A draft statement former FBI Director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the “tone and substance” of the remarks, a Republican senator said Thursday.
Some of the edits of the May 2016 draft, obtained by The Associated Press, appear to soften the gravity of the bureau’s findings.
Comey, for instance, initially wrote that the FBI believed that Clinton and her aides were “grossly negligent” in their handling of classified information, language also used in the relevant criminal statute. But the text was edited to say that they were “extremely careless” in using a private email server.
In addition, while Comey initially said it was “reasonably likely” that “hostile actors” had gained access to Clinton’s email server, the text was edited to say that such an intrusion was possible.
Though the FBI had not yet interviewed Clinton, then the Democratic candidate for president, FBI officials had already determined that criminal charges were probably not warranted and had begun thinking about how to present that conclusion to the public.
Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said he had obtained from the FBI the draft remarks in which Comey laid out the FBI’s basis for declining to recommend criminal charges against Clinton and her aides.
The document shows line-by-line edits, though it’s not clear who made them.
In a letter to the FBI, Johnson said edits to Comey’s original remarks “appear to change the tone and substance.” He asked the FBI who had made the edits.
The letter comes amid the disclosure of politically charged text messages sent by one of the agents on the case, Peter Strzok. Strzok, who was in the room as Clinton was interviewed, was later assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
He was removed from that team last summer following the discovery of negative text messages about Donald Trump and some that appeared to favor Clinton.