FBI official pushes back on Trump-spread claim that Chinese firm hacked Clinton emails

An FBI official said Wednesday the bureau has not found any evidence to back up a claim made by a conservative news organization and spread by President Donald Trump that Hillary Clinton’s private email server was hacked by a Chinese-owned company.

“The FBI has not found any evidence the servers were compromised,” the official told CNN and other media outlets Wednesday.

The Daily Caller reported late Tuesday that an unnamed Chinese firm operating in the Washington, DC, area hacked Clinton’s private server and obtained “nearly all her emails.” Trump quickly seized on the report to call on federal law enforcement to investigate the matter. The report that Trump was using cited two anonymous sources briefed on the matter, though Trump himself said hours later on Twitter that stories based on anonymous sources are “fiction.”

In one tweet, the President also made light of Russia’s attacks on the 2016 US election.

“Report just out: ‘China hacked Hillary Clinton’s private Email Server.’ Are they sure it wasn’t Russia (just kidding!)? What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this? Actually, a very big story. Much classified information!” Trump wrote Tuesday night.

CNN has reached out to the White House and National Security Council for comment.

The FBI’s statement to all media directly disputing Trump’s claim was a rare move that did not go unnoticed by former law enforcement officials.

“As chief executive, the President has access to every piece of classified information in the holdings of the US government,” said Josh Campbell, a CNN analyst and former FBI Supervisory Special Agent. “In the amount of time it took him to draft a tweet spreading unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo, he could have picked up the phone and gotten the actual story from the agency heads who report to him.”

The Chinese foreign ministry responded on Wednesday to Trump’s claim, saying it opposes “all forms of cyberattacks” and that “China is a champion of cybersecurity.”

During a daily press conference in Beijing on Wednesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Hua Chunying, told reporters that the accusations were “nothing new” and that the “cyber issue is a global one” that “needs to be addressed by all countries.”

Former FBI Director James Comey said as recently as May that the FBI found no evidence of penetration but there were concerns.

“It was a serious concern of ours for reasons I can’t get into. But we never found the evidence that — technical indicators — that there was penetration by an adversary of that system,” Comey said when asked about China or others reading Clinton’s emails.

In 2016, Comey said that even though the FBI found no evidence Clinton’s account server was hacked, “it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”

Yet the Justice Department’s Inspector General reviewed the issue extensively and issued a report in June that found a portion Comey’s statement was “based almost entirely on speculation and without any evidence from the (Clinton) investigation to support his claim.”