LOS ANGELES (CN) - A renowned art-repatriation attorney, who sought a copy of the search-warrant records that formed the basis of the FBI’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, has filed another federal complaint for unredacted copies that would reveal the identity of the agent involved in the investigation.
Former FBI Director James Comey publicly announced in October 2016 the agency obtained a search warrant to review emails from Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin's laptop, just 11 days before the election.
That investigation returned no evidence against Clinton, but the impact to the election was already done.
Attorney E. Randol Schoenberg, who built a reputation for recovering Nazi-looted art, brought a federal complaint in December 2016 against the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act in the Southern District of New York to unseal the warrant.
U.S. District Kevin Castel said that the case by that point had received plenty of public exposure and the bureau released a 21-page redacted document. At the time, Schoenberg said he was “appalled” with what he saw.
“I see nothing at all in the search warrant application that would give rise to probable cause,” the attorney said in an email at the time. “Nothing that would make anyone suspect that there was anything on the laptop beyond what the FBI had already searched and determined not to be evidence of a crime, nothing to suggest that there would be anything other than routine correspondence between Secretary Clinton and her longtime aide Huma Abedin.”
On Thursday, Schoenberg filed for injunctive relief in the Central District of California for the unredacted copies of the complaint to be released, so the public can know the name of the FBI agent.
“If ever there were a public interest in learning the identity of an agent, this would be the case,” said the complaint.
The complaint says the search warrant was not intended to find previously reviewed correspondence between Abedin and Clinton, but was instead looking for other information.
“The truth is that the FBI was most interested in determining not whether the search would find additional copies of the previously reviewed e-mails between Abedin and Clinton (which was, not surprisingly, all that was found), but rather whether the search would find earlier e-mail evidence to support or refute whether that private e-mail server had been set up with the express intent to commit a crime,” the complaint says.
In 2016, Schoenberg filed two lawsuits in the Southern District of New York to uncover the search warrants signed by Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox.
According to the 2018 complaint for injunctive relief, “A review of the Search Warrant affidavit reveals that the agent withheld the true focus of the search from Magistrate Judge Fox.”
At the time, there was an internal dispute at the FBI over reopening the investigation, which was closed in July 2016.
Revealed through text messages from FBI attorney Lisa Page to FBI agent Peter Sztrok on October 27, 2016, on the same day Comey decided to notify Congress of the search warrant, Page wrote she was concerned about having probable cause for the investigation.
“Please, let’s figure out what it is we HAVE first. What if we can’t make out PC? Then we have no further investigate step,” according to documents released by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs on February 6, 2018.
Because there was a question of probable cause at the agency’s use of the search warrant, and no incriminating evidence was found, “the public should be permitted to review the unredacted warrant in full to determine if the FBI handled the search properly,” said the complaint.
The complaint says that a similar investigation of pre-election actions at the FBI by the Justice Department shows that “reviewing the conduct of governmental affairs is paramount and greatly outweighs any privacy interest of the agent.”
An email to the FBI’s media relations was not immediately returned at the time of publication.
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