Please Read My Summary of the Comey Investigation

Attorney General William Barr.Ron Sachs/CNP via ZUMA

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I’ll get tired of this eventually, but this is my daily reminder that we have no idea what’s really in the Mueller report. All we know is the little that Attorney General Barr decided to share with us. In case you’re wondering just how misleading Barr’s summary might be, while staying entirely truthful, I’ve written my own brief summary of the statement James Comey made at the end of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Here it is:

As part of this investigation, the FBI gathered over 30,000 emails sent and received by Secretary Clinton using her private server. A “very small number” were marked classified at the time they were sent, all at low levels of classification. However, new agency reviews undertaken specifically for this investigation suggest that, in retrospect, an additional hundred of those 30,000 should have been considered classified at various levels at the time they were sent. FBI Director Comey determined that Secretary Clinton and her staff should not have transmitted those emails over an unclassified system and that they were careless to do so.

Director Comey’s report says it is possible that Secretary Clinton’s email server was hacked, but they found no evidence that this happened. Additionally, although the investigation uncovered some emails that had not been turned over to the State Department by Secretary Clinton, “we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related e-mails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.”

Director Comey said the FBI did not believe that Secretary Clinton or her staff intended to violate any classification laws. Director Comey recommended that no charges be filed, a judgment with which I concur. His report concludes that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

Comey’s full statement is here. Go ahead and compare. My summary is accurate and truthful, but it conspicuously omits some of the sentences that were most damaging to Clinton. For example:

  • “From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent.”
  • “There is evidence that [Clinton and her colleagues] were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
  • “For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received….There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.”
  • “To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.”

I wrote this summary quickly, but I think it’s the kind of thing that could be defended as fair even as it emphasizes the good news and downplays the most damaging news. Likewise, my guess is that if and when we ever see the actual Mueller report, we’ll find plenty of statements that are extremely damaging to President Trump but that never found their way into Barr’s summary.

At this point, though, it’s looking like we’ll never see Mueller’s actual words. That’s bad for you and me, but good for Trump.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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