Anthony Weiner, Tweets, Donald Trump
Photo credit: Coalition for Queens / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) and Twitter

Less than two weeks before the election, Hillary Clinton had opened a wide lead over her rival before a seemingly random series of events rocked the race at the most opportune time for Donald Trump. A month-long WhoWhatWhy investigation finds that there was nothing random about the circumstances that led the FBI to reopen its probe of Clinton.

Executive Summary:

WhoWhatWhy, in this exclusive report, based on a month-long investigation, lays out for the first time ever the evidence that a deliberate plot was behind the exposure of Hillary Clinton’s emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer — an act that may have put Donald Trump in the White House. This 8,000-word narrative and timeline presents the tick-tock of the operation, and the colorful cast of characters involved, including the FBI, right-wing female journalists, the founder of the mercenary army Blackwater, and an online troll army.

When the Federal Bureau of Investigation decided not to pursue a criminal case against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, Donald Trump’s path to the White House narrowed considerably… until a group of his staunchest supporters found a way to get the case back in the spotlight at the most opportune time.

In a month-long investigation, WhoWhatWhy has examined the events and players that had a hand in the FBI’s reopening of the Clinton email probe — apparently a factor in swinging the election Trump’s way.

Close scrutiny of the circumstances leading up to the FBI’s fateful decision reveals a key aspect that has thus far gained little attention — that fate got a helping hand from Trump supporters, surrogates and media allies.

This includes

•  A reasonable likelihood that Trump or somebody high up in his campaign received inside information, possibly from sources in the Bureau

•  An operation to bait Anthony Weiner, the controversial husband of Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin

•  A successful effort, perhaps from within the FBI, forcing director Comey to utilize the Weiner allegations as a basis to reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation

That in turn gave swing voters two reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton: (1) renewed doubts about her behavior in regard to security concerns, and (2) an implied connection to Weiner’s repugnant behavior.

For plenty of voters, that may have been enough to sway them. And in a close election, the resulting redistribution of comparatively few votes in a few key states caused a seismic shift in the overall electoral outcome.

Comey and the FBI were reacting to events. But who were the people who set those events in motion? And what were their motives? Were these actors doing so out of concerns for justice, for the truth, or to create partisan advantage?

It is not so surprising that political operatives would identify Weiner as a chink in Clinton’s armor, a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. It is only slightly less surprising that they would seek to lure Weiner, already known to have an addiction to sexting, into a situation that would embarass his wife, and perhaps cause serious damage to the Clinton campaign.

What is more intriguing, though, is the evidence that days before Comey made his explosive announcement in October 2016, Trump insiders were publicly predicting an “October Surprise.” And, further, that the problems of Weiner became not just the problems of his wife, but of Clinton, a woman who really had very little to do with him.

Very early on, Trump was publicly signalling that a way to harm Clinton was via Weiner.

On August 3, 2015, Donald Trump tweeted in his inimitable and confusing style:

“It came out that Huma Abedin knows all about Hillary’s private illegal emails. Huma’s PR husband, Anthony Weiner, will tell the world.”

Whatever he meant to suggest, this much is clear: Trump, then a longshot presidential contender, not only had Clinton in his sights; he had identified Abedin and her controversial spouse Weiner as potential embarrassments to the frontrunner.

That August 3 tweet was just one in a string. His assertions essentially anticipated that an attack was coming, if not when and how. He also regularly referred to Weiner as a degenerate and liability to Clinton.

All that was missing was a girl to lure Weiner into another “sexting” transgression. Then the trap could be sprung and the computer contents publicized.

On March 22, 2017, a year and a half later, after a highly improbable turn of events had landed Trump in the White House and astonished the world, the new president bragged to Time magazine that he had predicted the importance of Weiner long before the fact.

Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner] you know what I tweeted about that whole deal and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing.

Of course, Trump greatly distorted the facts, but that mattered little once the dust had settled.

From another point of view, what Trump and his enablers seem to have proven is that Hillary Clinton had (and would continue to have) evidence to back up her famous assertion from 1998, when she said that she and her husband were under siege from a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.”

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton late in the 2016 campaign.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“A Lot of Funny Business”


That conspiracy — maybe a more accurate term is “obsession” — was still bearing poisonous fruit nearly two decades later.

While a lot of what was happening might qualify as hard campaigning, it would be an entirely different matter if law enforcers handed information to Team Trump. In addition, it was remarkable the way conservative news outlets were willing to spin exaggerations — even overt lies — as special, inside information from law-enforcement, to help the Republican contender.

