,” she said.

President Donald Trump slammed those responsible for the attack as “losers.”

“I won’t call them ‘monsters’ because they would like that term… I will call them, from now on, ‘losers’ because that’s what they are, they’re losers.”

Fox News’ Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Clinton blames Comey, WikiLeaks for election loss to Trump

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday said she took “absolute personal responsibility” for her losing presidential campaign — but went on to blame FBI Director James Comey and Russian interference for aiding Republican rival Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency.

Clinton specifically cited the letter from Comey late in the campaign saying agents were looking into possible new information related to Clinton’s secret, homebrewed computer server. She was ultimately never charged with a crime, and Comey cleared Clinton on the Sunday before the election.

She also mentioned WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy website which some analysts believe to be connected to Russia and which posted the hacked emails of Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta.

“I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but were scared off,” Clinton said at the Women for Women International Conference.

She added: “If the election were on October 27, I’d be your president.”

But those presidential aspirations seem to be a thing of the past for Clinton, who said, however, that she wasn’t getting out of politics entirely.

“I’m now back to being an activist citizen, and part of the resistance,” she said.

Clinton said she was writing a book about her experience as the 2016 Democratic nominee.

“It is a painful process reliving the campaign,” she said.

Clinton, the first female presidential candidate of a major party, said her election “would have been a really big deal.”

“There were important messages that could have sent,” Clinton said.

Taking a hit at Trump, Clinton said the president should worry less about the election “and my winning the popular vote.”

Moderator Christiane Amanpour at one point asked Clinton if she was a victim of misogyny, to which she replied, “Yes I do think it played a role. And I think as we learn more and more about unprecedented foreign interference from a foreign leader who is not in my fan club.”

Scandal’s TV president says Hillary lacked authenticity: Clinton-loving actor Tony Goldwyn admits she could have learned from Trump ‘being himself’

  • Tony Goldwyn, who plays President Fitzgerald Grant III on ABC’s Scandal, talked about what went wrong with Hillary Clinton’s campaign 
  • Goldwyn suggested that while Clinton would have made an ‘extraordinary president’ she wasn’t a ‘natural candidate’ like her husband or President Obama
  • Additionally, she was faced with a ‘perfect storm of horror,’ which included Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey and Russian interference  

Tony Goldwyn, who plays the president of the United States on the TV show Scandal, still thinks Hillary Clinton would have made an ‘extraordinary president.’

But in a new interview with Politico he admitted ‘she wasn’t a natural candidate,’ while now President Donald Trump was able to sell authenticity.

‘You know, I think that’s one of Trump’s gifts, he’s just himself in all situations and unapologetically so,’ the actor said. ‘And as horrifying as I find it, obviously, it appeals to a tremendous amount of people.’

Scroll down for video 

Actor Tony Goldwyn, who plays the president of the United States on Scandal, talked to Politico about what went wrong with Hillary Clinton's campaign. Here he's seen speaking last summer at the Democratic National Convention 

Actor Tony Goldwyn, who plays the president of the United States on Scandal, talked to Politico about what went wrong with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Here he’s seen speaking last summer at the Democratic National Convention

Tony Goldwyn (center) was a campaign surrogate for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (left) and suggested that she wasn't always the most natural candidate 

Tony Goldwyn (center) was a campaign surrogate for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (left) and suggested that she wasn’t always the most natural candidate

Tony Goldwyn (left) said of Hillary Clinton (center) that she would have made an 'extraordinary president' but was faced with a 'perfect storm of horror' during last year's presidential run 

Tony Goldwyn (left) said of Hillary Clinton (center) that she would have made an ‘extraordinary president’ but was faced with a ‘perfect storm of horror’ during last year’s presidential run

Goldwyn, who was one of the Clinton campaign’s celebrity surrogates, sat down with Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown as part of the publication’s Women Rule podcast series.

‘It was sort of a perfect storm of horror, really,’ Goldwyn replied when assessing what happened in the 2016 campaign.

Clinton had ‘this very unique opponent in Donald Trump,’ Goldwyn noted, along with James Comney having a ‘huge role in turning things at the last minute,’ combined with the Russian interference.

And then there was the candidate herself.

