Comments made by then-President Barak Obama that suggested that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server did not pose a national security risk caused great concern among FBI agents, a newly released report by the Department of Justice’s inspector general reveals.
The report cites the responses of FBI agents to the statements Obama made during an Oct. 11, 2015, interview on “60 Minutes,” in which he said that Clinton’s use of a private email server was a “mistake” but that it did not “pose a national security problem.”
“Former President Obama’s comments caused concern among FBI officials about the potential impact on the investigation,” the inspector general writes in his report.
It cites former Executive Assistant FBI Director John Giacalone as saying: “We open up criminal investigations. And you have the president of the United States saying this is just a mistake. … That’s a problem, right?”
Former Assistant Director Randy Coleman told the IG: “[The FBI had] a group of guys in here, professionals, that are conducting an investigation. And the … president of the United States just came out and said there’s no there there.”
Obama’s comments were considered especially problematic since Hillary Clinton at that time was running to succeed him as president.
The FBI officials were also concerned about statements by Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, who said on Jan. 29, 2016, that the DOJ had told the White House that Clinton was not the target of the investigation.
“What I know that some officials over there have said is that she is not a target of the investigation,” Earnest told reporters.
The statement prompted the DOJ to demand an explanation from the White House. In response, Earnest told Melanie Newman, the director of the Department’s Office of Public Affairs, that he had made the comments based on news stories, not based on conversations with the department.
At that point, the damage had been done already, as Earnest had spread the false information to reporters, without issuing a correction.