DOJ’s Watchdog Report Sees No Bias in FBI’s Clinton Probe, but Faults James Comey

James Comey

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s inspector general released an exhaustive report on the FBI’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, finding no evidence that prosecutors were “affected by bias,” but faulting director James Comey in the way he handled public pronouncements about the probe.

Likely to get the most attention by President Donald Trump and his allies are revelations of further text message exchanges between FBI official Peter Strzok — who worked on the Clinton e-mail investigation and, for a time, the probe of possible collusion between Russia sources and the Trump campaign — and FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

Page wrote a text message in August of 2016, asking, Trump’s “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strozk responded, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

The report, however, “did not find evidence to connect the political views expressed in these messages to the specific investigative decisions that we reviewed.” Instead, they found that the decision not to prosecute Clinton were “judgment calls” that “were not unreasonable.”

“We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, we determined that they were based on the prosecutors’ assessment of the facts, the law, and past Department practice,” the report said.

The report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the “damage caused by their actions extends far beyond the scope of the [Clinton e-mail] investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral fact-finding and political independence.”

The report found no evidence that Comey’s decision to disclose, on Oct. 27, 2016, that the FBI was reopening the Clinton e-mail investigation was “influenced by political preferences.” But they found that Comey “engaged in ad hoc decision-making based on his personal views, even if it meant rejecting longstanding Department policy or practice.”

Clinton and other campaign officials have suggested that the announcement of the investigation’s reopening was a factor in her defeat.

The IG also said that Comey did not follow procedures in the way that he announced the end of the Clinton investigation, in July 2016, and the decision not to pursue any criminal charges.

“We concluded that Comey’s unilateral announcement was inconsistent with Department policy and violated long-standing Department practice and protocol by, among other things, criticizing Clinton’s uncharged conduct,” the report said. “We also found that Comey usurped the authority of the Attorney General, and inadequately and incompletely described the legal position of Department prosecutors.”

Comey tweeted following the release of the report, “I respect the DOJ IG office, which is why I urged them to do this review. The conclusions are reasonable, even though I disagree with some. People of good faith can see an unprecedented situation differently. I pray no Director faces it again. Thanks to IG’s people for hard work.”

In an op ed for The New York Times, Comey wrote that the report “also resoundingly demonstrates that there was no prosecutable case against Mrs. Clinton, as we had concluded. Although that probably will not stop some from continuing to claim the opposite is true, this independent assessment will be useful to thoughtful people and an important contribution to the historical record.”