“There was a lot of funny business going on,” Clinton recently told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “If the election had been held on October 27, I would have been your president.”

She was referring to FBI Director James Comey’s announcement, on October 28, that he had reopened the investigation into her emails.

While Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee in early May, 2017, “It makes me mildly nauseous to think we had an impact on the election,” he also insisted that he had no choice but to go public with the news of the re-investigation back in October — no matter what the consequences.

We now know how consequential that decision was. But what is only beginning to become clear is the story behind the story that Comey told the Senate. There is evidence that the FBI director’s hand may have been forced by a “dirty tricks” campaign mounted by anti-Clinton political operatives. People within the FBI’s New York office with strong ties to the Trump camp — and an aversion to Clinton — appear to have been involved.

Among the players in this sub rosa saga were

•  Alana Goodman, who frequently took aim at the Clintons from her perch at the Washington Free Beacon, and then greatly expanded her audience when she began writing for the British Daily Mail.

•  Sydney Leathers, the second of Anthony Weiner’s two sexting partners, and a porn actress, who contributed pieces to Washington Babylon, the blog of Ken Silverstein, a liberal journalist long critical of the Clintons. Leathers has presented herself as an expert in the art of entrapping politicians.

•  Alt-right Internet provocateur Charles C. “Chuck” Johnson, who worked at the neoconservative New York Sun, and eventually cycled through gigs at the Daily Caller and Breitbart. He was an early Trump supporter and reveled in political dirty tricks.

•  The unnamed 15-year-old from North Carolina, who reportedly was writing a book about Weiner, sexted with him, and whose accusations in the Daily Mail triggered Weinergate redux.

•  Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer for the Kremlin-backed Sputnik News, who reportedly “converted” to a Trump supporter, after activism in Black Lives Matter and the Bernie Sanders campaign. She also is rumored to have close ties to the FBI.

•  Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater, a big Trump supporter and brother of Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, went public as part of a calculated propaganda campaign in a November 4 Breitbart News interview, making a host of wild and demonstrably false allegations in connection with the Weiner/Clinton revelations.

•  The New York office of the FBI, which had a long and close relationship with Donald Trump and his significant ally Rudolph Giuliani. And, as we previously reported, that FBI office was running a highly valued informant inside Trump Tower, a man who was doing business with Trump. One of the key FBI handlers went on to provide security to Trump’s campaign.

Once the director of the FBI became involved, it was as if a powerful electrical current had run through all of these parts of the story, completing the circuit.

A generally unsympathetic and increasingly reviled figure, Anthony Weiner has repeatedly disappointed voters and allies since his first sexting scandal surfaced. His effort to rehabilitate himself cratered with revelations of continued self-destructive behavior, in the process humiliating himself, his family, and would-be loyal supporters.

Our investigation, however, only concerns Weiner’s character inasmuch as his weaknesses — and unrestrained conduct — served the ends of a political dirty-tricks operation which seems to have altered the very fabric of the 2016 election.

Comey’s Comedy of Errors


Notwithstanding some dissenters, a general consensus has emerged, and some data shows, that one of the principal events which handed Donald J. Trump the White House may have been the revelation of a letter from Comey to Congress, 11 days before the election, in which the FBI director notified lawmakers that the Bureau was examining new evidence regarding Clinton’s use of email.

FBI, James Comey

FBI Director James Comey Photo credit: FBI

As Comey had already declared the email scandal investigation closed four months earlier, the about-face had profound political repercussions.

Within hours of the news breaking, renewed cries of “lock her up” could be heard at Trump rallies and on news outlets covering them. The ground seemed to shift beneath both candidates. Trump became even more aggressive, while Clinton’s confidence appeared to wane — just as her lead in the polls shrank.

Polls would later reveal that party loyalists and independent voters cooled to the Democratic candidate in the final days of the campaign.

The Comey letter to Congress empowered the always-vocal army of Trump proxies and Republican commentators to question how voters could even think of electing someone who was under FBI investigation.

Very few people knew at the time that Trump’s campaign had itself been under investigation for months. On serious charges too — evident collusion with the Russian government to tip the election to Trump.

In April, The New York Times published an exhaustive account of the political and agency motivations behind Comey’s actions, but it did not go to the heart of the issue.

