The IG FBI Report: Actions Have Consequences

The Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton server and e-mail investigation was released Thursday. Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that although then FBI Director James Comey had deviated from FBI protocol, it was done without political bias.

Thursday’s report said that Comey’s move to hold a press conference, without briefing Justice Department leadership of his plans, in July 2016 announcing the FBI’s findings in its Clinton email probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails was “extraordinary and insubordinate.”

“[W]e found none of his reasons to be a persuasive basis for deviating from well-established Department policies in a way intentionally designed to avoid supervision by Department leadership over his actions,” the DOJ Inspector General said.

Also being examined was Comey’s move to send a letter to Congress, just days before the election, to announce that the email probe was being reopened due to emails found on a computer in the probe of Anthony Weiner, whose wife was a top Clinton aide.

The Inspector General knocked the Justice Department for its delay on moving on the emails, which were discovered in late September, according to the report. [..]

While the Inspector General found no evidence Comey’s decision to send the letter “was influenced by political preferences,” it again criticized him for engaging in “ad hoc decision making based on his personal views even if it meant rejecting longstanding Department policy or practice.”

The report also concluded that there was no evidence supporting assertions made by Trump and his allies that political bias inside the FBI had rigged the case to clear Clinton. Despite Donald Trump’s complaint that anti-Trump forces within the FBI worked against Trump, it is clear the bureau’s public actions during the campaign hurt Clinton and helped Trump.

The IG also concluded that there was no evidence to support Donald Trump’s claim that the agency was motivated by political animus as it investigates potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

The report also includes previously unreported text messages between two FBI officials, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who privately criticized Trump and previously worked on the bureau’s Russia investigation.

Among the new text messages uncovered in the report is one dated 8 August 2016, three months before the election, in which Page asked: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”

Mueller reassigned Strzok last summer after the anti-Trump messages came to light. Page is no longer with the FBI.

“The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation,” the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, said in the report.

He nonetheless concluded: “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.”

There was also a strong criticism of the use of private e-mail by Comey and other agents for official business:

The report determined that several FBI investigators — including Comey — also broke bureau protocol by using “personal email accounts for official government business.”

The inspector found five instances in which Comey either drafted official messages on or forwarded emails to his personal account, and at least two instances in which Strzok used his personal email for official business — including one “most troubling” instance on Oct. 29, 2016, when he forwarded “an email about the proposed search warrant the midyear team was seeking on the Weiner laptop” from his FBI account to his personal email.

The discovery is ironic, given that the FBI was exploring Clinton’s own use of a personal email server for work-related business and whether classified information traversed her server.

Hillary Clinton’s reaction to that was priceless:

The GOP talking point about former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was also debunked:

Republicans, including President Trump, have called McCabe’s impartiality into question because his wife, during her failed 2015 state senate run, accepted funds from a political group linked to then-Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally. [..]

McCabe told the IG that he did not learn about the donations until the publication of an Oct. 23, 2016 Wall Street Journal identifying them. That article prompted then-FBI Director James Comey to urge McCabe to voluntarily recuse himself, which he did days later.

The report concludes that McCabe assuming oversight of the Clinton email probe in February 2016, three months after his wife lost the race, did not represent an inappropriate conflict of interest. Chief FBI ethics official Pat Kelley told the IG that no reasonable person could question McCabe’s impartiality as a result of the donation—an assessment the report agreed with.

“The fact that McAuliffe supported Dr. McCabe’s campaign, and was a known associate of Hillary Clinton, did not create any connection between the Clinton email investigation and Dr. McCabe’s financial interests,” the report reads. [..]

“We found no evidence that McCabe continued to supervise investigative decisions in the Clinton-related matters after” his recusal, the report reads. “We did find that McCabe, prompted by a follow-up WSJ article of November 3, 2016, made inquiries about the steps the FBI was taking to address media leaks relating to the Clinton Foundation and exhorting managers to stop the leaking.”

No doubt Trump will seize on parts of the report to further attack the FBI and Hillary Clinton and undermine the US criminal justice system to caste doubt on his conspiring with Russia to enrich himself and his family of grifters and destroy our democratic system. The bottom line conclusion is very clear, the actions taken by James Comey helped Trump and not Clinton.