Comey Chief Of Staff Who Worked On Clinton Exoneration, Quits FBI One Week After Congressional Testimony

FBI Director Chris Wray will be replacing his chief of staff over the next few weeks - one week after he testified before House committees in their ongoing probes into the bureau's conduct while investigating Hillary Clinton's email case, several sources told CNN on Tuesday. 

aa
James Rybicki

James Rybicki - who also served as James Comey's chief of staff, will be replaced by white-collar lawyer, Zachary Harmon, according to the sources.

"Jim Rybicki notified me last month that he will be leaving the FBI to accept an opportunity in the corporate sector," said Director Wray, adding "While this is an exciting move for the whole Rybicki family, Jim will be dearly missed by the FBI family -- and by me personally. His many years of dedication to the Bureau and (Justice Department), his level-headed judgment and earnest professionalism, and his steady good cheer have been an asset to us all and have contributed greatly to the safety and security of our nation."

Congressional investigators questioned Rybicki over how the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation last week, according to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), however the closed-door questions were likely designed to avoid overlapping with special counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation. 

Congressional Republicans had sought Rybicki's testimony for months on the hope that he can provide key information supportive of President Trump's decision to fire James Comey, while Democrats have called the GOP investigation an effort to undermine the ongoing Mueller probe. 

Last fall, Senate Republicans released a partial transcript of an interview with two FBI officials - one of whom Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Graham (R-SC) believe to be Rybicki. During the interview, investigators were told that Comey decided in early May 2016 to draft his exoneration of Hillary Clinton.  

Rybicki, as it turns out, was involved at some level in the crafting of Hillary Clinton's exoneration - which downgraded Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified information and use of a private server from the legally consequential phrase "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless" - not a legal term of art.

And as we noted in December, the edits to former FBI Director James Comey's original draft went far beyond what was previously known, as detailed in a letter from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) to FBI Director Christopher Wray, which revealed specific edits made by senior FBI agents to Comey's draft after Deputy Director Andrew McCabe exchanged drafts of Comey's statement with senior FBI officials, including Peter Strzok, Strzok's direct supervisor, E.W. "Bill" Priestap, Jonathan Moffa, and an unnamed employee from the Office of General Counsel (identified by Newsweek as DOJ Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson) - in what would ultimately decriminalize Clinton's conduct, allowing them to recommend against prosecuting then-candidate Hillary Clinton. 

FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and was removed from the Mueller probe after an internal investigation found a trove of anti-Trump text messages between Strzok and his mistress, Lisa Page while they were both investigating Hillary Clinton's email case. 

Last year, the Justice Department sought to block Rybicki from appearing before Congress - defying requests from Senate Judiciary heads Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who were willing to keep the testimony to matters outside the scope of Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation. 

The DOJ refused, “consistent with the Department’s long-standing policy regarding the confidentiality and sensitivity of information relating to pending matters" - pointing to the "confidentiality and sensitivity of information relating to pending matters," as well as the ongoing Mueller investigation.

Tarmac Meeting

Rybicki was also involved in the aftermath of the infamous June 27, 2016 "tarmac" meeting in Phoenix between Bill Clinton and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch - which happened six days before James Comey's exoneration statement. After the press was tipped off to the clandestine meetup, the FBI engaged in a furious scramble to figure out who leaked word of their sitdown. 

Lynch had previously said the meeting was ‘unscheduled’ - described it as an ‘ambush,’ and said that she ‘wouldn’t do it again.’ 

And in emails obtained by the ACLJ, we learned that Jim Rybicki was involved in the FBI's damage control efforts. 

Per the ACLJ:

On July 1, 2016 – just days before our FOIA request – a DOJ email chain under the subject line, “FBI just called,” indicates that the “FBI . . . is looking for guidance” in responding to media inquiries about news reports that the FBI had prevented the press from taking pictures of the Clinton Lynch meeting. The discussion then went off email to several phone calls (of which we are not able to obtain records). An hour later, Carolyn Pokomy of the Office of the Attorney General stated, “I will let Rybicki know.” Jim Rybicki was the Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to FBI Director Jim Comey. The information that was to be provided to Rybicki is redacted.

And with that, a swamp creature who would have been central to the FBI's "secret society" assembled to undermine Donald Trump appears to have been sent down the drain into corporate employment.