WhoWhatWhy believes the real story of Comey’s unprecedented actions took place outside the purview of FBI headquarters and the Justice Department.

Breitbart, Anthony Weiner

Breitbart screenshot of story about Erik Prince and Anthony Weiner.
Photo credit: Breitbart

What Set Off the Bomb?


Many questions of crucial importance remain fully or partially unanswered. Among them:

How did Weiner’s latest “sexting” scandal come to light in the first place? Was the Daily Mail’s central role in the story influenced in any way by its legal dispute with Melania Trump, a suit that was only resolved after the election?

Who spread the false claim that there was a treasure-trove of as-yet-unseen Clinton emails waiting to be investigated on Weiner’s laptop?

How did the story surface that those non-existent emails contained salacious and even criminal material — rumors floated on Breitbart that stoked up Trump’s base?

Who leaked advance knowledge of Comey’s bombshell before it happened, and how did the leakers come by their information?

Why were all of these leakers so closely connected to Trump?

Was this second Comey investigation into Clinton’s emails a put-up job from the very beginning, enabling the Trump team to make an additional round of outrageous and libelous claims?

We now know that there never was a “there there,” but through leaks, false stories and outrageous spin by a host of Trump’s proxies, it turned out to be enough to help turn the election.

As you read the timeline below, ask yourself this central question: Were these a bunch of unrelated events, many involving Alt-right dirty tricksters, which just happened to feed on one another until they pushed the election over the edge?

Or was there a darker, more coordinated narrative, more like the notorious “Swift-Boating” of John Kerry, a campaign of false information that vilified a genuine war hero and changed the outcome of the presidential election of 2004?

Put another way, was the Weiner story politically motivated from the start? Had Comey been “catfished?” Based on the evidence gathered in a month-long investigation, it sure looks like it.

Catfishing: A Chronology



There are multiple attempts to smear Weiner by falsely connecting him to “teen girls” online. In June, Breitbart News and Mediaite posted stories purporting to show evidence that Weiner had been cyber-flirting with two teenagers. Mediaite extensively quoted two 16-year-olds under the pseudonyms “Betty and Veronica.” Both of them, however, along with “Betty’s” mom, turned out to be invented personas. Mediaite was forced to issue a retraction, even though the story’s writer claimed to have gone to “more than reasonable” lengths to confirm the accusers’ identities.


Less than a month after he officially declares his candidacy, Donald Trump tweets:

“It came out that Huma Abedin knows all about Hillary’s private illegal emails. Huma’s PR husband, Anthony Weiner, will tell the world.”


July 5:

In the course of a lengthy press conference, Comey announces that, after a nearly year-long investigation into the Clinton email server, the FBI has determined that no basis exists to refer charges to the Justice Department. Comey adds that no evidence was found of Clinton intentionally deleting emails “in an effort to conceal them.”

But Comey has more to say: “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate the law governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

While ostensibly closing the case, he has also thrown new fuel on the fire.

The GOP-controlled Congress wants more, though, and requests that the director notify them should the Bureau discover new information.

Late July – Early August

Charles C. Johnson [not to be confused with Charles Johnson the blogger behind the blog Little Green Footballs] reaches out first to online seductress Sydney Leathers and then conservative journalist Alana Goodman to form an alliance that, while mutually beneficial, would be most rewarding for Donald Trump. A reprised “Weinergate,” Johnson mused, while ostensibly focused on Abedin’s and Weiner’s troubled union, would lead inexorably to the real target.

“The public at large would think failed marriage, and they’d think Hillary and Bill,” he told WhoWhatWhy.

Engaging with Leathers made sense, he said referring to the fact that she claimed to know “all these women” who had been in contact with Weiner online.“I had a friend of mine who reached out to her and we said ‘if you hear anything else, here’s the money, flip us the information, and there’ll be more money later,’” Johnson said, explaining that besides relying on crowdfunding, he has considerable personal wealth.

On just how much exactly he paid Leathers to come up with the right victims, Johnson draws a blank. “I don’t know how much we gave her, I can’t remember,” he said, adding, “We did a lot of research, all the Hillary ties, making sure it got to the right journalists. If a journalist was doing really good work against [Hillary] they’d get an email with more research. So it was a lot of fun.”

(Editor’s Note: Sydney Leathers, who did not respond to interview requests before publication, has now been in touch. She challenges Charles Johnson’s claim to us that he paid her for her role in introducing the young woman to The Daily Mail — and has provided screenshots of a chat with Johnson in which he appears to deny what he first told us. We will continue to investigate this matter.)

