The much awaited DOJ Inspector General report has been released today.
Topics reviewed by the IG include then FBI Director Comey’s 2016 statement about there being no grounds to pursue charges against Hillary Clinton for improper handling of classified information on her private email server and his subsequent decision to re-open the Clinton investigation days before the election. The Department of Justice inquiry examined the actions of FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, as well as investigating decisions made by Comey and former Attorney General Lynch.
The report does not address the Russia probe surrounding Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The IG report finds that Comey deviated from FBI norms in his decision making regarding the Hillary Clinton email probe.
…in key moments, then Director Comey chose to deviate from the
FBI’s and the Department’s established procedures and norms and instead engaged
in his own subjective, ad hoc decision making. In so doing, we found that Comey
largely based his decisions on what he believed was in the FBI’s institutional
interests and would enable him to continue to effectively lead the FBI as its
Director. While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias
on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and
dramatically from FBI and Department norms, the decisions negatively impacted
the perception of the FBI and the Department as fair administrators of justice.
Comey and Lynch
The IG report found the lack of communication between FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch to be troubling.
As we further outline in this report, there was a troubling lack of any direct,
substantive communication between Comey and then Attorney General Lynch in
advance of both Comey’s July 5 press conference and his October 28 letter to
Congress. With regard to the July 5 events, Comey affirmatively concealed his
intentions from Lynch. When he did finally call her on the morning of July 5—after
the FBI first notified the press—he told her that he was going to be speaking about
the Midyear investigation but that he would not answer any of her questions, and
would not tell her what he planned to say. During that call, Lynch did not instruct
Comey to tell her what he intended to say at the press conference. With respect to
the October 28 letter, Comey chose not to contact Lynch or then Deputy Attorney
General Yates directly; rather, he had FBI Chief of Staff Rybicki advise Yates’s
senior advisor (then PADAG Axelrod) that Comey intended to send a letter to
Congress and that Comey believed he had an obligation to do so. Given these
circumstances, Lynch and Yates concluded it would be counterproductive to speak
directly with Comey and that the most effective way to communicate their strong
opposition to Comey about his decision was to relay their views to him through
Axelrod and Rybicki. We found it extraordinary that, in advance of two such
consequential decisions, the FBI Director decided that the best course of conduct
was to not speak directly and substantively with the Attorney General about how
best to navigate these decisions and mitigate the resulting harms, and that
Comey’s decision resulted in the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General
concludingthat it would be counterproductive to speak directly with the FBI
Strzok and Page
Horowitzs’ findings indicate no evidence that political bias affected the reviewed actions of Strzok and Page related to the Russia probe, but express concern over their actions reflecting poorly on the FBI.
First, we found that several FBI employees who played critical roles in the
investigation sent political messages—some of which related directly to the Midyear
investigation—that created the appearance of bias and thereby raised questions
about the objectivity and thoroughness of the Midyear investigation. Even more
seriously, text messages between Strzok and Page pertaining to the Russia
investigation, particularly a text message from Strzok on August 8 stating “No. No
he’s not. We’ll stop it.” in response to a Page text “[Trump’s] not ever going to
become president, right? Right?!,” are not only indicative of a biased state of mind
but imply a willingness to take official action to impact a presidential candidate’s
electoral prospects. This is antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the
Department of Justice. While we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence
that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific
investigative actions we reviewed in Chapter Five, the conduct by these employees
cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation and sowed doubt about the FBI’s work
on, and its handling of, the Midyear investigation. It also called into question
Strzok’s failure in October 2016 to follow up on the Midyear-related investigative
lead discovered on the Weiner laptop. The damage caused by these employees’
actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the
heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence.
Three Republican lawmakers are requesting all unrevised drafts of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) report on the procedures it used during the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use.
“Your team has worked to ensure that this report is thorough and accurate; however, an investigation of this magnitude and consequence deserves heightened scrutiny to ensure that the process has not been compromised in any way,” GOP Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Ron DeSantis(Fla.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.) wrote in a letter sent to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Thursday.
“The trust of the America people depends on it. We are concerned that during this time, people may have changed the report in a way that obfuscates your findings.”
“This finding could have been reached the day of Comey’s press conference,” Brian Fallon, who was spokesman for Clinton’s presidential campaign, said Thursday. “It was obvious at the time that Comey was completely deviating from department protocols and it had a fateful impact on the 2016 campaign and the long-term reputation of the FBI.”
“He refused to take the advice of senior people in the Justice Department, so I’m not going to defend him,” Podesta told co-host Krystal Ball just hours before the release of a Justice Department inspector general report.
Podesta said it is possible Comey cost Clinton the election, but that he did not believe President Trump fired the FBI chief in the midst of the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election just because he hurt his former Democratic rival.
“On the other hand, do you think there is anyone in America, whether they watch Fox News, MSNBC or watch The Hill.com, who believes Donald Trump fired Jim Comey because he was unfair to Hillary Clinton and kind of blew the election for us, which there is good evidence he did,” he said.