Political News

Senator questions changes made to Comey's 2016 statement on Clinton email probe

Posted December 14, 2017 6:49 p.m. EST

— Sen. Ron Johnson asked the FBI Thursday to answer more questions about its handling of a closed investigation now drawing renewed attention: the Hillary Clinton private email server probe.

The Wisconsin Republican asked FBI Director Christopher Wray for more information about edits to former director James Comey's famous statement on Clinton's use of a private email server the summer before the 2016 election.

In his letter to Wray, Johnson cites an early draft of Comey's statement, which he says shows "repeated edits to reduce Secretary Clinton's culpability in mishandling classified information."

CNN previously reported that a former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI had changed the description detailing Clinton's handling of classified information from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless" in Comey's draft statement, but the decision to make the change was a team effort, with a handful of people reviewing the language as edits were made, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Johnson notes in his letter to Wray that the term "gross negligence" is "a legal threshold."

The letter also raises concerns over "edits to remove reference to the intelligence community's role in identifying vulnerabilities related to Secretary Clinton's private email server" and "edits to downgrade the likelihood that hostile actors had penetrated Secretary Clinton's private server."

According to US officials familiar with the matter, electronic records showed Peter Strzok was the FBI official who changed the "grossly negligent" language in Comey's statement, CNN reported last week.

Strzok, who was also a member of special counsel Robert Mueller's team looking into any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, was relieved from the team following uncovered messages showing Strzok mocking then-candidate Donald Trump.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had also raised questions over the statement's edited language and had sent a letter to Wray on the matter, which CNN reported on in November.

CNN reported in November that according to a source familiar with the decision-making process at the FBI at the time, "the Bureau and Jim were trying to see what a statement of declamation might look like -- and they were playing with the language throughout. The one thing that's a constant is that they thought what they had seen so far, subject to change, was that charges would not be appropriate but that the conduct was worthy of criticism. It was a matter of how to explain both."