Watch­dog ex­am­in­ing FBI ac­tions in Clin­ton email case

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Thomas

In yet an­other af­ter­shock from the chaotic pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, the Jus­tice Depart­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion Thurs­day into depart­ment and FBI ac­tions be­fore the elec­tion, in­clud­ing whether FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey fol­lowed es­tab­lished poli­cies in the email in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Democrats have blamed Comey’s han­dling of the in­quiry into Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server, and his late-Oc­to­ber public let­ter about the case, as one rea­son for her loss to Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump.

Work­ers are now putting fi­nal touches on prepa­ra­tions for next week’s In­au­gu­ra­tion Day fes­tiv­i­ties, and the new probe will not change the elec­tion re­sults.

But it re­vives ques­tions of whether the FBI took ac­tions that might have in­flu­enced the out­come.

IG Michael Horowitz, the depart­ment’s in­ter­nal watch­dog, will di­rect the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which comes in re­sponse to re­quests from mem­bers of Congress and the public.

Comey said he was pleased about the re­view and the FBI would co­op­er­ate fully with the in­spec­tor gen­eral.

“I hope very much he is able to share his conclusions and ob­ser­va­tions with the public be­cause every­one will ben­e­fit from thought­ful eval­u­a­tion and trans­parency re­gard­ing this mat­ter,” he said in a state­ment.

One part of the re­view will con­cern Comey’s news con­fer­ence last July in which he said the FBI would not rec­om­mend charges against Clin­ton for her use of a pri­vate email sys­tem dur­ing her ten­ure as sec­re­tary of state. Trump re­peat­edly crit­i­cized that prac­tice, con­tend­ing it put na­tional se­cu­rity se­crets at risk.

Trump also de­clared at rau­cous ral­lies dur­ing the cam­paign that he would seek a spe­cial prose­cu­tor to in­ves­ti­gate Clin­ton and that she would be in jail if he were elected. But he said af­ter the elec­tion that he did not in­tend to seek a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion of her.

Comey, dur­ing his an­nounce­ment in the sum­mer, broke pro­to­col when he chas­tised Clin­ton and her aides as “ex­tremely care­less” in their email prac­tices. It’s highly un­usual for fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to dis­cuss a crim­i­nal case that ends with­out charges be­ing filed.

Comey reignited the email con­tro­versy on Oct. 28 when he in­formed Congress that agents would be re­view­ing a cache of emails be­tween Clin­ton aide Huma Abe­din and Clin­ton for any new ev­i­dence re­lated to Clin­ton’s han­dling of sen­si­tive State Depart­ment ma­te­rial.

That move boiled in the cam­paign for nine days, be­fore Comey an­nounced on Nov. 6 — two days be­fore Elec­tion Day — that the in­quiry had found no new ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing.

Clin­ton and her aides have said the dis­clo­sure of the “new” emails, found on a lap­top be­long­ing to for­mer New York Rep. An­thony Weiner, Abe­din’s es­tranged hus­band, hurt the can­di­date in sev­eral bat­tle­ground states. Trump won the elec­tion in part with nar­row vic­to­ries in Demo­cratic-lean­ing states like Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia.

Comey’s state­ments prompted out­rage from Clin­ton and other Democrats who said they need­lessly placed her un­der fresh sus­pi­cion when the FBI didn’t even know whether the emails were rel­e­vant.

Court doc­u­ments re­leased last month said the FBI had been try­ing to get a look at thou­sands of Clin­ton’s emails on the disgraced for­mer con­gress­man’s com­puter to see if any­one had hacked in to steal clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. Weiner’s lap­top was ini­tially seized by agents for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his on­line re­la­tion­ship with a teenage girl in North Carolina.

Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, a Utah Repub­li­can who leads the House Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, wrote Thurs­day on Twit­ter that he sup­ports the IG’s re­view “of what hap­pened at the #DOJ and #FBI dur­ing the Clin­ton in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Horowitz’s broad in­ves­ti­ga­tion will also look into al­le­ga­tions that the FBI’s deputy di­rec­tor should have been re­cused from par­tic­i­pat­ing in cer­tain in­ves­tiga­tive mat­ters and al­le­ga­tions that depart­ment of­fi­cials im­prop­erly dis­closed non-public in­for­ma­tion to the Clin­ton cam­paign.

It will also delve into de­ci­sion-mak­ing re­lated to the tim­ing of the FBI’s re­lease of Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act doc­u­ments in the days be­fore the elec­tion and the use of a Twit­ter ac­count to pub­li­cize them.

Asked about the new in­ves­ti­ga­tion, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch told The As­so­ci­ated Press in Bal­ti­more that “we let them con­duct their re­view be­fore we make any state­ment about that.” She added that “ob­vi­ously every­one’s go­ing to await the re­sults of that.”

AP FILE

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey in shown Jan. 10 on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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