Clinton Files comes again – The FBI unexpectedly released 129 pages of documents related to an investigation closed without charges in 2005 into President Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, a wealthy Democratic donor’s husband.
The file was posted online Monday but received little attention until the FBI noted it in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon.
This time part of ‘Clinton Files’ is not Hillary Clinton but her husband. It comes as Director James Comey faces fire from Democrats and even some Republicans for releasing information about a renewed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of e-mail.
According to News Week: The timing of the document dump—just seven days before the election—is giving fodder to critics of FBI Director James Comey. While the Clinton campaign has not released a formal statement about these documents from the winter of 2001, Brian Fallon, a Clinton spokesman tweeted: “Absent a FOIA litigation deadline, this is odd. Will FBI be posting docs on Trump’s housing discrimination in ’70s?”
Comey is “acting like he’s trying to throw the election,” says Steve Ryan, a prosecutor in Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department who worked on organized crime, referring to the FBI director’s “trifecta”—comments about the Hillary Clinton email probe over the summer; his letter last week announcing new evidence related to that case; and now this out-of-the-blue FBI document dump.
“It looks worse and worse each day. He’s out of his swim lane.… There’s no precedent for this. I think it’s the most troubling thing I’ve seen out of law enforcement,” he adds. Ryan notes that he is a Hillary Clinton donor, but a number of Republicans have criticized Comey as well, including Larry Thompson, the deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush.
As for the documents, they contain almost no previously unreleased information, with the exception of several pages that refer to seized property—apparently as evidence—including, intriguingly, “one cellophane containing” and “one red rope containing.”
The documents are so heavily redacted it is impossible to tell what the cellophane or red rope “contained” or what, if anything, they have to do with Rich’s pardon.
Jill Farrell, a spokeswoman for the right-wing watchdog group Judicial Watch, which has been leading efforts to expose Hillary Clinton’s email habits and the FBI’s investigation by filing Freedom of Information Act requests and civil lawsuits against the government, said the latest document drop was not in response to any of its requests. “Tangentially, but not directly for these ones. We’ve certainly been after this information and are glad they finally coughed it up,” she says.
Judicial Watch is funded by the Sarah Scaife Foundation. Scaife’s late son, Richard Mellon Scaife, financed many of the outside investigations into Bill Clinton’s financial and alleged extramarital affairs during the 1990s. The two men made peace before Scaife died, though, and Clinton spoke at Scaife’s funeral.
The Clinton campaign has been warring with Comey since he sent a letter to Congress last week informing key committee members that the agency had found new documents pertaining to the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Later, news reports revealed that the documents were on the computer of Anthony Weiner, the former congressman who is being investigated for allegedly lewd contacts with an underage girl. His wife, Huma Abedin, is a longtime aide to the Democratic presidential nominee. Abedin’s lawyer, Karen Dunn, issued a statement on Monday saying that she was fully cooperating with federal authorities.
The FBI has said it has begun to examine Weiner’s computer, but no one is expecting it to finish inspecting the device, let alone assessing whether anything on the machine is there in violation of the law, before Election Day, November 8.
These 15-year-old documents from the Marc Rich pardon case don’t seem to bear any relation to the current investigation. They were released on the website where the bureau makes documents available to those who have filed FOIA requests.
Adding to the weirdness of the documents was the way they were announced on Twitter. The account, @FBIRecordsVault, had been dormant for over a year. Then at 4:00 AM on Sunday, 20 new postings were announced in a single tweetstorm including one about records for Fred C. Trump, the Republican nominee’s late father. On Monday, the site heralded the arrival of the Marc Rich documents, putting them under the heading of “William J. Clinton Foundation” although the connection between the foundation and the Rich pardon is unclear from an examination of the heavily redacted files.
The probe was being conducted by the “Public Corruption Unit,” according to the documents, which say that “donations may have been intended to influence the fugitive’s pardon.”
The documents are reminders of the long and often intertwining careers of many of the participants here. It was Comey who replaced Clinton’s U.S. attorney for the Southern District, and it ended on his watch. (Comey was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, or AUSA, in that office during Clinton’s last term in office.) The case against Rich, who was found guilty of selling goods to Iran, as well as violating embargos with Libya and North Korea, was brought in 1983 by then-U.S.
Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who went on to become mayor of New York City and is now a prominent supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential bid. The point man at the Justice Department for the pardons was Eric Holder, who dealt with the White House which sidestepped the DOJ’s usual elaborate procedures for reviewing pardons. He was the deputy attorney general at the time and would be appointed attorney general by President Barack Obama in 2009. Marc Rich died in 2013.