Former President Bill Clinton, who had a private discussion on an Arizona tarmac with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch while his wife was under investigation for mishandling classified information, remembers that meeting very differently from Lynch.
For example, Clinton told the Justice Department’s inspector general that Lynch told him while their planes were parked, “Look it’s a 100 degrees out there, come up and we’ll talk about our grandkids.”
Lynch, however, said the two “did not have a social relationship,” and she was surprised to hear Clinton was asking to meet.
The meeting took place June 27, 2016, at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix.
The American Center for Law and Justice in May announced that on its third attempt to search records for documents or details pertaining to the meeting, the government uncovered still more information. The ACLJ has been fighting for the details for months through its Freedom of Information Act case.
It was in a court filing from the Justice Department that officials admitted the FBI had found “approximately 16 additional pages and two text messages” concerning the meeting.
The meeting was startling because it was a former president meeting with the head of the department investigating his wife for her handling of classified information.
Days later, FBI Director James Comey, in an unusual public announcement, presented evidence of Hillary Clinton’s “extremely careless” abuse of classified information while declining to refer charges to the Justice Department.
The recent report from the DOJ’s inspector general on the Justice Department’s handling of the email scandal reveals new details about the airport meeting.
It says Bill Clinton explained he saw Lynch’s jet and “thought she’s about to get off and I’ll just go shake hands with her.”
He said had his Secret Service arrange with Lynch’s FBI security detail to meet.
Bill Clinton said he didn’t think the investigation was a big deal, because it was his server and “the FBI knew it was there and the Secret Service approved it coming in and she just used what was mine.”
He told the IG he recalled walking toward Lynch and that she and her staff were getting off the plane.
He said he greeted Lynch, who said, “Look it’s a 100 degrees out there, come up and we’ll talk about our grandkids.”
Lynch’s staff found out about Bill Clinton’s plans for a meeting at about that point.
Witnesses said Clinton boarded Lynch’s jet alone. Lynch’s staff expressed alarm immediately about the “optics” of the meeting: a former president whose wife was under investigation for possible crimes meeting with the chief of the agency investigating her.
They said Clinton’s Secret Service detail had contacted Lynch’s FBI detail to arrange the meeting.
Lynch said she was on the plane preparing to leave when an aide said Bill Clinton wanted to talk with her.
“And I said, yes, he can come on the plane and say hello. And he was literally there.”
The IG report said, “Lynch said she was very surprised that he wanted to meet with her because they did not have a social relationship, and she was also surprised to see him ‘right there in the doorway so quickly.'”
Lynch said she never “really had a conversation” with Bill Clinton before the meeting.
She also told the IG “public officials often stopped her to say hello when she traveled, and that as a result she was not initially concerned when former President Clinton wanted to say hello.”
The IG report said the two denied discussing the investigation.
Bill Clinton also said the two talked about their grandchildren. And he “denied that his comments were motivated by an intent to influence the investigation.”
He admitted mentioning Hillary Clinton, but only to say she was happy being a grandmother.
He said he “absolutely” did not talk about the email investigation.
On the other hand, Lynch said she thought Clinton wanted to just say hello, but Bill Clinton then sat down.
“At some point, after two or three minutes, President Clinton turned around. I had my tote bags on the bench seat of the plane, because I had put them there when he came on board. I had been holding them. I put them down. He picked up my tote bags and moved them, and then he sat down. So he sat down, and my husband and I were still standing in front of him having the discussion,” she said.
Lynch agreed the discussion was about “family and the kids.”
She hinted, she said, at his leaving.
“And I said, well, we’ve got to get going to the hotel. And I said I’m sure
you’ve got somewhere to, to go. And he said yes. And I forget where he told me he was going. He was flying somewhere, but … I’ve forgotten where.”
Lynch also said the two did not discuss possible positions for her in a future Hillary Clinton administration.
The “saying hello” last about 20 minutes, as she was becoming increasingly concerned about the appearance of the meeting.
Some of Lynch’s staff members said they were “shocked” and “blindsided” by the meeting.
In fact, a senior counselor walked onto the plane and into the meeting, hoping “this would get everyone moving.”
They apparently didn’t know how to tell a former president that he needed to leave.