Records recently posted online by the FBI indicate that it did little to investigate allegations from private sources connected to Republicans about a scheme in which associates of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to exploit their connection to her to profit from the turmoil in Libya in 2011.
The FBI received the documents in June 2016, around the same time it launched an exhaustive, three-year investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia based, in part, on information from private sources connected to Democrats that in the main would prove to be false – the Steele dossier.
The bureau’s different responses to these documents also came during the same period when FBI Director James B. Comey controversially cleared Clinton, in his first of two exonerations, of criminal wrongdoing in the bureau’s probe of her unauthorized and insecure email setup.
The documents, quietly released as part of the FBI’s case files for the “Midyear Exam,” its code name for the Clinton email investigation, revive a lingering mystery from Clinton’s tenure as the nation’s chief diplomat: Why did Sidney Blumenthal, the former journalist and Bill Clinton White House aide, send her a series of detailed memos and reports about Libya beginning in 2011?
The documents offer an answer. They allege that Blumenthal sent the emails as a “quid pro quo” to free up classified State Department financial intelligence to help Libya recover as much as $66 billion spirited offshore by slain strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
Out of that, Blumenthal and associates stood to gain a brokers’ cut of perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars.
The private Libya inquiry leaves important issues unsettled. The documents do not include emails or other original source material to support the allegations within. While claiming to possess evidence that Blumenthal and his associates had contracts and offshore accounts to repatriate the money, the documents say “no concrete evidence” was found suggesting Clinton acted to support the effort.
Yet if verified, the files might shed light on why Clinton kept her emails, tens of thousands of which have gone missing, out of normal government communication channels.
They do offer tantalizing connections between the Libya and Trump-Russia affairs. Previous reporting from multiple outlets has established Blumenthal worked on Libya with Cody Shearer, another longtime Clinton operative. Shearer would later join Blumenthal in passing anti-Trump claims similar to those in the Steele dossier on to the State Department and across the federal government. The FBI’s acquisition of the Libya files made it freshly aware of Blumenthal’s possible past motives – including personal financial gain – as he spurred an investigation meant to help defeat Donald Trump and elect Clinton.
In addition, one FBI agent played an especially pivotal role in the bureau’s response to both sets of allegations: Peter Strzok, who would eventually be fired by the bureau because of his anti-Trump bias.
The new material certainly adds twists to an already tangled web of intrigue.
Birth of an Inquiry
The heavily redacted files are part of a 428-page FBI document dump posted on FBI.gov in June, which can be downloaded here (relevant pages: 318-380). The documents are labeled by the FBI as having been received on June 6, 2016 – a month before the first of Comey’s two exonerations of Clinton and roughly seven weeks before the FBI opened its counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign, relying on the Steele dossier. They are watermarked as having been declassified in December 2016, after the presidential election.