The Department of Justice inspector general released a sweeping report Thursday, condemning former FBI director James Comey for being “insubordinate” in his handling of the Clinton email investigation, and accusing other top FBI officials of displaying a “willingness to take official action” to stop President Trump’s election.
The roughly 500-page report, delivered to Congress Thursday, stopped short of saying the political bias present within the bureau affected the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Inspector General Michael Horowitz found “no evidence that the conclusions by department prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations.”
Horowitz’s investigation confirmed the FBI’s conclusion that some of Clinton’s emails contained classified information but she did not intend to compromise the information.
The report deals a significant blow to Comey, the former FBI director who recently embarked on a tour to promote his book on ethical leadership.
Investigators found that Comey made a “serious error of judgment” in sending a letter to Congress on Oct. 28, just days before the election, announcing that he was reopening the Clinton investigation. The report said it was “extraordinary that Comey assessed that it was best” to make the announcement without first consulting with Department of Justice officials. Comey is also criticized for using a personal email account when conducting official FBI business.
Perhaps most damning to FBI credibility, investigators found that Peter Strzok, who served as a lead investigator on both the Trump-Russia and Clinton-email investigations, vowed he would “stop” Trump from becoming president in an August 2016 text message to his mistress, FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page wrote to Strzok.
“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded.
Strzok said the message “was intended to reassure Page that Trump would not be elected, not to suggest that he would do something to impact the investigation,” according to the report.
Comey responded to the report in a New York Times op-ed Thursday.
“The report concludes that I was wrong to announce the F.B.I.’s completion of the investigation without coordinating with the attorney general and that I was wrong to inform Congress in late October that we had reopened the investigation,” Comey wrote. “In both situations, the inspector general’s team concludes, I should have adhered to established norms, which they see as mandating both deference to the attorney general on the public announcement and silence about an investigation so close to an election. I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism.”
Strzok’s attorney also responded to the report Thursday, criticizing the IG for failing to say definitively that his client’s political bias did not affect the decision not to seek a search warrant for Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
“As the report notes, Special Agent Strzok in particular was consistently thorough and aggressive, sometimes to the point that put him at odds with senior officials at the Department of Justice,” Aitan Goelman, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, said in a statement.
“But the report is critically flawed in its bizarre conclusion that the IG cannot rule out ‘with confidence’ the possibility that Special Agent Strzok’s political ‘bias’ may have been a cause of the FBI’s failure, between September 29 and October 25, 2016, to seek a second search warrant for the Anthony Weiner laptop,” he added. “In fact, all facts contained in the report lead to the conclusion that the delay was caused by a variety of factors and miscommunications that had nothing to do with Special Agent Strzok’s political views.”
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