FBI chief James Comey overstated a key finding in the investigation of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails during testimony to Congress last week, officials familiar with the inquiry said Tuesday.
They said Comey erred when he told a congressional investigative panel that a Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, had sent “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton’s emails from the 2009 to 2013 period she was the U.S. secretary of state to Abedin’s estranged husband, disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner. The actual number was far less, the officials said.
Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the top U.S. law enforcement agency, played a pivotal role in last year’s U.S. presidential election, in which real estate mogul Donald Trump defeated Clinton.
Comey last July said Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of national security emails while she was the country’s top diplomat, but that no criminal charges were warranted.
Then, in late October, just before the election, Comey said he was reopening the investigation because the FBI had discovered the Clinton emails on Weiner’s computer.
Clinton last week blamed Comey’s reopened probe so close to Election Day on November 8 as one of the reasons she lost the election. Two days ahead of the election, the FBI director said that after investigators reviewed the new batch of emails it had found nothing new and upheld its original finding that no criminal charges should be filed against Clinton.
At a Senate hearing last week, Comey said, “Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information. His then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of state.”
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At another point, Comey testified that Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain classified information.’’
The officials familiar with the inquiry said that neither statement was accurate, with Abedin only occasionally forwarding material to her husband to be printed out to give to Clinton and that the number of emails was far smaller than Comey said.
It was not immediately clear whether or how Comey might correct his testimony.
The FBI director testified at the hearing that he feels “mildly nauseous” about the chance that his actions played a role in the outcome of the election. But he testified that he still feels justified in notifying Congress of his reopening of the email probe because he had told lawmakers earlier that he would do so if circumstances changed when he ended the first investigation months before.