Trump: Comey 'exonerated' Clinton before investigation was complete

President Trump charged Friday that ousted FBI Director James Comey “exonerated” Hillary Clinton in the investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state “long before the investigation was over.”

Trump’s charge of a “rigged system” comes a day after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., released a statement alleging that Comey’s exoneration of Clinton was drafted (although not finalized or released) even before he had interviewed key witnesses in the investigation — including Clinton herself.

“Conclusion first, fact-gathering second — that’s no way to run an investigation. The FBI should be held to a higher standard than that, especially in a matter of such great public interest and controversy,” Grassley and Graham wrote in a letter to the FBI requesting records pertaining to the drafting of the statement.

The senators said their concerns stemmed from partial findings of an investigation — now closed — by the Office of Special Counsel into Comey’s actions in relation to the Clinton probe. The Office of Special Counsel is a permanent body that conducts oversight of government agencies; it is unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating matters related to the 2016 election.

In July 2016, Comey delivered a statement saying Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of classified communications, but the FBI did not recommend prosecution. Comey conceded it was highly unusual for the head of the FBI to make a public recommendation about bringing charges. He said he felt the need to “protect the credibility of the investigation” from the suspicion that its impartiality had been tarnished by the infamous “tarmac meeting” between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton. (Clinton claimed the investigation of his wife was not discussed.) Comey said Lynch had asked him to downplay the investigation by referring to it as a “matter.”

Trump fired Comey in May, giving the excuse it was because of Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation. But Trump later admitted in an interview and to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office that he ousted Comey because of the FBI’s investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election.

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