Breaking News

DOJ Inspector General report on Clinton email probe released

The long-awaited report from the Justice Department has been released after the IG's office spent 18 months reviewing how Justice officials and the FBI handled the Clinton email investigation.

The report found no indication that political bias affected decisions in the FBI's 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, but the review criticized agents and ex-FBI Director James Comey for their actions during the probe.

The department's inspector general turned up fresh evidence of FBI officials exchanging messages critical of President Donald Trump and leaking to the media, and the report faulted the FBI for several weeks of inaction following the September 2016 discovery of emails relevant to its investigation on a laptop belonging to former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was married to a top Clinton aide.

Comey was singled out for withering criticism by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, including accusations of insubordination against top Justice Department officials and of making “a serious error of judgment” in notifying Congress shortly before the 2016 election that the FBI was re-opening its Clinton email probe. Clinton has said that letter helped lead to her loss in the November election.

The report undercuts Trump's argument that the FBI, acting for political reasons, let Clinton off the hook over her use of a private email server as secretary of state. But it offers potential fodder for his claims that FBI agents were biased against him, and Trump could point to Horowitz's criticism of Comey as belated justification for the decision to fire him last year amid an ongoing FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump has long called the investigation, which includes contacts between his presidential campaign and Russians and whether he sought to obstruct justice by firing Comey, a "witch hunt" against him. The inspector general report Thursday did not touch on the beginning of the Russia investigation, which special counsel Robert Mueller took over after Comey's firing.

Republicans criticized the FBI's actions in 2016 before the report was even released publicly.

"The law enforcement community has no greater ally in Congress than me. But continued revelations of questionable decision making by FBI and DOJ leadership destroys confidence in the impartiality of the institutions I have long served, respected, and believed in," Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in a statement. "This is not the FBI I know. This is not the FBI our country needs. This is not the FBI citizens and suspects alike deserve."

Horowitz found that five FBI employees assigned to the email case exchanged texts or instant messages that were hostile to Trump or supported Clinton. In one previously unreleased exchange, FBI agent Peter Strzok — who was deeply involved in both the Clinton probe and the investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia — seemed to vow to block Trump from winning.

Trump's "not ever going to become president, right? Right?!" FBI attorney Lisa Page asked via text on August 8, 2016.

"No. No he won't. We'll stop it," Strzok replied.

Horowitz said the FBI personnel had a right to political views but should not have been exchanging such blatantly political messages on FBI equipment and while involved in investigations of those candidates.

"The conduct of these five FBI employees brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI's handling of the [Clinton email] investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI," Horowitz wrote.

The inspector general expressed concern that one aspect of the handling of the Clinton probe may have reflected some political motivation on Strzok's part: his decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over the discovery of new emails several weeks before the election.

The inspector general also found that multiple senior FBI officials — including Comey and Strzok — used personal email accounts to conduct FBI business, a finding that flabbergasted Clinton allies who have long complained that she was unfairly maligned for her own use of private email.

Horowitz described the “most troubling” example as a decision by Strzok on Oct. 29, 2016, to forward to his personal account an email about a proposed search warrant that FBI officials were seeking for Weiner’s laptop.

Horowitz also dinged former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her “ambiguous” partial recusal from the probe of Clinton's private email server, which she used as secretary of state, and for failing to insist that Comey clear his public announcement of the end of the Clinton probe with Justice Department officials.

No comments