Republicans are raising questions about the FBI's initial investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state as a new report emerges stating the agency never asked Clinton's senior aides to turn over their computers and smartphones.
"No one was asked for devices by the FBI," an unnamed source told Politico Tuesday.
The bureau's decision not to demand all of the aides' devices left prosecutors at least partially dependent on the Clinton staffers' attorneys — who were looking out for their clients' best interest — and their judgement regarding which emails were work-related and might contain classified information.
In light of this latest revelation, many Republicans are wondering why the FBI was not more thorough in its probe of Clinton's email practices, reinforcing the belief that the federal agency and prosecutors handled Clinton and her closest aides with kid gloves during the investigation.
"The more we learn about the FBI’s initial investigation into Secretary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server, the more questions we have about the thoroughness of the investigation and the administration’s conclusion to not prosecute her for mishandling classified information," Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday in a statement.
And Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, argued in a letter Monday that the FBI did not employ traditional investigatory practices during its Clinton probe:
If the FBI is denied the ability to gather evidence through compulsory means, Secretary Clinton and her aides have enormous leverage to negotiate extraordinary concessions in exchange for voluntary cooperation. It is critical for the public to know whether the FBI has requested from the Justice Department vital investigative tools such as grand jury subpoenas and search warrants and whether it has been denied access to them.
One potential reason for the apparent overlook is the the FBI was focused solely on Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure at the State Department, and not the practices of those around her — even her closest aides.
In a July statement about the investigation, when he announced he was recommending no charges against Clinton, FBI Director James Comey outlined the meticulousness of the investigation:
Secretary Clinton used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department, and used numerous mobile devices to view and send email on that personal domain. As new servers and equipment were employed, older servers were taken out of service, stored, and decommissioned in various ways. Piecing all of that back together—to gain as full an understanding as possible of the ways in which personal email was used for government work — has been a painstaking undertaking, requiring thousands of hours of effort.
When he testified before Congress in September about the FBI's procedures during the investigation, Comey seemed to suggest that by working through the aides' lawyers instead of seizing their devices, the probe moved quicker. "In general, in my experience, you can often do things faster with informal agreements, especially when you're interacting with lawyers," he said.
News about the FBI's decision regarding the staffers' technology comes on the heels of the agency's decision to review its prior investigation into Clinton. Comey decided to act after a probe into disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner's sexting scandal unearthed thousands of newly-discovered emails that may be pertinent to the Clinton investigation.