U.S. to re­view Comey’s steps as to Clin­ton

His ac­tions in email probe as Nov. 8 neared are fo­cus

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz, Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung of The Wash­ing­ton Post; by Ken Thomas, Eric Tucker and Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press; by Chris Strohm, Tom Schoen­berg, Jen­nifer Ep­ste

WASH­ING­TON — The Jus­tice De­part­ment in­spec­tor general will re­view broad al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct in­volv­ing FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey and how he han­dled the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email prac­tices, the in­spec­tor general an­nounced Thurs­day.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be wide-rang­ing — en­com­pass­ing Comey’s var­i­ous let­ters and pub­lic state­ments on the mat­ter and whether FBI or other Jus­tice De­part­ment em­ploy­ees leaked non­pub­lic in­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from In­spec­tor General Michael Horowitz.

Democrats and Clin­ton have blamed Comey for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date’s loss, ar­gu­ing that the in­quiry’s re­newal and the FBI di­rec­tor’s pub­lic mis­sives on the eve of the elec­tion blunted her mo­men­tum. Comey has faced months of crit­i­cism, some of it from for­mer Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials, for vi­o­lat­ing the de­part­ment’s pol­icy of avoid­ing any ac­tion that could af­fect a can­di­date close to an elec­tion.

Brian Fal­lon, a for­mer Clin­ton cam­paign spokesman, praised the in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ci­sion Thurs­day.

“This is highly en­cour­ag­ing and to be ex­pected given Di­rec­tor Comey’s dras­tic de­vi­a­tion from Jus­tice De­part­ment pro­to­col,” Fal­lon said. “A probe of this sort, how­ever long it takes to con­duct, is ut­terly nec­es­sary in or­der to take the first step to re­store the FBI’s rep­u­ta­tion as a non­par­ti­san in­sti­tu­tion.”

Law­mak­ers and oth­ers had called pre­vi­ously for the in­spec­tor general to in­ves­ti­gate the FBI’s pre-elec­tion ac­tions when it came to Clin­ton, al­leg­ing that Comey bucked long-stand­ing poli­cies with his com­mu­ni­ca­tions about the case and that in­for­ma­tion seemed to have leaked in­ap­pro­pri­ately.

Horowitz said in a news re­lease that he will ex­plore the cir­cum­stances re­gard­ing the ac­tions of Comey and oth­ers.

“The re­view will not sub­sti­tute the OIG’s judg­ment for the judg­ments made by the FBI or the De­part­ment re­gard­ing the sub­stan­tive mer­its of in­ves­tiga­tive or pros­ec­u­tive de­ci­sions,” the news re­lease said, us­ing an acro­nym for the Of­fice of the In­spec­tor General.

Comey is in his fourth year of a 10-year term and can be re­moved from the job only if he re­signs or is fired by the pres­i­dent. There are no signs that he in­tends to re­sign, and only one FBI chief in the bureau’s his­tory — Wil­liam Ses­sions in 1993 — has ever been fired.

“I am grate­ful to the De­part­ment of Jus­tice’s IG for tak­ing on this re­view,” Comey said in a state­ment. “He is pro­fes­sional and in­de­pen­dent, and the FBI will co­op­er­ate fully with him and his of­fice. 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.”

Ear­lier in the week, the 56-year-old FBI chief told the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that “I hope I’ve demon­strated by now I’m tone-deaf when it comes to pol­i­tics, and that’s the way it should be.”

The FBI’s probe into whether Clin­ton mis­han­dled clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion by us­ing a pri­vate email server when she was sec­re­tary of state has long been con­tentious and po­lit­i­cally charged.

Per­haps most no­tably, Comey on Oct. 28 — af­ter pre­vi­ously an­nounc­ing pub­licly that he was rec­om­mend­ing no charges in the case — sent a let­ter to con­gres­sional lead­ers telling them that agents had re­sumed the Clin­ton probe af­ter find­ing po­ten­tially rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion in an un­re­lated case.

The day be­fore, se­nior Jus­tice De­part­ment lead­ers had warned Comey not to send the let­ter be­cause it vi­o­lated two long-stand­ing de­part­ment poli­cies:

dis­cussing an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and tak­ing any overt ac­tion on an in­ves­ti­ga­tion so close to an elec­tion. At the time, it was less than two weeks be­fore the elec­tion, and early vot­ing had al­ready be­gun.

Comey has de­clined to talk about any pos­si­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump or his cam­paign, as re­cently as this week re­buff­ing re­quests from leg­is­la­tors to con­firm that agents were look­ing into any such matters.

“I don’t — es­pe­cially in a pub­lic fo­rum, we never con­firm or deny a pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Comey said.

Comey sent a se­cond let­ter to Congress on the Clin­ton case, just days be­fore the elec­tion, declar­ing that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was com­plete and he was not chang­ing the de­ci­sion he had made in July to rec­om­mend no charges. But at that point Clin­ton sup­port­ers feared that it was too late to mit­i­gate the dam­age.

Horowitz wrote that he will ex­plore “al­le­ga­tions that De­part­ment or FBI poli­cies

or pro­ce­dures were not fol­lowed” in con­nec­tion with both let­ters.

Deputy In­spec­tor General Robert Storch de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle. The FBI did not im­me­di­ately pro­vide a re­sponse to the in­spec­tor general’s in­quiry de­ci­sion.

Horowitz wrote that his in­quiry would ex­tend back to at least July — when Comey an­nounced that he was rec­om­mend­ing that the Clin­ton case be closed with­out charges. He wrote that he would ex­plore “al­le­ga­tions that De­part­ment and FBI em­ploy­ees im­prop­erly dis­closed non-pub­lic in­for­ma­tion.”

Horowitz also wrote that he would ex­plore whether FBI Deputy Di­rec­tor Andrew McCabe should have been re­cused from the case. McCabe’s wife ran for a Vir­ginia Se­nate seat and took money from the po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee of Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an out­spo­ken Clin­ton ally.

The re­view 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. Those post­ings, which touched on Bill Clin­ton’s con­tentious 2001 par­don­ing of a wealthy donor, and doc­u­ments re­lated to an FBI file on Trump’s late fa­ther, fueled fur­ther con­fu­sion and crit­i­cism about man­age­ment at the bureau.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment and the FBI have a long-stand­ing pol­icy against dis­cussing crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Another Jus­tice De­part­ment pol­icy de­clares that pol­i­tics should play no role in in­ves­tiga­tive de­ci­sions. Both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions have in­ter­preted that pol­icy broadly to pro­hibit tak­ing any steps that might even hint at an im­pres­sion of par­ti­san­ship.

It is rare for the in­spec­tor general to pub­licly dis­close its in­ves­ti­ga­tions, par­tic­u­larly in such de­tail. That means that the in­spec­tor general has bro­ken with pol­icy and an­nounced de­tails of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Comey broke with pol­icy and an­nounced

de­tails of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Asked about the new in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­gard­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton, U.S. At­tor­ney General Loretta Lynch said 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.”

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

Comey

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