August 11:

Ken Silverstein, a political progressive, who has long been critical of the Clintons — and is also a political columnist for the New York Observer, the paper Jared Kushner owned until the week prior to Trump’s inauguration — launches a new website called Washington Babylon. It features the piece by Sydney Leathers mentioned earlier in this article, ostensibly a review of the month-old documentary “Weiner.”

Silverstein tells WhoWhatWhy that commissioning the story was an appeal for eyeballs, saying, “I had known Sydney and liked her and was looking for a good story that would get attention for the first day of Washington Babylon so I called her and asked her to do it.”

But Leathers clearly has an axe to grind, complaining about “people’s” suspicions that she “set [Weiner] up” to sink his 2013 mayoral candidacy. Most importantly she claims to know for a “fact” that his sexting behaviors continue despite his claims at being rehabilitated.

August 13:

The pro-Trump New York Post reports that an anonymous Republican student at an unnamed “NYC area college” using a female friend’s Twitter account “catfished” Weiner into sending him flirtatious direct messages. While the tone of the piece is mostly comical, given later circumstances one sentence rings ominously, “It’s the third time Weiner has been caught sexting.”

Appearing on a Miami radio show a week later, Weiner calls the “catfish” item a setup. “Look, I am a target of a local newspaper here in New York.” he says, clearly referring to the Post. “They got someone to get into a conversation with me online. I caught them at it, but they still had enough things to make a story out of it.”

August 28:

The Post splashes news of still another Weiner sexting scandal across its front page, under the headline “Pop Goes the Weiner.” The latest unnamed object of Weiner’s cyber-desire, a 40-something divorcee, was described as “a self avowed supporter of Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association who’s used Twitter to bash both President Obama and Clinton.”

September 1:

Almost immediately after being slapped with a $150 million defamation lawsuit by Melania Trump over a presumably erroneous August 20 story that the would-be First Lady was once an escort, the Mail prints a deeply apologetic retraction. Charles Harder —  the attorney who used Silicon Valley kingpin Peter Thiel’s fortune to put Gawker out of business — is Melania Trump’s attorney. Is it possible that the conservative Mail, under legal pressure, was looking to help the Trump campaign? Or was its readership, many of whom adored Trump, a factor?

September 21:

The Daily Mail’s Alana Goodman breaks the Weiner “underage sexting” story, which will eventually lead to Comey reopening an investigation into Clinton’s emails. The lengthy feature purports to chronicle a cyber-relationship between Weiner and an anonymous North Carolina 15-year-old.

Using obscured tweets and distorted photos as proof of the teenager’s claims, the piece takes us through the unnamed high-schooler’s cyber-romance, which began flowering in January, when the girl contacted Weiner for a book she was supposedly writing about him, and ended abruptly in July for reasons that are not clear. The most salacious claims in the Daily Mail article are that the two spoke suggestively over Skype and that Weiner showed her pornography.

Goodman’s Mail story, immediately picked up by other media, created a huge splash. Speaking with WhoWhatWhy, Johnson credits the story’s virality to what he calls his paid online “troll army,” adding, “I made sure it was amplified all over Twitter.

The teen reportedly sent Weiner two email “letters,” one under false pretenses, to a fake email address that was purportedly her teacher’s —  which Weiner was cc’d on — and the second after she had spoken with the Daily Mail. To some skeptics, the second letter is especially puzzling. At times the writer seems anxious to apologize; at other moments she is a self-righteous avenger reveling in her ability to injure Weiner. The language is a curious mishmash of half-formed and even contradictory ideas.

In lengthy blog-post, controversial former UK MP and anti-Trump activist Louise Mensch, noted that the teenager’s letter contains passages lifted from famous writers such as J.D. Salinger, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Palahniuk and Charles Bukowski.

The writer switches from first to third person (For example: “You took advantage of her young, naive mind. She was infatuated with you. You should be glad that I am one of the most disensitized [sic] teenagers.”) And she admits to using trickery such as setting up a fake gmail account and “ten minute mail.”

Later, the teen will release a letter to Comey complaining that her efforts to keep Weiner from harming other teens now had become politicized and could affect the election.

Critics have said that letter differs from other communications purportedly authored by the teen, which they claim suggests the teen does not exist, or was a surrogate for others.

