The Department of Justice Inspector General has found that former FBI director James Comey “deviated” from FBI procedure in overseeing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“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,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote in a highly anticipated report obtained by Bloomberg News.
The report, which will be sent to Congress Thursday, represents the conclusion of a months-long investigation into whether the FBI and Comey were compromised by political bias in handling the Clinton probe. The findings center on a number of politically contentious moves by Comey and former attorney general Loretta Lynch, including Comey’s decision to publicly exonerate Clinton in July 2016 and his decision to publicly reopen the investigation just days before the election.
Horowitz found a “troubling lack of any direct, substantive communication” between Comey and Lynch ahead of the July 5 press conference in which the former FBI director announced that no prosecutor would bring charges against Clinton for her handling of classified documents. That lack of communication apparently continued, as Comey never spoke “substantively” with Lynch before publicly reopening the Clinton investigation in late October after classified materials were discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
“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 those decisions,” Horowitz wrote.
The report also touched on the conduct of FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who exchanged anti-Trump text messages while serving on the team that investigated Clinton. The pair, who were romantically involved at the time, were later removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team after the inspector general revealed their texts.
The agents’ involvement in Mueller’s investigation led to cries of bias from Republicans, but the report found their political leanings did not taint their conduct with respect to the Clinton investigation.
“We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed,” Horowitz said in the report to be issued Thursday. “The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation.”