To aid the developing investigation of fired FBI chief James Comey’s conversations with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others, a federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to save and protect any relevant personal emails.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly came in an effort by Washington watchdog Judicial Watch to obtain records regarding Comey’s discussions with “Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Senator Chuck Schumer, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Senator John McCain.”
The decision came in a lawsuit that followed requests by Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller News Foundation for the records.
The judge wrote, “In order to avoid any possible issues later in this litigation, the court will grant plaintiff’s motion [for the protective order].
“Defendant is ordered to take all necessary and reasonable steps to ensure that any records that are potentially responsive to either of the plaintiffs’ FOIA requests located on former Director Comey’s personal email account are preserved.”
The judge said she’s not taking any position on whether any of the records will be significant, nor is she expressing any concern that “defendant or director Comey would lose or purposefully destroy responsive records.”
But she said the order “does not appear to burden defendant, and it will limit the possibility that the retention of these records, should they exist, might create a dispute at a later stage of this case.”
“The FBI has been playing shell games with Comey’s records and other records, so we’re pleased the court issued this preservation order,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This preservation order helps to ensures no Comey records are going to be lost or destroyed. We expect the DOJ to take immediate steps to make sure the records are preserved, as the court ordered.”
Judicial Watch noted the court is allowing the DOJ until Sept. 28 to complete its review and release of any responsive and non-exempt records.
The organization had argued “there is reason to be concerned that the responsive records could be lost or destroyed.”
After all, Judicial Watch pointed out, in June 2018, the DOJ’s inspector general stated, “We identified numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account (a Gmail account) to conduct FBI business.”
Comey is fully involved in a number of the ongoing scandals in Washington. He was the overseer of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, determining the case should not be referred for prosecution despite finding the former secretary of state was “extremely careless” with classified information.
But Comey himself is under investigation for allegedly mishandling classified information, according to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Horowitz spoke to Congress along with FBI Director Christopher Wray for the first time last month since the release of his report on the DOJ’s and the FBI’s investigation of Hillary’s mishandling of classified information. He said Comey was being investigated for the leaking of memos he wrote about his private meetings with President Trump. Comey has testified to Congress that he released the memos with the objective of triggering a special counsel investigation.
Horowitz said the inspector general’s office received a referral on the matter from the FBI.
“We are handling that referral and we will issue a report when the matter is complete, consistent with the law and rules that are — a report that’s consistent and takes those into account,” Horowitz said.
The inspector general also told a congressional hearing that, according to testimony, Comey was concerned about his “survivability” as FBI director when he took certain steps during the 2016 election campaign regarding the Clinton probe.
“Do you think Mr. Comey, expecting Ms. Clinton to win the presidency, was thinking about his future as the FBI director?” asked Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“I think that was a concern we had,” Horowitz said, stating the evidence was “even clearer” when Comey revealed on Oct. 28, 2016, the discovery on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner of new emails related to the probe then three days before the election announced they contained no new discoveries of classified information. Judicial Watch later found 18 classified emails were on the laptop, and the IG report concluded the email discovery should have been reported to Congress a month earlier.
“We have testimony indicating when [Comey] explained through his chief of staff why he was going to do what he did on October 28, he was concerned about his survivability,” Horowitz said.
As WND also reported, the inspector general concluded Comey was “insubordinate” and “deviated” from FBI and Justice Department procedures in his oversight of the Clinton email investigation but did not find that he was motivated by political bias. However, the report also revealed a newly discovered Aug. 8, 2016, text exchange between the lead investigator in both the Clinton and Russia-collusion probes, Peter Strzok, showing he was determined to “stop” Trump from winning the election.
Last month, the White House announced the national security clearances for Comey, former CIA director John Brennan and former DNI James Clapper were under review.