Goodman did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But Weiner suspected he had again been the victim of a hoax. In a short emailed statement published as a sidebar to the main article, he wrote in part, ‘While I have provided the Daily Mail with information showing that I have likely been the subject of a hoax, I have no one to blame but me for putting myself in this position.”

It is entirely possible that there exists in Gastonia, N.C., a precocious, emotionally vulnerable young teen who has a history of connecting with older men on the Internet and whose emails contain allusions to famous writers, sometimes switches from the first to third person, and include a few typos and mood swings. No one wants to victimize a victim.

But there is not much evidence that anyone has met the victim in person, and the interview clips of her are too fuzzy to establish whether her appearance matches that of a young teen.

The FBI has not stated its agents met in person with the teen, although a man identified as her father told BuzzFeed that an on-site interview was conducted by agents. And no reporter has confirmed meeting face-to-face with her, either.

Larry McShane, who filed a follow up to the Mail piece for the Daily News, claimed to have independently confirmed” the girl’s identity without speaking to her. McShane told WhoWhatWhy that “he honestly didn’t remember” how the News verified the girl’s age and identity. Alana Goodman also would not comment about any aspects of her story.

An article posted by BuzzFeed, on April 10, responding to Louise Mensch’s February claims that the North Carolina underage girl was bogus, is more adamant: “BuzzFeed News subsequently interviewed the teenager in person. She is real, not invented.”

Blogger David Mack, who also says that he has interviewed her, writes:

BuzzFeed News is not identifying the underage girl or her family to protect their privacy. BuzzFeed News independently confirmed the teen’s identity, in part, via an email provided by Weiner, by traveling to her hometown, and by speaking with her and her father.

His statement fails to confirm who, if anyone, from BuzzFeed actually met the girl. Moreover, when contacted by WhoWhatWhy on April 13, Mack was equally vague about whether they met, only writing that his “reports speak for themselves,” and that he cannot divulge any more information because of “promises [he] made to the family.”

Weiner reportedly disclosed her contact information to the media. However, repeated efforts by WhoWhatWhy to reach Weiner and Abedin have been unsuccessful.

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner Photo credit: Coalition for Queens / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

On the very day of the Daily Mail story, September 21, Chuck Johnson brags on his own site GotNews that he had been “woke” to Weiner’s texting scandal since 2013. He had indeed written, in July of that year, a long story for the Daily Caller about a Chick-fil-A employee and high school student who seemed to be trying to set Weiner up on Twitter in 2011.

September 22:

CNN announces there is an investigation into Weiner based on the sexting.

Jake Tapper refers to the Daily Mail story and repeats Anthony Weiner’s response that he has been the victim of a hoax but has no one to blame but himself. The cable news channel goes on to report that prosecutors in the office of US Attorney Preet Bharara have issued a subpoena for Anthony Weiner’s cell phone and other records. The text published by CNN reads: “The FBI and the New York Police Department have opened preliminary investigations of allegations that the former New York Democratic congressman exchanged sexually explicit text messages with a purportedly underage girl.”

Early October:

FBI agents seize Weiner’s laptop. Details on the precise date and exactly what level of scrutiny the Bureau’s New York office applied to the contents are unclear.

October 7:

The infamous Access Hollywood audio surfaces with Donald Trump bragging that he grabs women he barely knows “by the pussy.” He says they let you get away with it if you are famous.

The story creates an immediate firestorm. Most pundits claim his candidacy has been irrevocably damaged. But two things happen to mitigate the damage. Within hours, the first emails of the John Podesta email hack are released, likely courtesy of Russia by way of Wikileaks. The rest of 19,252 Democratic National Committee emails are leaked over the rest of the month.

October 9:

The beleaguered Trump shows up at his final debate press conference with three women who have leveled sexual assault allegations at Bill Clinton: Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey. A fourth woman at the press conference, Kathy Shelton (whom Johnson called “Hillary’s rape victim”), was 12 years old when a 27-year-old Hillary Clinton successfully defended her accused rapist in court. Johnson, Bannon and Kushner worked as a team to put the four women at the center of the debate.

Chuck Johnson, who paid an undisclosed amount of money to surface the Weiner sexting story, claims credit to WhoWhatWhy for bringing the women to the debate. “I was the one who arranged the whole thing,” he says. “From top to bottom.” (Johnson tells WhoWhatWhy that he spent a whopping total of one million dollars of his own money on opposition research against Hillary Clinton.)

