Republican state auditor candidate and former FBI special agent Chuck Stuber says he was puzzled that the agency’s investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private email server did not follow standard protocol on several fronts, though he said FBI Director James Comey may have performed a “stroke of genius” by releasing publicly details of the probe.
During a Thursday news conference at state Republican Party headquarters, Stuber, who has been involved in investigations that resulted in prosecutions against some of the most powerful politicians in North Carolina, said he was not surprised that Clinton was not charged. He even predicted that outcome based on his work on the 2008 case of former North Carolina U.S. senator and one-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.
One of the “big concerns” the Department of Justice had in the FBI investigation of Edwards was that the allegations about the former senator’s illegal use of campaign funds to hide his pregnant mistress came forward in August 2008, the election was in November, and Justice Department officials didn’t want to affect the outcome.
“They wanted us to refrain from going out and doing anything overtly as far as interviewing people or anything that could get in the news media … and even though John Edwards was no longer a presidential candidate they were concerned it could impact the election,” Stuber said.
“So I would have been very surprised if an indictment would have come forward against Hillary Clinton so close to the  election,” Stuber said.
He believes Comey “probably realized” Democratic Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Democratic President Barack Obama would not recommend indicting Clinton, “and [Comey] felt like this was a way that he could at least make the public aware of the facts of the investigation, the fact that she had sent and received classified information on her emails, [and] the fact that some of her emails actually contained secret and top secret information.”
Stuber said he sees “a little bit of a stroke of genius in what Director Comey did” by presenting facts to the American public to consider as they vote for president.
Stuber is concerned about the national security implications of Clinton keeping classified information on her personal computer server, and her denial that she sent or received classified information, which the investigation concluded was untruthful. He said that calls into question her trustworthiness to be president.
Clinton’s popularity has slipped in opinion polls conducted since Comey outlined her numerous infractions, and Stuber said the possibility of another FBI investigation into Clinton’s conduct could boost his candidacy against incumbent State Auditor Beth Wood.
A May poll by the Civitas Institute that had Wood leading among likely voters by a 35 percent to 30 percent margin, with 33 percent undecided, “didn’t seem so bad to me. You’ve been a politician for five months, and you’re within striking distance of a two-term incumbent, so we’ll take that and keep working at it,” Stuber said.
The FBI could investigate whether Clinton lied to Congress under oath about the secret email servers and other matters, or legal questions surrounding the Clinton Foundation’s receipt of millions of dollars from foreign governments while Clinton was dealing with them in her former role as secretary of state. That was “a way to enhance the financial resources in a way that might look a little suspicious,” Stuber said.
And former President Bill Clinton’s unusual meeting with Lynch on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport at the conclusion of the FBI investigation “does sound very suspicious,” Stuber said.
All of that could affect down-ballot races in his favor, Stuber said.
“Without conducting my own investigation, without personally reviewing all the evidence gathered, without any oversight from my office of the evidence gathering process, to comment in any way would be conjecture at best, and irresponsible at worse,” Wood said in response to Stuber’s comments about the Clinton investigation.
“The Office of the State Auditor has worked hard to assure that every report, every finding, every conclusion, and even comments coming from this office are supported by hard evidence. No one, other than those FBI officials who worked the case, has enough knowledge and evidence to support any statements being made about the Clinton email situation,” Wood said.
Stuber admitted he was “surprised that Director Comey would come out and make a statement himself” about the Clinton investigation because as a rule the FBI doesn’t advocate for or against the filing of criminal charges.
Typically the agency remains mum, and refers results of an investigation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice, or a district attorney’s office, “and that’s what I expected would happen in the Hillary Clinton case,” Stuber said.
Although he has no “inside information,” Stuber said based on his FBI experience it is possible Comey rejected recommendations to charge Clinton. “I think it would probably be safe to say there might have been some disagreements between the people on the investigative team.”
News that FBI agents working the Clinton case were directed to sign nondisclosure statements seemed odd to Stuber.
“I have never been asked to sign a nondisclosure statement related to a specific investigation,” he said. “That’s something I’m not aware of.”
Stuber said he has no way of knowing whether Donald Trump would help or hurt him if the likely nominee is at the top of the Republican presidential ballot.
“All I can do is work as hard as I possibly can to hopefully win my race, get my message out to the voters,” he said.
“Mr. Trump, like myself, is an outsider,” Stuber said, and while there may be some disadvantages to running an insurgency campaign, “I really feel like we need new people in government” with fresh perspectives, energy, and ideas.
Stuber says his career as an FBI agent and chief investigator for the State Board of Elections gives him the ability to take the Auditor’s Office to “a new level as far as finding fraud, and wasteful spending,” and in using his broad network of law enforcement contacts to help prosecute criminal activity. He already is getting tips on high-level cases he would investigate, he said.
Wood’s campaign noted that she was endorsed on Wednesday by the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association.