Emails reviewed by Fox News from February 2016 suggest the FBI and DOJ worked together to craft a response to a key development in the Hillary Clinton email investigation, amid newly raised Republican concerns about a “concerning level of coordination” between the two agencies during the probe.
The emails concern the period after 22 messages with "Top Secret" information were found on the former secretary of state's personal email server.
Republican Rep. Mark Meadows cited them in a letter earlier this week claiming former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to Congress – in which he downplayed FBI-DOJ coordination on the Clinton case – may be at odds with documents suggesting “frequent” coordination.
Comey specifically said in public testimony that he did not coordinate with the DOJ for his July 2016 public recommendation not to pursue charges against Clinton. Meadows, however, pointed to a series of messages he claims indicate potential coordination at several “crucial moments of the investigation” – including the July statement and the period in February. While the FBI is part of the Justice Department and communication between the two agencies is inevitable, Meadows’ letter also suggests some at the FBI were concerned about the perception it was not acting independently in a politically explosive case.
The February messages reviewed by Fox News start on Feb. 8, 2016, when Gregory Starr, then the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, told FBI Head of Counterintelligence Bill Priestap that the State Department was prepared to punish those responsible for the misplaced messages.
"The Department of State is prepared to take appropriate administrative action for any instances of mishandling of classified information in accordance with our own internal processes," Starr wrote.
However, the official added that the department did not want to hinder the ongoing FBI investigation and, if instructed, would postpone the "administrative action" over the emails until after the bureau's case had concluded.
Five days later, on Feb. 13, an unidentified senior Justice Department official wrote to FBI agent Peter Strzok, Jonathan Moffa of the FBI’s criminal division and the bureau's Office of General Counsel, as well as members of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
"Wanted to make sure that DOJ is kept in the loop as response is drafted," wrote the unnamed official in the Justice Department's National Security Division. "We have discussed a bit more here at CES and have some additional thoughts on the best response on the admin action question. Can we make sure we discuss as a group as response is put together?"
"CES" appears to refer to the Justice Department's "counterintelligence and export control section." That section was led by David Laufman, who left the department this past February citing personal reasons.
The State Department took no immediate administrative action over the 22 "Top Secret" emails on Clinton's email server. Many of those involved in the matter had left the department by the time the FBI investigation closed in July 2016.
Meadows has gotten support for his inquiry from House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
On Wednesday, Gowdy asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to review allegations of coordination between the FBI and the Justice Department in the Clinton investigation.
FBI spokesman Andrew Ames told Fox News the bureau had no comment on the newly uncovered emails and added that the FBI would respond to Gowdy "as appropriate."
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fox News' Samuel Chamberlain contributed to this report.