News & Politics

Report: FBI Still Hasn't Obtained a Warrant to View Abedin Emails

Hillary Clinton, followed by aide Huma Abedin, right, walks on the tarmac as she arrives to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on July 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Yahoo News is reporting that as of Saturday night, the FBI is still in negotiations with the Justice Department to obtain a warrant to view Huma Abedin’s emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop and iPhone.

FBI Director James Comey wrote in his letter to Congress on Friday that the emails were “pertinent” to their investigation despite the fact he and his agents had never seen the contents of the emails.

When FBI Director James Comey wrote his bombshell letter to Congress on Friday about newly discovered emails that were potentially “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, agents had not been able to review any of the material, because the bureau had not yet gotten a search warrant to read them, three government officials who have been briefed on the probe told Yahoo News.

At the time Comey wrote the letter, “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails,” one of the officials said, referring to recently discovered emails that were found on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly sending illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl.

As of Saturday night, the FBI was still in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and therefore was still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen.

“We do not have a warrant,” a senior law enforcement official said. “Discussions are under way [between the FBI and the Justice Department] as to the best way to move forward.”

That Comey and other senior FBI officials were not aware of what was in the emails — and whether they contained any material the FBI had not already obtained — is important because Donald Trump’s campaign and Republicans in Congress have suggested that the FBI director would not have written his letter unless he had been made aware of significant new emails that might justify reopening the investigation into the Clinton server.

But a message that Comey wrote to all FBI agents Friday seeking to explain his decision to write the controversial letter strongly hinted that investigators did not not yet have legal authority establishing “probable cause” to review the content of Abedin’s emails on Weiner’s electronic devices.

In that message, Comey told agents that he had only been briefed on Thursday about the matter and that the “recommendation” of investigators was “with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case.”

Comey approved the recommendation to seek judicial access to the material that day, he wrote.

“Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them,” he told agents.

So how did Comey know the emails were “pertinent” to congressional investigations without anyone at the FBI seeing them? One line of speculation involves the grand jury currently sitting in New York City deliberating whether to indict Anthony Weiner for sexting a 15-year-old girl. Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, had issued warrants for all of Weiner’s devices and may have stumbled across thousands of Abedin emails. Realizing that some of them were “pertinent” to the FBI investigation, he possibly gave the bureau a heads-up and turned the devices over to the Department of Justice. Agents, the speculation goes, then informed Comey last Thursday of the find, which led to Comey’s letter to Congress on Friday.

If Bharara’s office knows the contents of some of those emails, they aren’t saying.

I find it interesting that the bureau is “in talks” with the Justice Department about getting a warrant so they can view the emails. Is there resistance from DoJ to getting a warrant due to the publicized anger from officials at Comey’s letter to Congress?

It could be that Justice will trump up some reason why the FBI shouldn’t be able to view any of the emails until the criminal trial against Weiner is concluded. That would not only get back at Comey for his disobedience but also protect Hillary Clinton until after the election.

The wheels of justice are grinding slowly indeed.