The FBI hasn’t traded any correspondence with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton or her representatives in the course of the law enforcement agency’s “active, ongoing investigation” of the private email account and server she used as Secretary of State, an FBI official told a federal court on Friday.
Responding to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for FBI records about the probe, which is believed to have been underway for about nine months, FBI records official David Hardy said his agency had only a smattering of correspondence with the State Department about the matter and no records at all of authorizations to discuss the Clinton email inquiry with the media or other outside parties.
The suit, filed by Vice News reporter Jason Leopold, also sought copies of all emails and other files the FBI has managed to retrieve from Clinton’s server and back-up devices such as thumb drives. The FBI appeared to acknowledge that some such records exist, but said releasing them at this time could impair the probe.
“Any records responsive [to that request] still cannot be disclosed without adversely affecting the pending investigation,” Hardy said in a written declaration. The FBI official said he was limited in what he could say publicly about the inquiry, but that the agency was submitting a classified declaration to U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss with more details about the probe.
“The investigation at issue here is being conducted under the FBI’s assigned law enforcement authorities and in accordance therewith,” Hardy wrote. “FBI Director James Comey stated before the House Judiciary Committee on October 22, 2015, that the FBI received and ‘is working on a referral [from] Inspectors General in connection with former Secretary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. Beyond Director Comey’s acknowledgement of the security referral from the Inspectors General of the Intelligence Community and the Department of State, the FBI has not and cannot publicly acknowledged the specific focus, scope, or potential targets of any such investigation without adversely affecting the investigation.”
Hardy also said the records on Clinton’s server equipment and thumb drives “are potential evidence in the FBI’s investigation or may provide leads to or context for potential evidence.”
Of course, the lack of correspondence between Clinton representatives and the FBI and the limited records of such exchanges with State doesn’t paint a full picture of the contacts involved if they took place in person or by telephone. Clinton lawyer David Kendall has publicly acknowledged that he received a request from the Justice Department for thumb drives containing some of Clinton’s emails last July and turned them over soon thereafter. They’re now believed to be in the custody of the FBI.
However, a FOIA request to the FBI would not necessarily produce correspondence between Justice Department attorneys and the Clinton camp.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said earlier this month on MSNBC that Clinton offered last August to answer the FBI’s questions about the matter and she remained “more than willing to” do so, but the FBI had not yet taken her up on that offer. Fallon did not immediately respond to a request Saturday for an update on that issue.
Leopold’s FOIA suit for the Clinton server contents and related FBI records is separate from an earlier suit that led to monthly disclosure of about 30,000 emails Clinton returned to the State Department in late 2014 at its request.
UPDATE (Saturday, 3:03 P.M.): This post has been updated to clarify that Kendall said he turned over the thumb drives to the Justice Department.
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