‘Put it this way, her strength and her comfort zone were not like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton,’ Goldwyn noted, calling the two former Democratic presidents ‘rock star charismatic candidates.’

‘Hillary’s whole thing is, “Look, let me do the job, let me show you what I can do.” And her personality and her demeanor is about, “Roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work.”‘

Goldwyn didn’t want to sound too critical of the candidate he backed and stumped for, saying he had seen her give ‘incredible speeches.’

Tony Goldwyn was a celebrity campaign surrogate for Hillary Clinton, traveling to Nashville, Tennessee last February to participate in a 'Get Out The Vote' event for the Democrat 

Tony Goldwyn was a celebrity campaign surrogate for Hillary Clinton, traveling to Nashville, Tennessee last February to participate in a ‘Get Out The Vote’ event for the Democrat

Tony Goldwyn talks in 2016 about campaigning for Hillary

‘I think Hillary did a fantastic job on the campaign and I saw her many times completely being herself and I saw how crowds were enraptured by her,’ he added.

He felt she improved upon herself as a candidate since 2008, when she first ran for the White House.

‘And when she did struggle in the [2016] campaign often it was when the pressure was on and she felt that she needed to be something other than just who she is,’ Goldwyn said.

The actor added that many politicians have found themselves in Clinton’s predicament as she tried to twist herself and her position in a way that pleased the most people.

‘I think the most successful politicians are people that, you know, clarify their message and what they are passionate about and stick to that,’ the actor noted. ‘And express that passion,’ he added, using ex-President Obama as an example, and Bill Clinton too.

Goldwyn was among Clinton’s campaign surrogates who were gathered at the Jacob K. Javits Center on election night.

‘We were all highly confident going in,’ recalls the actor, who had even stumped for Clinton in Michigan three days before.

Goldwyn remembered running into fellow celebrity Ted Danson, who was worried about the results coming in.

‘What a buzz kill, Ted, lighten up,’ the Scandal star remembered thinking.

But soon the moment came when Goldwyn realized that his candidate had lost.

He ran into Gene Sperling, the former director of the National Economic Council, and ‘he looked like he was about to die,’ Goldwyn recalled.

Sperling informed Goldwyn that it was all over, Clinton had lost.

And quoting Sperling Goldwyn said, ‘It’s the worst thing that has happened to this country since the Civil War.’

‘And I’m like, wow, oh my God, that’s when it hit me, I got a sick feeling in my stomach,’ the actor said of his own reaction.

Soon, he and his wife bolted from the Javits Center, as things were getting depressing, and he talked to his two daughters, both of whom were distraught.

His 26-year-old daughter said ‘I need to go to the red states … because obviously we don’t get it,’ and his college-age daughter said precisely the same thing.

Now, with President Trump about to hit the 100 day mark, Goldwyn told Politico’s Budoff Brown that he still was at a loss.

‘So I want to understand it,’ the actor said. ‘But I still can’t get my brain around it.’

As for the next generation of Democratic ladies, Goldwyn pointed to California’s new Sen. Kamala Harris, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, as women who could eventually break the presidential glass ceiling.

‘But I just don’t know,’ the actor added. ‘I think it’s too early.’

Andrew Napolitano: Hillary Clinton and the FBI…again

Last weekend, The New York Times published a long piece about the effect the FBI had on the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign. As we all know, Donald Trump won a comfortable victory in the Electoral College while falling about 3 million votes behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

I believe that Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who failed to energize the Democratic Party base and who failed to deliver to the electorate a principled reason to vote for her. Yet when the Times reporters asked her why she believes she lost the race, she gave several answers, the first of which was the involvement of the FBI. She may be right.

Here is the back story.

In 2015, a committee of the House of Representatives that was investigating the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, learned that the State Department had no copies of any emails sent or received by Clinton during her four years as secretary of state. When committee investigators pursued this — at the same time that attorneys involved with civil lawsuits brought against the State Department seeking the Clinton emails were pursuing it — it was revealed that Clinton had used her own home servers for her emails and bypassed the State Department servers.

Because many of her emails obviously contained government secrets and because the removal of government secrets to any non-secure venue constitutes espionage, the House Select Committee on Benghazi sent a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, which passed it on to the FBI. A congressionally issued criminal referral means that some members of Congress who have seen some evidence think that some crime may have been committed. The DOJ is free to reject the referral, yet it accepted this one.