During the month of October, nothing official is heard from either the NYPD, the FBI or the US Attorney’s office. But clearly people have been leaking regularly to Trump campaign surrogates and the Trump family about developments in the ongoing investigations.

Trump children

Left to right: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, Lara Trump (behind in red dress) and Tiffany Trump
Photo credit: Disney | ABC Television Group / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

October 24:

Appearing on Fox & Friends a month after the Daily Mail revelations, Eric Trump’s wife, Lara Trump, hints broadly at an “October Surprise.” Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law says, “There’s still a few days left in October… We’ve got some stuff up our sleeve.”

The alleged 15-year-old victim of Anthony Weiner’s sexting escapades lives in Gastonia, North Carolina. Coincidentally or not, Lara and Eric Trump visited the local GOP office in Gastonia just three days before her TV appearance.

October 25:

Rudy Giuliani also appears on Fox & Friends, bearing a similar message. Host Brian Kilmeade asks the Trump surrogate about the campaign’s plan for the final two weeks.

Laughing, Giuliani replies, “You’ll see. We’ve got a couple of surprises left.” Repeating the phrase “you’ll see,” Giuliani adds, “And I think it will be enormously effective.”

Giuliani isn’t quite finished. According to a comprehensive story by DailyKos on the leaks, Giuliani is asked by a My City Paper reporter on his way out of the Fox studio what the October Surprise might be. “No hints,” responds the former mayor. “But it will be good.”

October 26

Roughly three weeks after the FBI’s New York bureau seized Weiner’s laptop and discovered Clinton emails, Director Comey hears about it for the first time. Explanations for the purported delay in notifying Comey of this startling discovery include the New York office being distracted by other projects and its computers repeatedly crashing. The practical effect was to delay the damaging announcement to much closer to the election — when Clinton forces had much less time to respond.

On the same day Comey is notified, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, reverses course and decides that he will vote for Donald Trump after all, even though he still will not endorse him. Chaffetz had been one of the most outspoken Republicans in protesting the infamous Access Hollywood video. Is the timing sheer coincidence or has Chaffetz also heard the leaks about the bombshell that is coming and has decided to back a winner?

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani campaigning for Donald Trump, 2016.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Giuliani appears on Fox News so giddy he can barely contain himself. On America’s Newsroom he declares that Trump has a surprise or two “that you’re going to be hearing about in the next few days.” Warming to his task, he continues, “I mean, I mean…I’m talking about some…pretty big surprises…You’ll see.” By the end of this carefully drawn out tease, Giuliani is positively chortling with self-satisfaction.

October 28

Comey sends a letter to Congress announcing that the FBI is looking into new Clinton emails after learning of documents “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.”

Comey’s letter to Congress, described by media sources as well as politicians on the left and right as “brief” and “vague,” does not say that the FBI is re-opening its investigation, but that is how the world will interpret his remarks — thanks to the way the media echo chamber accepts Chaffetz’s coyly worded tweet at face value. Comey, it is obvious in hindsight, had lost control of the narrative some days before his letter to Congress.

His letter reads in part: “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned about emails [which may] contain classified material.”

October 29

Lara Trump brags to WABC’s Rita Cosby that Trump had “forced” Comey’s hand with the letter.

“I think my father-in-law forced their hand in this. You know, he has been the one since the beginning saying that she shouldn’t be able to run for president, and I commend him on that.”

October 30

The FBI asks the federal court in New York for a warrant to search Abedin’s emails on Weiner’s computer.

The request for the warrant reads, “There is probable cause to believe that the Subject Laptop contains evidence, contraband, fruits, and/or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 793 (e) and (f).”

When the warrant is released to the public on Dec. 20, it is hammered by critics. Randy Schoenberg, the lawyer who forced the court to unseal the document, is quoted in The Hill as saying, “I see nothing at all in the search warrant application that would give rise to probable cause, nothing that would make anyone suspect that there was anything on the laptop beyond what the FBI had already searched [for.]”

FBI Hillary Clinton Anthony Weiner Warrant by Marc Torrence on Scribd

October 31

The mainstream media who have collectively so far viewed the election as a formality begin to show signs of worry. Reassuring its cosmopolitan readers that Clinton’s established strength remains unassailable, the Guardian reports: “Nearly 100 former Department of Justice officials and prosecutors, both Republican and Democratic and led by the former Obama attorney general Eric Holder, signed a letter criticising Comey’s decision.”

