The FBI agent who was taken off Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election due to politically biased texts had previously changed wording in former FBI Director James Comey’s memo that cleared Hillary Clinton of mishandling classified information.
Peter Strzok, the agent who was dismissed from Mueller’s investigation and demoted to the FBI’s human relations division after it was discovered he exchanged pro-Clinton and anti-Hillary text messages with an FBI lawyer he was having an affair with, had previously headed up the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information on her private email server.
According to CNN, Strzok had changed language in a draft statement by Comey that said Clinton was “grossly negligent.”
Instead, Strzok said that Clinton and her team had been “extremely careless.”
While assembling the draft statement is a collaborative process, there is a significant difference between the original statement and Strzok’s change of it to “extremely careless.”
“Extremely careless” doesn’t exactly sound particularly laudatory when it comes to Clinton’s handling of classified email, but there aren’t federal statutes that punish people for anything specifically considered “extreme carelessness.”
“Gross negligence,” however, does have legal implications. In fact, that’s the legal bar (or one of them) authorities would need to meet to establish charges for mishandling classified information.
And, while the draft was a collaborative effort, Comey ended up using Strzok’s wording. If you’ve forgotten, check out the wording here (emphasis added):
“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said during the July 5, 2016, news conference in which he essentially exonerated Clinton of responsibility for her actions.
There’s no evidence that Comey would have leaned toward charging Clinton had Strzok not changed the wording; indeed, Comey and the administration seemed to have reached their conclusion regarding Clinton months earlier.
That said, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley had requested information about the wording change last month, although the Iowa Republican was not aware of the identity of the individual who changed the language.
Now that we know that it was Strzok, one question remains: Why was this individual put onto Robert Mueller’s team of legal experts investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election?
Even if Mueller believed him to be unbiased — and we’ll give the special counsel a brobdingnagian benefit of the doubt here — Strzok clearly had a conflict of interest by working on the Hillary email investigation and influencing the final draft of Comey’s statement on it.
Yet, Strzok was put onto the investigation in spite of this. And, weeks later, he was taken off of it because of the fact that he was a hyperpartisan adulterer who couldn’t keep his opinions to himself.
That Mueller, he sure knows how to pick ’em.
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