Senate investigators revealed that senior FBI officials had seemed “dismissive” of intelligence reports suggesting that Hillary Clinton’s non-government email server had been hacked by a foreign power.
Republican senators highlighted the information in a letter and interview transcripts sent to Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and other Senate Republicans on Wednesday, noting that FBI leaders “seemed indifferent to evidence of a possible intrusion by a foreign adversary” into Clinton’s emails.
The report by the majority staff on the Senate Finance and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees also indicated that interviews conducted “raise particular concerns that senior State Department officials sought to downgrade classified material found on the server.”
“Neither the committees nor the FBI were able to confirm whether an intrusion into the server occurred,” the letter also stated, noting that the review began following the publication of news articles in 2018 which “alleged that a Chinese state-owned company hacked former Secretary Clinton’s non-government server and inserted code that forwarded nearly all of her emails to the foreign company.”
Employees of the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General who discovered the abnormality in Clinton’s emails were concerned enough to immediately take the information to the FBI in late 2015.
“The reporting indicated that two Intelligence Community Inspector General [ICIG] officials – Frank Rucker and Jeanette McMillian – discovered the code and brought the possible intrusion to the attention of the FBI,” the letter to Grassley read.
Senate investigators interviewed Rucker in December 2018 and were told that he spoke with agent Peter Strzok, the anti-Trump official who, at the time, was overseeing the Clinton investigation as deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division.
Strzok seemed “aloof and dismissive,” Rucker revealed, according to the report.
“He was not very warm” and “didn’t ask many questions,” he said, adding that they never heard from the FBI again after delivering the concerns.
“He seemed nonplussed by the info and he didn’t ask any follow-up questions,” the report indicated, and FBI employees were “poker-faced” during the meeting, according to McMillian.
Rucker had apparently identified an email address in Clinton’s data that seemed to link to a Chinese company, “Shandong Carter Heavy Industry Machinery,” and that the company could be sending Clinton’s emails to another party, though none of that could be verified.
Senate investigators were unable to verify that Clinton’s server had been hacked, or that the Chinese company had any part to play. ICIG officials and the Justice Department IG said they “did not identify any information obtained by the FBI during the [Clinton email] Midyear investigation reflecting that Combetta’s dummy email account was associated with a Chinese company or the Chinese government.”
The letter to Grassley also pointed out that Rucker and McMillian provided details on reports that the State Department tried to protect Clinton by downgrading her emails’ classification.
“At first, State fought back against the intelligence community being involved,” McMillian told investigators during an interview, adding that they “eventually agreed.”
Both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency had “significant equities” in Clinton’s emails, according to McMillan.
“Also, during the interview, Mr. Rucker stated that he was told that two State Department employees, Austin Evers and Catherine Duval, took steps to downgrade classified emails by arguing that they should be withheld from disclosure for deliberative process reasons, rather than classification reasons, under the Freedom of Information Act,” the report stated.
Rucker also “observed” then-Ambassador Patrick Kennedy questioning “whether certain emails should be provided to the intelligence community for review and fighting against classifying other emails.”
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