Judicial Watch on Thursday released new State Department documents that reveal for the first time that during the Clinton email investigation in 2016 the FBI convened a grand jury to investigate Hillary Clinton. According to a top FBI official, investigators were still unsuccessful in their attempts to obtain archived copies of Clinton’s old emails.
“The FBI…obtained grand jury subpoenas related to the Blackberry e-mail accounts, which produced no responsive materials, as the requested data was outside the retention time utilized by those providers,” FBI Assistant Director for the Counterintelligence Division E.W. Priestap wrote in a declaration filed Monday in federal court in Washington.
The FBI began its probe after it was discovered that Clinton had conducted official government business using an unsecured email server and email accounts while secretary of State. Her top aides and advisers, as well as former President Barack Obama, also used the non-“state.gov” email account to contact her and/or conduct official business. Clinton left office on February 1, 2013.
The documents include a declaration from Priestap, the supervisor of the agency’s investigation, stating that the former secretary of state was the subject of a grand jury investigation related to her BlackBerry email accounts.
The declaration was produced in response to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit seeking to force Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to take steps to “recover emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton” and other U.S. Department of State employees (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Rex Tillerson (No. 1:15-cv-00785)). The lawsuit was originally filed against then-Secretary of State John Kerry. The Trump State Department filing includes details of the agency’s continuing refusal to refer the Clinton email issue to the Justice Department, as the law requires.
In the filing Priestap declares under penalty of perjury that the FBI “obtained Grand Jury subpoenas related to the Blackberry e-mail accounts, which produced no responsive materials, as the requested data was outside the retention time utilized by those providers.”
Judicial Watch originally requested the documents pursuant to the Federal Records Act in the spring of 2015, suing former Secretary of State John Kerry on April 30 after the State Department failed to take action.
The new filing doesn’t make clear how extensive the use of the grand jury was in connection with the Clinton probe. It’s possible federal prosecutors issued the subpoena without any actual involvement by grand jurors.
Use of grand jury subpoenas — something lawyers call “mandatory process” — could have been a political cudgel for Republicans if known earlier, since that tool would indicate the investigation was criminal in nature and not simply an intelligence-focused security review, as Clinton aides often claimed.
“The FBI convened a grand jury to investigate Hillary Clinton in 2016. Why is this information being released only now?” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “And it is disturbing that the State Department, Justice Department and FBI are still trying to protect Hillary Clinton. President Trump needs to clean house at all these agencies.”