The Denver Post

Justice report provides ammo for Trump — and his critics

- By Jonathan Lemire and Eric Tucker

WASHINGTON» A Justice Department watchdog report has turned into Washington’s latest Rorschach test, with President Donald Trump and his critics each cherry-picking what they want to see from its findings to either discredit or defend investigat­ors conducting the probe into the White House.

The 500-page report, which was more than a year in the making, offered a nuanced conclusion about the bureau’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, criticizin­g the FBI and its former director James Comey personally but not finding evidence that political bias tainted the investigat­ion in the months and days leading up to Trump’s election.

But Trump wielded it as a blunt instrument Friday, bludgeonin­g the integrity of the Justice Department by pointing to the politicall­y charged communicat­ion among FBI employees as proof that the FBI was biased “at the top level” and “plotting against my election.”

“The end result was wrong. There was total bias,” Trump declared Friday. “Comey was the ring leader of this whole, you know, den of thieves. It was a den of thieves.”

Trump allies seized upon text messages between agents, pointing to one from August 2016 that said “We’ll stop it” with regard to a potential Trump victory and another from a bureau lawyer that said “Viva le resistance.” And Trump took it one step further, barreling out of the White House on Friday for an unannounce­d, early-morning television interview that turned into a nearly hourlong freewheeli­ng giveand-take with reporters.

“There was no collusion. There was no obstructio­n. The IG report yesterday went a long way to show that,” Trump said on the White House North Lawn. “And I think that the Mueller investigat­ion has been totally discredite­d.”

But Trump’s claim was baseless: the report made no conclusion­s about the president’s involvemen­t.

Some, though critical of Comey, believed the report actually helps fortify the Department of Justice against Trump’s attacks.

“I think it essentiall­y concludes what was obvious at the time, and that’s that Comey was just largely ignoring rules, both in July and in October,” said Matt Miller, a former Department of Justice official under Attorney General Eric Holder. “That’s not really a surprising conclusion for anyone who knows how DO J is supposed to work.”

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