NEW YORK — The Justice Department’s internal watchdog division documented in its report released today that the FBI’s criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her private email server never actually designated Clinton as a subject or target of the official probe.
This news comes even though former FBI Director James Comey described Clinton as the subject during his overview to the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which released its 500-page report today. The report also documented how Comey and former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe were highly involved in overseeing the probe.
The report quotes Randall Coleman, the former assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, as expressing shock that the FBI investigation remained designated as “unknown subject(s),” known within the FBI as UNSUB, even as it became clear the investigation started to focus on Clinton.
“We certainly started looking more closely at the Secretary because they were her emails,” Coleman told the Inspector General’s office. “I don’t know [why] that was the case, why it was UNSUB. I’m really shocked that it would have stayed that way because certainly the investigation started really kind of getting more focused.”
On July 10, 2015, the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division opened its criminal probe, but never named Clinton as a subject at any time.
The report states:
The Midyear investigation was opened with an “Unknown Subject(s) (UNSUB),” and at no time during the investigation was any individual identified by the FBI as a subject or target of the investigation, including former Secretary Clinton. FBI witnesses told us that the “UNSUB” designation is common and means that the FBI has not identified a specific target or subject at the outset of an investigation.
According to FBI witnesses, this allowed the FBI to expand the focus of the investigation based on the evidence without being “locked into a particular subject.” With respect to the Midyear investigation, witnesses told the OIG that the FBI did not identify anyone as a subject or target during the investigation because it was unclear how the classified material had been introduced to the server and who was responsible for improperly placing it there.
The failure to designate Clinton as the subject contrasts with statements from Comey, the report relates:
In his OIG interview, Comey described former Secretary Clinton as the subject of the Midyear investigation and stated that he was unaware that the investigation had an UNSUB designation. Similarly, in his book, Comey referred to former Secretary Clinton as the subject of the Midyear investigation, stating that one question the investigation sought to answer was what Clinton was thinking “when she mishandled that classified information.”
Besides never designating Clinton as a target, Comey famously minimized the criminal nature of the FBI investigation in his public remarks. In his memoir, Comey recounted how he relented when Attorney General Loretta Lynch convinced him to use the word “matter” instead of “investigation” during public comments about the Clinton probe. This despite the Justice Department knowing the FBI probe was not only an official investigation but a criminal investigation.
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