“A PERSON IN HER POSITION…”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 19, 2019) — On pages 82 and 83 of the transcript of a deposition of former FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki in January 2018, Rybicki admitted that there were “discussions” about Hillary Clinton having been given “special treatment” during the agency’s investigation of her use of a private email server and handling of classified information while she served as Obama’s Secretary of State.
Under questioning by Susanne Sachsman-Grooms, representing House Judiciary and Oversight & Government Reform Democrats, Rybicki responded, “I think that’s fair to say” in response to the query, “Was there a concern within the executive team that there would be a perception that Secretary Clinton was being treated differently than others?”
Rybicki’s departure from the FBI was announced on January 23, 2018, five days after the deposition, although FBI Director Christopher Wray said he had been notified the month before.
On page 81, Rybicki confirmed that an email circulated on May 2, 2016 emanating from then-FBI Director James Comey went to then-Deputy Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Peter Strzok; FBI Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page; two unnamed high-level FBI employees; and himself requesting input.
Based on Rybicki’s earlier testimony, Sachsman-Grooms characterized the group of recipients as a “subset” of the full “executive team” working on the Clinton probe.
The email contained a draft of a statement Comey envisioned delivering publicly if the team’s pending view that Clinton should not be prosecuted criminally remained unchanged at the conclusion of “Mid-Year Exam,” as the investigation was internally known.
Speaking of Strzok’s proffered remarks responding to the email, Sachsman-Grooms said, “So he separated these comments into three parts. Under thematic considerations he said, and I’ll quote:” followed by three full lines which are redacted (p. 81). Continuing with her questioning on page 82, Sachsman-Grooms asked again, speaking of Strzok:
Rybicki’s response was, “No. I think she was being treated as what a person in her position would have been treated.”
When Sachsman-Grooms first asked if there had been a “concern” that Clinton was “being treated differently than others,” Rybicki first responded, “Can you repeat that one more time?” (p. 83)
A follow-up email to the May 2 communication was sent on May 17, 2016, Rybicki testified as referred to by Sachsman-Grooms (p. 79), which included then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Bill Priestap, who was then Assistant Director of Counterintelligence.
Strzok, who was fired last August, reported to Priestap, who retired at the end of last year, the FBI confirmed to this writer in April.
In his December 2017 testimony provided three months before he was fired, McCabe admitted that there was a certain amount of “frustration” between the FBI and the Justice Department over how to obtain the laptop computers belonging respectively to then-Clinton aides Heather Samuelson and Cheryl Mills. Rather than obtaining a search warrant, McCabe testified, the laptops were acquired through negotiations with attorneys representing the two (p. 35 of transcript).
Samuelson and Mills were permitted to attend Clinton’s July 2, 2016 FBI interview as counsels, a fact the Justice Department inspector general’s report released a year ago determined was “inconsistent with typical investigative strategy.”
The FBI investigates and the Justice Department prosecutes if it finds sufficient evidence to pursue a charge.
In her testimony last July, Page, who left the Bureau in May of last year, indicated that the FBI and DOJ “worked in tandem” during the course of the Mid-Year probe (p. 144 of transcript), which ended with Comey’s public statement on July 5, 2016 recommending no criminal prosecution for Clinton or any of her aides.
Despite the lack of a criminal referral, Comey nevertheless eviscerated Clinton for her “extremely careless” handling of classified information as the nation’s top diplomat for four years, a strategy which former FBI Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson testified to the DOJ inspector general’s office “was a signal that we weren’t just letting her off the hook. Our conclusions were going to be viewed as less assailable at the end of the day if this kind of content was included” (p. 85 of Anderson transcript).
In addition to her mishandling of classified information, a Clinton contractor, Paul Combetta, deleted approximately 33,000 emails from her private server “despite orders from Congress to preserve them,” The New York Times reported on September 8, 2016. The DOJ then gave Combetta immunity, the article states, along with Bryan Pagliano, who configured the private server at Clinton’s Chappaqua, NY home.
Clinton’s aides also “destroyed devices” they used on official business “with hammers,” CNN reported.
On Monday, the State Department reported that in its own “security review” of Clinton’s unsecured email system server, “23 ‘violations’ and seven ‘infractions’” have been found to date. In a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who is providing oversight to the review, a State Department official wrote, “To this point, the Department has assessed culpability to 15 individuals, some of whom were culpable in multiple security incidents.”
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.