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Court releases search warrant in Clinton email probe

In the weeks since Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss, she, her campaign aides and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have argued that FBI Director James Comey’s pair of letters led to a fall-off in support that cost her the election. | Getty

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Search warrant filings made public for the first time Tuesday provide a new look at controversial actions the FBI took shortly before the presidential election as the law enforcement agency revived its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email set-up.

The warrant was issued by federal magistrate Kevin Fox in Manhattan on Oct. 30, after the FBI requested permission to search emails contained on a Dell Inspiron 15 7000 series laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The FBI discovered Clinton-related emails on the computer after initially seizing the device during a probe over Weiner’s alleged sexually explicit online exchanges with a minor.

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The court filings unsealed Tuesday show that the FBI told Fox that the laptop was likely to contain evidence of illegal possession of classified information, apparently by Weiner or Abedin, although neither has been charged with a crime.

“There is probable cause to believe that the Subject Laptop contains evidence, contraband, fruits, and/or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 793 (e) and (f),” an FBI agent wrote, citing a felony Espionage Act provisions for illegal possessions of classified information.

The records suggest Fox may have granted the warrant based exclusively on the FBI’s contention that in the earlier phase of the Clinton email investigation, “many emails” between Clinton and Abedin contained classified information, therefore emails between the pair from that same time period and suddenly discovered on Weiner’s laptop were likely to also contain classified information and be evidence of a crime.

“Given the information that there are thousands of [redacted] emails located on the Subject Laptop—including emails, during and around [redacted] from [redacted] account as well as a [redacted] account appearing to belong to [redacted]—and the regular emails correspondence between [redacted] and Clinton, there is probably cause to believe the subject contains correspondence between [redacted] and Clinton [redacted,]” wrote the FBI agent, whose named was deleted from the records made public Tuesday.

“Because it has been determined by relevant original classification authorities that many emails were exchanged between [redacted] using [redacted] and/or [redacted] accounts, and Clinton that contained classified information, there is also probable cause to believe that the correspondence between them located on the Subject Laptop contains classified information which was produced by and is owned by the U.S. Government. The Subject Laptop was never authorized for the storage or transmission of classified or national defense information,” the FBI agent added.

It is unclear whether the FBI informed Fox that months before the new emails were discovered, FBI Director James Comey publicly dismissed the idea of prosecuting anyone over the classified information allegedly exchanged by Clinton, Abedin and other aides on unsecured systems.

U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel issued an order Monday that the warrant linked to the Clinton probe and related records be unsealed at noon Tuesday, with limited redactions. The judge acted after E. Randal Schoenberg, a California lawyer who mainly investigates art thefts, filed a suit seeking to force unsealing of the files.

The newly-disclosed court records could provide fodder for both sides in the heated debate over moves made by the FBI and Comey in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 election, where GOP nominee Donald Trump narrowly defeated Clinton in battleground states her campaign expected to win.

On Oct. 28, Comey sent Congress a letter advising lawmakers that new evidence had emerged in the Clinton probe and steps were being taken to review it. On Nov. 6, two days before the election, Comey sent a follow-up letter saying the evidence had not changed the FBI’s conclusion announced in July that no prosecution of Clinton was warranted in the case.

In the weeks since Clinton’s unexpected loss, she, her campaign aides and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have argued that Comey’s pair of letters led to a fall-off in support that cost her the election. Even the election-eve letter effectively clearing her had the effect of stirring up more attention to the email issue and turning off voters on the fence about supporting her, Clinton backers claim.

Justice Department prosecutors initially opposed the unsealing, but they agreed in a sealed submission last week that much of the information could be made public with redactions about an unnamed person, who appears to be Weiner.

Castel said that information in the documents referencing another person should also be deleted due to that person’s “strong privacy interest in keeping his or her identity secret.”

“The judicial determination whether to grant a search warrant, and thus allow the government to enter and search private property, directly affects individuals’ substantive rights,” wrote Castel, an appointee of President George W. Bush. “Documents that a court relies on in making this determination, such as affidavits, directly affect the court’s adjudication of those rights. … The common law presumption of access to the search warrant and related materials sought by this applicant is thus entitled to great weight.”

Prosecutors also asked the judge to delete the names of FBI agents involved in the Clinton email probe, citing their work in national security and counterintelligence investigations. Castel agreed to redact those names “at this stage,” but he called that “a somewhat close question.”

“The government has a strong interest in not compromising the activities of agents working in these sensitive areas,” the judge wrote.

Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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