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James Comey ‘the best thing that ever happened to’ Hillary, Trump says

J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Former FBI director James Comey.

By Anne Gearan Washington Post 

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday that former FBI director James Comey had intended to spare Democrat Hillary Clinton from prosecution ‘‘long before investigation was complete’’ into her government email practices.

In early-morning Twitter messages, Trump referred to a recently released Justice Department document that indicates a draft of a Comey statement about the investigation was circulating among aides in May last year, two months before Comey announced the end of the investigation and his decision not to seek charges.

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‘‘Wow, FBI confirms report that James Comey drafted letter exonerating Crooked Hillary Clinton long before investigation was complete. Many... people not interviewed, including Clinton herself. Comey stated under oath that he didn’t do his-obviously a fix? Where is Justice Dept?’’ Trump wrote on Twitter.

The FBI posted the document to its ‘‘Vault’’ Freedom of Information Act reading room on Monday. The unclassified document titled ‘‘Drafts of Director Comey’s July 5, 2016 Statement Regarding Email Server Investigation Part 01 of 01’’ includes part of an email message from FBI official James Rybicki, who forwarded an email from Comey asking for ‘‘any comments on this statement so we may roll it into a master doc for discussion with the Director at a future date.’’

The draft statement itself is redacted, as is nearly everything else in the five-page document.

It was written before investigators had interviewed several witnesses, including Clinton herself. Comey announced the closure of the investigation in July, days after Clinton’s FBI interview. At issue was the security and handling of classified material on Clinton’s home-based email server, which she used during her tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Trump’s tweets revive his feud with Comey, whom he fired in May, and the Democratic opponent he defeated last year. He has twice this week referred to Clinton as ‘‘Crooked Hillary,’’ his campaign trail nickname for her.

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Trump said Comey had ‘‘stated under oath that he didn’t do this,’’ in apparent reference to Comey’s Senate testimony in which he said there was no criminal case to bring. In his tweet Wednesday, Trump asked, ‘‘Where is Justice Dept?’’ apparently inviting an investigation into the existence of the 2016 email chain.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have said the FBI email chain shows that Comey began drafting an ‘‘exoneration statement’’ long before the Clinton probe ended. In September, Graham told Fox News that although he does not think Comey perjured himself, he wants Comey to return to testify.

‘‘This doesn’t add up, and I smell a rat here,’’ Graham said.