The FBI on Monday released early drafts of a statement that former director James Comey later released publicly in July 2016, when he recommended Clinton be exonerated in the probe of her emails as secretary of state. An email chain in the FBI document that begins on May 2 of that year appears to include a redacted draft of the statement, with Comey asking other bureau officials for “any comments on this statement.”
The dates of the email chain in the document suggest Comey had begun drafting his statement days before the investigation closed, about two months before he issued his formal recommendation, and before interviewing Clinton aides.
Some Republican members of Congress had accused Comey of prematurely drawing a conclusion before gathering all the facts.
Trump on Wednesday agreed wholeheartedly, and called on the Justice Department to investigate.
“As it has turned out, James Comey lied and leaked and totally protected Hillary Clinton,” the president tweeted. “He was the best thing that ever happened to her!”
Trump also implied Comey had already decided to exonerate Clinton before the FBI interviewed her on July 2, 2016. It’s impossible to tell from the FBI release when Comey made his final decision, as more than 50 pages in the document are blank due to redactions, as was the statement in the email chain.
Trump fired Comey in May, as the FBI director was leading an investigation into whether the president’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election.
Clinton, meanwhile, has blamed her election loss on Comey. He briefly reopened the email investigation after finding more emails in October, just days before the election.
“This was not necessary,” Clinton said this year. “He could’ve called me up, he could’ve called others involved up and said, ‘Hey, can we look at this new stuff just to make sure it’s stuff we had before?’”
This story has been updated to include more details about the FBI document.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated Trump was wrong in claiming Comey decided to exonerate Clinton before the FBI interviewed her. In fact, all the statements in the FBI document are redacted, making it impossible to determine from this release when Comey made any decision.