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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

DOJ IG Details Comey Missteps in Clinton Email Probe, Finds No Bias

The office of Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in a report released Thursday that former FBI Director James Comey committed “extraordinary and insubordinate” actions in the course of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to send and receive sometimes classified information.

The report detailed the IG’s findings on the actions of the FBI and DOJ ahead of the 2016 election. It revealed new anti-Trump texts sent between FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, saying their communications “cast a cloud” over the investigation but there was no evidence “that these political views directly affected the specific investigative decisions that we reviewed.”

The inspector general’s review also noted that Comey had used a private email server to handle sensitive FBI information, to which Clinton tweeted Thursday, “But my emails.”

Comey had stated in 2016 that he did not feel concerned about his usage of a private email server because it was employed to forward items to his official accounts, which helped increase productivity, according to a CNN report Thursday.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said he accepted the report’s recommendations and “we’re going to train every single FBI employee, both new hires and veterans alike, on what went wrong so these mistakes won’t ever be repeated.”

Wray said at a Thursday news conference that “nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our work force as a whole or the FBI as an institution.”

Despite finding no political motivations, the inspector general’s office took issue with what it described as a lapse in proper investigative judgment on Comey’s part, including his decision to reveal days before the 2016 presidential election that agents were investigating new Clinton emails discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

“We found unpersuasive Comey’s explanation as to why transparency was more important than Department policy and practice with regard to the reactivated Midyear investigation while, by contrast, Department policy and practice were more important to follow with regard to the Clinton Foundation and Russia investigations,” the report said. “Comey’s description of his choice as being between ‘two doors,’ one labeled ‘speak’ and one labeled ‘conceal,’ was a false dichotomy.”

The report added that although the inspector general’s office acknowledged that Comey faced “a difficult situation with unattractive choices,” his handling of the investigation was “a serious error of judgment.”

Comey’s initial draft statement on the investigation into Clinton’s emails, which he shared with FBI leadership May 2, 2016, criticized Clinton’s handling of classified information as “grossly negligent” but concluded that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case based on the facts uncovered, according to the report.

Comey’s statement underwent various language changes, including an alteration that criticized Clinton’s conduct without charging the former secretary of State because “unusual transparency…was necessary for an unprecedented situation,” and that such transparency “was the best chance we had of having the American people have confidence that the justice system works.”

The report also offered findings regarding separate allegations that DOJ and FBI employees improperly disclosed public information, whether former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have been recused from the investigation, whether former Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Peter Kadzik had improperly disclosed non-public information regarding the Clinton investigation and whether the timing of the FBI’s decision to request certain documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 of 2016 were influenced by improper considerations.

“For each of these decisions, we analyzed whether there was evidence of improper considerations, including bias, and also whether the justifications offered for the decision were a pretext for improper, but unstated, considerations,” the report stated. “The question we considered was not whether a particular investigative decision was the ideal choice or one that could have been handled more effectively, but whether the circumstances surrounding the decision indicated that it was based on considerations other than the merits of the investigation.”

The report added that the inspector general’s office determined that although alternative decisions in the investigative process would have been more effective, it did not find strong evidence that Comey sought to endorse either candidate through opening the investigation into Clinton’s emails.

Comey tweeted in response, “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.”

Read the full report

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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