A Department of Justice report found that former FBI Director James Comey did not follow standard procedures in his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.
The report, which is not yet publicly available, concludes that Comey hurt the agency’s reputation for impartiality, though it says he did not do so out of political bias, according to Bloomberg News, which obtained a copy of the report.
The report by the Justice Department’s inspector general will be the latest bombshell in the seemingly never-ending fight over the 2016 election. President Donald Trump has tweeted that he was eagerly awaiting it, and both Democrats and Republicans are watching to see how it will affect public opinion.
Here’s what you need to know.
What does the inspector general do?
The Office of Inspectors General is responsible for examining allegations of wrongdoing, fraud or misconduct within various federal agencies. The Inspector General of the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, currently leads a nationwide team of more than 450 agents, attorneys, auditors and other such employees who all work together to conduct these investigations. Often called the “watchdog” of the federal government, inspectors general work to hold government officials accountable to an honorable standard of behavior, promoting efficiency and integrity.
Who is Inspector General Michael Horowitz?
Michael Horowitz is a Harvard Law School graduate and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Prior to practicing law for a private firm from 2002-2012, Horowitz worked in the Department of Justice Criminal Division between 1999 and 2002, where he was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General and then the Chief of Staff.
Former President Barack Obama nominated Horowitz as inspector general of the Department of Justice in July of 2011. In 2012, he was confirmed by the Senate without objection and sworn into office that spring.
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What is the Inspector General’s report about?
Horowitz announced in January 2017 that the Department of Justice would examine how the FBI handled the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server under Comey. It will review a number of Comey’s controversial acts, including his choice not to prosecute Clinton for sending classified information over her private email server and his decision to publicly resume the Clinton investigation in October, 2017.
The report was welcomed both by Democrats, who thought Comey’s reopening of Clinton’s email server investigation just days before the election cost her the race, and by Republicans, who felt Clinton deserved criminal charges for using a private server to send emails related to her work as Secretary of State.
The report has nothing to do with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but since Trump fired Comey in May of 2017, it has taken on added relevance. Trump’s official reason for firing Comey was his mistreatment of Clinton, although he argued at other times that the FBI director was actually too nice to her.
What happened during the Clinton email investigation?
In March of 2015, the New York Times published a front-page article indicating Clinton exclusively used a private email server and personal email address to send work-related emails and that the use of the account “may have violated federal requirements” that she retain all officials’ correspondence.
Breaking the tradition of not discussing FBI investigations with the public, Comey held a press conference in July of 2016 saying that though the FBI did not find evidence Clinton and her colleagues intended to violate laws regarding careful email practice, they were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
On Oct. 28, 2016, Comey sent a letter to Congress suggesting more emails had been discovered that appeared to be pertinent to the investigation of Clinton’s email server.
Finally, on Nov. 6, 2016, just two days before the 2016 election, Comey told Congress the additional emails the bureau analyzed did not change the FBI’s conclusion Clinton should not be prosecuted.
What does the report say about James Comey?
The report states that Comey departed “clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms,” though not on account of political bias on Comey’s part.
“The decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the report’s conclusions, which were obtained by Bloomberg News on Thursday morning.
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch may also come under scrutiny in the report. During the initial email probe, Lynch privately met with former President Bill Clinton on an airplane tarmac in Arizona. Though it is not clear what Bill Clinton and Lynch discussed on the plane in the midst of the email investigation, she expressed regret: “I certainly wouldn’t do it again.”
How did Republicans respond to the report?
Earlier today, three Trump-supporting Republicans drafted a letter expressing concern about the final version of the report. Reps. Andy Biggs, Ron DeSantis, and Matt Gaetz wrote to Horowitz asking him to release the report’s initial drafts along with the final published form due to concerns that the report may have been weakened over time and editing. Although they commend the report for being “thorough and accurate,” they write that “people may have changed the report in a way that obfuscates your findings.” They expressed worries that members of the DOJ and FBI may have changed the draft over the past month.
What has Trump said about the inspector general’s report?
Trump eagerly anticipated the release of the Inspector General’s report. He has openly criticized how long it took the report to be published, by tweeting, “Numerous delays. Hope Report is not being changed and made weaker!”
He has also expressed hope that the report will validate his decision to fire James Comey by providing evidence of Comey’s incompetence. He recently tweeted “When will people start saying, ‘thank you, Mr. President, for firing James Comey?” and later commented to the press that the June 14 report may turn out to be “a nice birthday president.”
What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey. Numerous delays. Hope Report is not being changed and made weaker! There are so many horrible things to tell, the public has the right to know. Transparency!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the president wanted the report to be transparent but also “expedited and completed quickly.”
“I think the President would like to see this process move faster,” she said at a press briefing in early June. “They’ve been obsessed with a number of other issues in which they’ve spent a great deal of time on. I think he’d like to see some of that spread out and some time spent on that.”
Trump is expected to use any negative findings about Comey to attempt to further undermine his credibility, since Comey has also testified under oath that the president asked him to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and sought to secure his personal loyalty, claims that the president denies vehemently.