WATCHDOG REPORT REBUKES COMEY
Lists numerous missteps by ex-FBI director
WASHINGTON •The Justice Department inspector general has castigated former FBI Director James Comey for his actions during the Hillary Clinton email investigation and found that other senior bureau officials showed a “willingness to take official action” to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president.
The 500-page report, documenting major missteps in one of the most politically charged cases in the FBI’s history, provides the most exhaustive account to date of bureau and Justice Department decision-making throughout the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server, particularly in the months just before she would lose the presidency to Trump.
The report cited numerous instances of unprofessionalism, bias and misjudgment that hurt the bureau’s credibility. In particular, the report singled out lead agent Peter Strzok as showing anti-Trump bias that could have affected his thinking on the case during the immediate run up to the 2016 election.
The report is a blistering rebuke of Comey, who has spent recent months on a book tour promoting his brand of ethical leadership. Inspector general Michael Horowitz accused Comey of insubordination, saying he flouted Justice Department practices when he decided only he had the authority and credibility to make key decisions and speak for the Justice Department. Horowitz called Comey’s July 2016 public announcement that Clinton not be charged an “extraordinary and insubordinate” move, because Comey did not even tell then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch what he was about to do.
Comey also made a “serious error of judgment” in sending a letter to Congress on Oct. 28 announcing he was reopening the investigation of Clinton’s use of the server while secretary of state, the report found, and called it “extraordinary that Comey assessed that it was best” for him not to speak directly with either the attorney general or the deputy attorney general about his decision beforehand.
Horowitz concluded there was no evidence that political bias infected Comey’s thinking, even as he criticized individual steps Comey took.
Some senior bureau officials, the report found, exhibited a disturbing “willingness to take official action” to hurt Trump’s chances to become president.
Perhaps the most damaging new revelation in the report is a previously-unreported text message in which Strzok, a key investigator on both the Clinton email case and the investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign, assured an FBI lawyer in August 2016 that “we’ll stop” Trump from making it to the White House.
“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” the lawyer, Lisa Page, wrote to Strzok.
“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. Page and Strzok were romantically involved and used their work phones to engage in long-running text discussions of various work and personal topics, according to people familiar with the case.
The inspector general concluded that Strzok’s text, along with others disparaging Trump, “is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.”
In a message posted to Twitter on Thursday afternoon, Comey wrote: “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.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the report “reaffirmed the president’s suspicions about Comey’s conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI.”
Strzok’s lawyer, Aitan Goelman, called the report “critically flawed” for suggesting his client’s political views might have influenced the FBI’s weekslong delay in re-opening the Clinton case in October 2016.
“Mistakes were made,” the FBI said in a statement, admitting to “errors of judgment, violations of or disregard for policy, or, when viewed with the benefit of hindsight, simply not the best courses of action. They were not, in any respect, the result of bias or improper considerations.”
The report determined that several FBI investigators - including Comey - also broke bureau protocol by using “personal email accounts for official government business.”