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The FBI agent who set off the reopening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation in 2016 revealed he had “deep misgivings” about how the agency was handling his discovery of thousands of new messages.
An FBI sex crimes investigator’s search of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop led to the discovery of hundreds of thousands of emails between his wife at the time, Huma Abedin, and her boss, then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A newly published book revealed that Special Agent John Robertson was worried when he heard “crickets” from his supervisors after he flagged the find just two months before the election.
Robertson claimed the FBI did nothing after his initial reporting of the find, leaving him worried that he would become the “scapegoat,” according to the new book “October Surprise: How the FBI Tried to Save Itself and Crashed an Election” by Washington Post reporter Devlin Barrett.
As part of his investigation of Weiner’s communications with a 15-year-old girl, Robertson was searching the laptop computer when he discovered about 600,000 emails from Abedin, including many directed to or coming from Clinton. Weiner was later convicted on charges of transmitting sexual material to a minor but at the time of Robertson’s investigation in September 2016, the discovery of the Clinton emails set off a tense and confusing period of silence from the agent’s supervisors, which alarmed him.
“The crickets I was hearing was really making me uncomfortable because something was going to come down,” Robertson reportedly told internal investigators later, according to the book.
Former FBI Director James Comey had closed the investigation into Clinton’s email server in July with no criminal charges, but it would be reopened on October 28, days before the 2016 election, after Robertson’s concerns ended up being related to the US Attorney’s office.
The FBI had seized Weiner’s computer over the sexting allegations, and Robertson was tasked with investigating its contents for related material. Though he found Abedin’s emails with Clinton, he was unable to investigate them further because of the limits of the warrant issued. So he alerted his supervisors and waited, but nothing happened.
“Why isn’t anybody here? Like if I’m the supervisor of any (counterintelligence) squad … and I hear about this, I’m getting on with headquarters and saying ”hey some agent working child porn here may have (Hillary Clinton) emails. Get your a– on the phone, call (the case agent) and get a copy of that drive,’ because that’s how it should be,” he said, according to the book excerpt.
“And that nobody reached out to me within, like, that night, I still to this day don’t understand what the hell went wrong,” Robertson added.
The book recounts that Robertson hoped prosecutors in Weiner’s case, Amanda Kramer and Stephanie Lake at the office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, could “kick some of these lazy FBI folks in the butt and get them moving.”
He reportedly told Kramer directly on October 19 that he was “a little scared” as he had heard nothing back about his find and Comey had testified that the FBI had just 30,000 of Clinton’s emails, which was no longer true.
“I don’t care who wins this election, but this is going to make us look really, really horrible,” Robertson said.
According to “October Surprise,” the investigator had “told his bosses about the Clinton emails weeks ago. Nothing had happened.”
“Or rather, the only thing that had happened was his boss had instructed Robertson to erase his computer work station,” the book revealed. “Ostensibly, that was to ensure there was no classified material on it. But it also meant there was no record of what Robertson had done, or had not done, with the laptop information. He was starting to feel like he was going to be made a scapegoat, and he was freaking out. He had already talked to a lawyer.”
Robertson decided to email himself with details of the situation “should someone come looking.”
“I have very deep misgivings about the institutional response of the FBI to the congressional investigation into the Hillary Clinton email matter,” he wrote.
“However, I am not an institutional representative of the FBI. I do not have the authority (or competence, I suppose) to make determinations of this nature,” he added. “Put simply: I don’t believe the handling of the material I have by the FBI is ethically or morally right.”
After a reported intervention by the US Attorney’s office in New York, a week later and just days before the election, Comey informed Congress about the additional messages and that he was reopening the investigation of Clinton’s emails.
That investigation was closed again on November 6, but by then, as Clinton has maintained, the claims had cost her the election.