It directed the FBI to investigate the facts in the referral and to refer to the investigation as a “matter,” not as a criminal investigation. The FBI cringed a bit, but Director James Comey followed orders and used the word “matter.” This led to some agents mockingly referring to him as the director of the Federal Bureau of Matters. It would not be the last time agents mocked or derided him in the Clinton investigation.

He should not have referred to it by any name, because under DOJ and FBI regulations, the existence of an FBI investigation should not be revealed publicly unless and until it results in some public courtroom activity, such as the release of an indictment. These rules and procedures have been in place for generations to protect those never charged. Because of the role that the FBI has played in our law enforcement history — articulated in books and movies and manifested in our culture — many folks assume that if a person is being investigated by the FBI, she must have done something wrong.

In early July 2016, Clinton was personally interviewed in secret for about four hours by a team of FBI agents who had been working on her case for a year. During that interview, she professed great memory loss and blamed it on a head injury she said she had suffered in her Washington, D.C., home. Some of the agents who interrogated her disbelieved her testimony about the injury and, over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, asked Comey for permission to subpoena her medical records.

When Comey denied his agents the permission they sought, some of them attempted to obtain the records from the intelligence community. Because Clinton’s medical records had been digitally recorded by her physicians and because the FBI agents knew that the National Security Agency has digital copies of all keystrokes on all computers used in the U.S. since 2005, they sought Clinton’s records from their NSA colleagues. Lying to the FBI is a felony, and these agents believed they had just witnessed a series of lies.

When Comey learned what his creative agents were up to, he jumped the gun by holding a news conference on July 5, 2016, during which he announced that the FBI was recommending to the DOJ that it not seek Clinton’s indictment because “no reasonable prosecutor” would take the case. He then did the unthinkable. He outlined all of the damning evidence of guilt that the FBI had amassed against her.

This double-edged sword — we won’t charge her, but we have much evidence of her guilt — was unprecedented and unheard of in the midst of a presidential election campaign. Both Republicans and Democrats found some joy in Comey’s words. Yet his many agents who believed that Clinton was guilty of both espionage and lying were furious — furious that Comey had revealed so much, furious that he had demeaned their work, furious that he had stopped an investigation before it was completed.

While all this was going on, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, was being investigated for using a computer to send sexually explicit materials to a minor. When the FBI asked for his computer — he had shared it with his wife — he surrendered it. When FBI agents examined the Weiner/Abedin laptop, they found about 650,000 stored emails, many from Clinton to Abedin, that they thought they had not seen before.

Rather than silently examine the laptop, Comey again violated DOJ and FBI regulations by announcing publicly the discovery of the laptop and revealing that his team suspected that it contained hundreds of thousands of Clinton emails; and he announced the reopening of the Clinton investigation. This announcement was made two weeks before Election Day and was greeted by the Trump campaign with great glee. A week later, Comey announced that the laptop was fruitless, and the investigation was closed, again.

At about the same time that the House Benghazi Committee sent its criminal referral to the DOJ, American and British intelligence became interested in a potential connection between the Trump presidential campaign and intelligence agents of the Russian government. This interest resulted in the now infamous year-plus-long electronic surveillance of Trump and many of his associates and colleagues. This also produced a criminal referral from the intelligence community to the DOJ, which sent it to the FBI.

Yet this referral and the existence of this investigation was kept — quite properly — from the press and the public. When Comey was asked about it, he — quite properly — declined to answer. When he was asked under oath whether he knew of any surveillance of Trump before Trump became president, Comey denied that he knew of it.

What was going on with the FBI?

How could Comey justify the public revelation of a criminal investigation and a summary of evidence of guilt about one candidate for president and remain silent about the existence of a criminal investigation of the campaign of another? How could he deny knowledge of surveillance that was well-known in the intelligence community, even among his own agents? Why would the FBI director inject his agents, who have prided themselves on professional political neutrality, into a bitterly contested campaign having been warned it might affect the outcome? Why did he reject the law’s just commands of silence in favor of putting his thumb on political scales?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. But the American public, and Hillary Clinton, is entitled to them.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.

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