The contradiction between Comey’s radio silence on the FBI’s ongoing probe into Russian computer hacking and his vocal reopening of the investigation into Hillary’s emails draws criticism that he has violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal officials from abusing their authority to sway elections. In a Times op-ed explaining the complaint he has filed against the FBI with two oversight bodies, Richard Painter, a lawyer with the George W. Bush administration, writes, “The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.”

November 1

Chuck Johnson, the man who told WhoWhatWhy he connected the 15-year-old with the Daily Mail’s Alana Goodman, brags on a Trumpdevoted Reddit thread about his role in the new Comey bombshell.


Hillary is collapsing after I helped introduce underaged women who sexted with Weiner to various newspaper journalists. It’s over. The black vote is too low to matter. We can’t get complacent but there are serious problems for the Democrats.

November 2

A letter from the girl to Comey is leaked and published by BuzzFeed. In it, she accuses the FBI itself of having a political agenda and seeking to blow the story out of proportion by tipping off the media:

“Not even 10 minutes after being forensically interviewed with the FBI for seven hours, I received a phone call from a REPORTER asking for a statement.”

By taking this action when she did, she positioned herself as someone not seeking publicity while at the same time creating a new, damaging twist that put the whole thing back in the news.

Depicted in the tweet below are, left to right: Cassandra Fairbanks, James Gordon Meek and Alana Goodman.

As BuzzFeed writes, Mensch’s ceaseless accusations against Cassandra Fairbanks based on her being a Russian agent were excessive and strange even by Twitter standards. But a friend of Goodman’s, and at least an acquaintance of Johnson’s, Fairbanks has engendered wariness.

Purportedly a former Black Lives Matter and Bernie Sanders supporter who went over to Trump’s side last summer, she had, by early June, garnered a reputation among progressive activists of being a close ally of an FBI informant.

A BBC article dated October 5, 2016, “The Social Media Star who Flipped to Trump,” accepts her lightning quick transformation at face value. But her cyber-footprint of BLM “activism,” filled with pseudo-radical chic selfies and provocations of fellow protesters, lend credence to suspicions that she was a counterfeit radical, i.e., a poseur, trying to harm the movement. This January, she wrote effusively about Johnson’s crowdsourcing efforts for the right-libertarian site We Are Change. (Johnson told WhoWhatWhy that he knew Fairbanks, but “not well.”)

As Election Day approaches, Trump’s “outside” media machine whirrs into overdrive on the Weiner story, sensationalizing it with every re-iteration. Setting the tone, a True Pundit headline blares:

NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails:

Money Laundering, Sex Crimes with Children, Child Exploitation, Pay to Play, Perjury

November 3

Maximizing the sordid saga for political impact, the Trump campaign releases a TV ad calling Weiner a “pervert and referencing emails.

The Guardian reports that a highly unfavorable view of Clinton among FBI rank-and-file pressured Comey into re-opening an investigation into her emails. The piece quotes an anonymous Bureau agent who says, “FBI is Trumpland.”

November 4

In one of the most amazing developments in this bizarre story, Erik Prince gives an extraordinary interview on Breitbart, the propaganda outlet formerly run by Donald Trump’s campaign CEO Steve Bannon. Prince, the founder of the reviled Blackwater mercenary force that operated in Iraq, and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, had been a well-hidden Trump campaign operative until this interview.

Prince tells Breitbart that he has learned what is in the newly discovered emails from well-placed sources in the NYPD, and claims that it includes evidence of “money laundering” and of a Clinton “sex island” with “under-age sex slaves” that is “so disgusting…”

He claims that Abedin is “an agent of influence very sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, that Weiner himself may soon be arrested by NYPD.”

None of these assertions held up, but for the next four days they would spread like wildfire on fake news sites and stoke the renewed cries of “lock her up.”

The new investigation will “shine the light on this great evil,” Prince announces. Some claim that this commentary added credence to the now infamous fake “child sex ring” news story dubbed Pizzagate being pushed on fringe right-wing sites

In a lengthy interview with WhoWhatWhy, Chuck Johnson spoke of his long and close relationship with Erik Prince which began when they met in 2011 at a conservative Human Rights Conference hosted in Oslo. “We talk once or twice a week,” he adds. “We’re still friends.”

Like other Trump surrogates, Prince said that, if someone under FBI investigation were elected president, it would be a constitutional crisis. In terms of Clinton, that threat ended the following day when Comey announced that there was no “there” there — not even any new emails.

