As reported moments ago, in what appears to have been a surprise release, the FBI's Vault twitter account released 129 pages of files related to the FBI's 2001 probe into Bill Clinton's 2001 pardon of Marc Rich.
And while NBC reported that the files were released as part of a normal subpoena, the increasingly paranoid (not without reason) Clinton campaign - and many others - immediately had questions. According to Politico, "Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign raised questions about the timing of the FBI’s release Tuesday of records on a 15-year-old investigation into President Bill Clinton’s pardon to fugitive financier Marc Rich."
The FBI posted the 129 pages of records in its online Freedom of Information Act reading room in apparent response to a FOIA request seeking information on FBI inquiries into the Clinton Foundation. On the website, the release was dated Monday, but an FBI Twitter account flagged the new posting at noon on Tuesday.
As Politico adds, the Clinton campaign, which is already at odds with FBI Director James Comey over his disclosure of new evidence in the Clinton email probe, immediately questioned why Clinton-related records were being released just a week before the election.
“Absent a FOIA litigation deadline, this is odd. Will FBI be posting docs on Trump’s housing discrimination in ’70s?” Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon asked on Twitter.
Absent a FOIA litigation deadline, this is odd.— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) November 1, 2016
Will FBI be posting docs on Trump's housing discrimination in '70s?https://t.co/uJMMzX6rtI
When reached by Politico, spokespeople for the FBI and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to questions about whether there were any lawsuits seeking the newly posted material or whether a judge had set a deadline for its disclosure.
Despite the lack of major revelations in the documents, which constitute only a part of the FBI’s files on the inquiry, the atmospherics in the records are unhelpful to the Clinton campaign. The records repeatedly refer to the probe being handled by the “Public Corruption Unit” and make clear that the FBI was examining claims that Denise Rich’s Democratic Party “donations may have been intended to influence the fugitive’s pardon.”
“It appears that the required pardon standards and procedures were not followed,” the internal FBI memos said.
Indeed, the request for a pardon for Marc Rich and his business partner, Pincus Green, did not go through normal channels at the Justice Department but was sent directly to the White House. However, presidents are free to grant executive clemency outside the Justice Department channel and many presidents have done so.
The investigation was eventually handed off to Comey, who was White's successor as U.S. attorney. Comey elected not to seek any charges in the case.
So purely a coincidence? Or an internal message sent from FBI staffers, and if so addressed to whom: Clinton or Comey?
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For those who missed it, this is what we reported previously on the mysterious appearance of the 129-page, heavily redacted FBI document:
FBI Unexpectedly Releases Documents Related To 2001 Probe Into Clinton Foundation
Update: According to NBC's Tom Winter, the FBI Vault twitter account "released all files pertaining to Donald Trump's father, Fred Trump, a few weeks ago. That was response to FOIA" and adds that "the release of WJC FBI files was sent by the FOIA office under normal guidelines. A proper requested was made -Pete Williams rpts.... The account, @FBIRecordsVault started tweeting several days ago after not tweeting for a year. The first tweet.... about Fred Trump's files." And now, it is tweeting about the Clinton Foundation.
NBC News: The release of WJC FBI files was sent by the FOIA office under normal guidelines. A proper requested was made -Pete Williams rpts.— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) November 1, 2016
And then, the following choice piece: "the young federal prosecutor who ultimately decided not to charge Clinton or anyone else in "pardongate"... James Comey."
Is it time for Comey to come clean?
And the young federal prosecutor who ultimately decided not to charge Clinton or anyone else in "pardongate"... James Comey. https://t.co/1bTnFvmH9K— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) November 1, 2016
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In what appears to be an unexpected, and very surprising, disclosure, moments ago the FBI released 129 pages of heavily redacted records from its 15-year-old investigation into the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton's 11th hour pardon of financier Marc Rich (less than a week before the election).
William J. Clinton Foundation: This initial release consists of material from the FBI's files related to the Will... https://t.co/Y4nz3aRSmG— FBI Records Vault (@FBIRecordsVault) November 1, 2016
According to the FBI, "this initial release consists of material from the FBI's files related to the William J. Clinton Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The bulk of these records come from a 2001 FBI investigation into the pardon of Marc Rich (1934-2013), aka Marcell David Reich, by President Clinton in 2001; it was closed in 2005. The material is heavily redacted due to personal privacy protections and grand jury secrecy rules."
The commentariat is, in a word, shocked by what this symbolic, and impromptu release means, with some wondering if it is payback for Clinton’s blasting of the FBI.
A cookie for anyone who can offer a cogent defense of the timing here. https://t.co/paRuAQePTf— Dara Lind (@DLind) November 1, 2016
Some are even calling it the first November surprise:
November surprise https://t.co/F3aTy1IEoe— Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) November 1, 2016
As the Washington Examiner notes, it was not immediately clear what prompted the FBI to publish the files Tuesday. However, the bureau posted the documents on the section of its website dedicated to records released through the Freedom of Information Act.
Is this the FBI engaging in a covert mutiny against the Clintons and the political affiliated Department of Justice? We hope to find out soon.
The full document is shown below: