A great question, senator. Thank you. October 27, the investigative
team that had finished the investigation in July focused on Secretary
Clinton's emails asked to meet with me.
So I met with them that morning, late morning, in my conference room.
And they laid out for me what they could see from the metadata on this
fella Anthony Weiner's laptop that had been seized in an unrelated
case. What they could see from the metadata was that there were
thousands of Secretary Clinton's emails on that device, including what
they thought might be the missing emails from her first three months
as secretary of state.
We never found any emails from her first three months. She was using a
Verizon BlackBerry then and that's obviously very important, because
if there was evidence that she was acting with bad intent, that's
where it would be in the first three months.
FEINSTEIN: But they weren't there.
COMEY: Look, can I just finish my answer, senator?
COMEY: And so they came in and said, we can see thousands of emails
from the Clinton email domain, including many, many, many from the
Verizon Clinton domain, BlackBerry domain. They said we think we got
to get a search warrant to go get these, and the Department of Justice
agreed we had to go get a search warrant.
So I agreed, I authorized them to seek a search warrant. And then I
faced a choice. And I've lived my entire career by the tradition that
if you can possibly avoid it, you avoid any action in the run-up to an
election that might have an impact. Whether it's a dogcatcher election
or president of the United States, but I sat there that morning and I
could not see a door labeled no action here.
I could see two doors and they were both actions. One was labeled
speak, the other was labeled conceal. Because here's how I thought
about it, I'm not trying to talk you into this, but I want you to know
my thinking. Having repeatedly told this Congress, we are done and
there's nothing there, there's no case there, there's no case there,
to restart in a hugely significant way, potentially finding the emails
that would reflect on her intent from the beginning and not speak
about it would require an active concealment, in my view.
And so I stared at speak and conceal. Speak would be really bad.
There's an election in 11 days, Lordy, that would be really bad.
Concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the FBI, but
well beyond. And honestly, as between really bad and catastrophic, I
said to my team we got to walk into the world of really bad. I've got
to tell Congress that we're restarting this, not in some frivolous
way, in a hugely significant way.
And the team also told me, we cannot finish this work before the
election. And then they worked night after night after night, and they
found thousands of new emails, they found classified information on
Anthony Weiner. Somehow, her emails are being forwarded to Anthony
Weiner, including classified information, by her assistant, Huma
Abedin. And so they found thousands of new emails and then called me
the Saturday night before the election and said thanks to the wizardry
of our technology, we've only had to personally read 6,000. We think
we can finish tomorrow morning, Sunday.
And so I met with them and they said we found a lot of new stuff. We
did not find anything that changes our view of her intent. So we're in
the same place we were in July. It hasn't changed our view and I asked
them lots of questions and I said okay, if that's where you are, then
I also have to tell Congress that we're done. Look, this is terrible.
It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some
impact on the election. But honestly, it wouldn't change the decision.
Everybody who disagrees with me has to come back to October 28 with me
and stare at this and tell me what you would do. Would you speak or
would you conceal? And I could be wrong, but we honestly made a
decision between those two choices that even in hindsight -- and this
has been one of the world's most painful experiences -- I would make
the same decision.
I would not conceal that, on October 28, from the Congress. And I sent
the letter to Congress, by the way, people forget this, I didn't make
a public announcement. I sent a private letter to the chairs and the
rankings of the oversight committees.