Few people knew at the time that the country would, in fact, elect a president who was under FBI investigation.

The flow of fake news went according to plan: from the fringe website Infowars to Breitbart to talk radio to Trump and his surrogates to Fox News and on to the world.

November 6:

Less than two days before Election Day, the Weiner story is over.

Comey clears Clinton of any wrongdoing once again. Comey’s brief letter to Congress explains that after “working round the clock” the investigators have decided, “not to change our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.” It turns that that there were no new Clinton emails, no evidence of money laundering, nothing relating to sex islands or sex slaves, no arrest or charges against Weiner.

But the damage was done.

James Comey Letter 11-6-2016 by Doug Mataconis on Scribd

November 9

Johnson is spotted in the VIP section of Trump’s victory party at New York’s Hilton Hotel.

While Johnson would not divulge to WhoWhatWhy who invited him to the notoriously exclusive celebration, he spoke freely about his influence with Trump’s braintrust. He described a process of vetting, suggesting, and introducing candidates to the incoming administration through his highly placed friends. He estimates “about a hundred” of his picks got jobs with the new administration, with more still being added.

With their candidate headed for the White House, Giuliani can continue to gloat; Lara Trump can be thankful she had a role to play; Prince has come out of the woodwork and was reported to be representing Trump in talks with the Russians in the faraway Seychelles Islands; Michael Flynn, who had yelled “Lock her up,” is now under various investigations. And Comey has his hands full with another investigation, looking into the possibility that Trump’s presidential campaign may have colluded with either the Russian government or the Russian mob, or both, in interfering in the presidential election on behalf of Trump. But Comey waited until March 20 — more than four months after the election — to announce that investigation.

In terms of the Weiner story itself there were several loose ends.

•  Had there ever been a 15-year-old girl? If so, had anyone put her up to sexting with Weiner and then paid her to appear on camera in disguise? (Certainly, as WhoWhatWhy’s investigation makes clear, Leathers was paid for her efforts.)

•  Who wrote those confused letters, peppered with literary passages, surfaced by the Daily Mail?

•  Did the fact that the Daily Mail was threatened by a libel suit play any part in the tale?

•  Had Comey’s hand been forced by supporters of Donald Trump within the FBI?

•  How did so much false information get out regarding Weiner’s laptop before the FBI even obtained its search warrant?

•  Who leaked information to Lara Trump and Giuliani?

•  Did anyone feed false stories to Prince, or did he make them up?

And of course the biggest question of all: Would Trump be president today had it not been for a mysterious 15-year-old girl, Chuck Johnson’s efforts, Alana Goodman’s story in the Daily Mail and Prince’s totally false claims about what might have been on the “new” emails that did not in fact exist?

Trump himself was clearly grateful to the FBI chief. On January 22, at a White House reception for law-enforcement officials, the newly-minted president singled out Comey for special praise and a warm hug.

Yet, with Trump under intense scrutiny over — practically everything, but particularly his alleged close ties to Russia — Trump’s media proxies kept their base focused on the Clinton emails. This strategy also kept the pressure on Comey, who was due to testify to Congress on both matters.

The allegations have grown to include unnamed NYPD brass claiming that Clinton personally knew all about Weiner’s sexting in real time, including but not limited to the girl’s purported suicidal ideation. As the right-wing site True Pundit wrote on March 22:

New York Police Department detectives and sources working an underage child pornography case against Anthony Weiner confirm the laptop seized from the former congressman contains proof that Hillary Clinton knew he was engaging in a long sexual relationship with a minor but did not intervene to alert any state or federal authorities to protect the 15 year old.

Almost nothing in these reports could be confirmed — including that there was any kind of pending case against Weiner, as implied by the New York Post:

On the federal level, Weiner could be charged with sexual exploitation of children, which carries a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30.

In a replay of a move used on Comey before Election Day, a newly tweaked version of Weiner’s sexting partner’s angry letter to the Bureau director is leaked on March 28 to Gateway Pundit.

Donald Trump himself played a crucial role in this. On the eve of Comey’s latest congressional testimony, the president, ever masterful at calculated distractions, was actually attacking his own FBI director, tweeting:

At the time of posting, Trump had added a second astonishing accomplishment to his surprise electoral victory: keeping the country focused on wrongdoing by someone other than himself.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Weiner (Twitter), hook (tswedensky / Pixabay) and catfish (Internet Archive Book Images / Flickr).


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