As the credibility of the FBI continues to dwindle away over it's handling of the Hillary email investigation, FBI Director James Comey is back on the Hill today to explain why he was "handing out immunity agreements like candy." Comey has come under consistent attack recently from members of the House Oversight Committee who have alleged political bias in an investigation that granted immunity to 5 of Hillary's top aides and IT professionals while seemingly receiving minimal cooperation in return. A full video of Comey's testimony can be viewed on C-Span.
Allegations of impropriety were exacerbated by the FBI's decision to, not once but twice, dump information on the media late on a Friday afternoon in an obvious attempt to "bury the story." The latest 189-page, Friday afternoon document dump included, among other things, new revelations that Hillary maintained a gmail account while Secretary of State and that Obama, after previously denying knowledge of Hillary's private server, actually communicated with her on that server using a pseudonym.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI usually only “proffers” immunity deals in return for genuine information and requirements that the recipients cooperate with other investigating bodies, such as Congress. That said, in this specific case its unclear what the FBI received in return for their immunity deals other than what they could have otherwise taken with a subpoena. As Jim Jordan (R-OH) said, “if the FBI wanted any other Americans’ laptops, they would just go get them—they wouldn’t get an immunity deal." But, of course, by offering immunity, the FBI exempted the laptops and their emails as potential evidence in a criminal case.
But, Comey says that granting immunity deals was a much faster way to gather evidence as the alternative was to get a grand jury to subpoena the laptop, which he said could have ignited a years long legal fight because Mills was also acting as Hillary’s attorney. Per the Washington Times:
“The FBI judgment was we need to get to that laptop. We need to see what it is,” he said. “This investigation’s been going on for a year. And this was, in the negotiation, a tool that her lawyer asked for, that the Department of Justice granted so we could get the laptop.”
Others offered immunity included Bryan Pagliano, the Clinton campaign staffer whom she brought over to the State Department to operate the private server; Heather Samuelson, another of Mrs. Clinton’s attorneys and a former State Department employee; John Bentel, a former information technology official at the State Department; and Paul Combetta, an employee at Platte River Networks, the firm Mrs. Clinton hired to handle her server in its final days before wiping it clean.
Mr. Comey said the bureau offered immunity to Mr. Combetta to try to find out whether he was ordered to be part of a cover-up and found no evidence to back that up.
“The department granted immunity to the one fellow who erased the stuff so that we could figure out, did anybody tell you to do this, did anybody ask you do this, to see if we could make an obstruction case — we couldn’t,” he said.
Apparently, the following email from an "Undisclosed PRN Staff Member" referring to the "the Hillary coverup operation" was not quite enough to convince the FBI of a "coverup." Per the FBI notes:
Beth Wilkinson, the attorney representing Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, said the immunity deals were designed to protect her clients against any related “classification” disputes. Meanwhile, Comey also allowed Mills and Samuelson to serve as lawyers for Hillary at her FBI interview—despite having been interviewed as witnesses and offered immunity.
Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, ticked off a number of cases he said were similar to Mrs. Clinton’s in which a prosecution was launched.
“My concern when all is said and done with what Secretary Clinton did is that by not prosecuting anybody in this case we really do signal that we have a two-tiered justice system here,” he said. “And what is that going do in terms of other people that are charged with responsibility, properly handling classified information?”
What a disaster...but one more Congressional hearing should clear it all up.