Former FBI Director James Comey faces prosecution for breaking protocol during the Clinton email probe, according to a new report from the Justice Department’s inspector general.
‘While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice,’ the report says.
Daily Mail reports: Several top Justice Department and FBI officials were expected to come under scrutiny in the report, including Comey, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and FBI official Peter Strzok.
Bloomberg News was the first to obtain a copy of the report ahead of its scheduled 3:00 p.m. release.
The White House will take its time responding to what turned out to be a lukewarm condemnation of Comey: There is no press briefing scheduled for Thursday.
The long anticipated bombshell report promises to brand Comey as ‘insubordinate.’ Senior members of Congress will receive a briefing on the IG’s findings at lunchtime.
Horowitz had pointed criticism for Comey and Lynch, finding a ‘troubling lack of any direct, substantive communication’ between them in advance of the July 5, 2016 press conference where then-FBI director Comey appeared to let Clinton off the hook for housing classified emails on an unsecured private server.
He also upbraided the two of them for failing to connect before Comey’s October 28 letter to Congress, in which he said additional emails had been found that caused him to restart the probe.
‘We found it extraordinary that, in advance of two such consequential decisions, the FBI director decided that the best course of conduct was to not speak directly and substantively with the attorney general about how best to navigate those decisions,’ Horowitz wrote.
The West Wing held its collective breath all week, hoping for a spanking heard ’round the world.
‘When will people start saying, ‘thank you, Mr. President, for firing James Comey?” the president tweeted a week ago.
‘Comey is eventually going to get what’s coming to him, so it may as well be soon,’ one White House official added then.
The official said the fired FBI director ‘and his cheap halo have been wearing the holier-than-thou act pretty thin, and nobody around here is going to shed a tear if he’s brought down a peg. Or a few hundred.’
The Justice Department is making Horowitz available to testify in a public Senate hearing on June 18. House Judiciary Committee members will get their chance to quiz Horowitz a day later.
The result could be a flurry of written demands for public testimony – from Comey and former attorney general Loretta Lynch – and then even more explosive testimony in public from both former top-shelf Obama administration luminaries.
Horowitz’s report has been widely expected to criticize Comey and other senior leaders for their handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information while she was secretary of state.
The Trump White House is still reeling from the months-long public relations blitz associated with Comey’s self-laudatory book, ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ which painted Trump as an integrity-compromised villain and cast Comey as the unfairlly deposed carrier of America’s moral torch.
Among the report’s findings already leaked to the press a week ago: Comey was ‘insubordinate,’ Lynch jeopardized the impartiality of the DOJ by meeting secretly with former president Bill Clinton while his wife’s fate hung in the balance, and that the FBI didn’t move quickly enough to review a trove of emails found late in the 2016 campaign.
Those emails were found on a laptop belonging to disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner, the now-jailed ex-husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Of particular interest is Comey’s bombshell announcement two weeks before the 2016 election that the agency was reopening the Clinton email probe after stumbling upon the new material. It wasn’t until two days before the election that the FBI announced, for a second time, it would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton.
The Office of Inspector General report is also expected to criticize Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI officials who exchanged vicious text messages about Trump during the course of the Clinton investigation and the presidential campaign. Strzok was later tasked to work on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of unproven links between the Trump campaign and agents of the Kremlin.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, Horowitz wrote that ‘[p]rior to the June 18 hearing, the OIG intends to release our report publicly and to provide the report’s classified appendix to our oversight committees.’
‘We will release the report as soon as we complete the OIG’s ordinary processes for the review and classification of such reports … Most of this process is now complete, and we anticipate releasing the report on June 14, 2018.’
The report is expected to be especially brutal to Comey for telling Congress, barely a week before the 2016 election, that he was reopening a dormant probe into classified material nestled among other files on Clinton’s private email server.
ABC News reported that Horowitz will brand Comey ‘insubordinate,’ a word suggesting Lynch may have ordered him not to tell Congress that he had rebooted the investigation, a move that made voters aware of his decision and likely had political consequences.
Lynch’s transgression appears to be her declaration that she would accept the advice of the FBI – which ultimately recommended no prosecution – shortly after she convened a secret meeting with former president Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac.
That episode raised deep suspicions about whether she was putting her thumb on the scales of justice to help the Clintons, although both insisted they didn’t speak about the then-Democratic presidential candidate’s email scandal.
The late-October 2016 restart of the Hillary Clinton probe came after a tranche of her emails were discovered on a laptop belonging to disgraced former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner.
Weiner was married to Huma Abedin, Clinton’s deputy campaign manager, from whose account the emails were forwarded.
Sending the letter to Congress broke with longstanding DOJ policy not to take actions that could interfere with political processes, according to ABC.
The network’s anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Comey in April: ‘If Attorney General Lynch had ordered you not to send the letter, would you have sent it?’
‘No. I believe in the chain of command,’ he replied.
President Donald Trump put public pressure on the inspector general last week to finish the report, and said he hoped it wasn’t being made ‘weaker.’
The IG was originally scheduled to complete its findings by the end of May. ‘What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey,’ Trump tweeted last week.
‘Numerous delays. Hope Report is not being changed and made weaker! There are so many horrible things to tell, the public has the right to know. Transparency!’
There has been no indication that Trump has seen the report ahead of its release.
Amid growing interest in the report, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week gave notice that it would hold a hearing titled: ‘Examining the Inspector General’s First Report on Justice Department Decisions Regarding the 2016 Presidential Election.’
It pushed the hearing back a week, from its original date of June 5 to June 12.
‘We are not going to hold the hearing until the report comes out,’ said a Judiciary panel spokesman on Monday.
Horowitz told a House Oversight hearing late last year his office was ‘aiming to release the report in late winter/early spring — hopefully in that March/April time period.’
One person the IG interviewed in the course of his investigation was Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who on Sunday said he provided satisfactory assurances that he did not have inside information on the FBI reopening the Clinton email investigation.
Asked if he expected to be identified in the report as getting leaked information from the FBI, Giuliani told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’: ‘Oh no, no, absolutely not. No. Impossible. I didn’t get any leaked information from the F.B.I.’
Giuliani said he had ‘no idea that Weiner was involved in this at all. Had no idea they were going to reopen it.’
Giuliani in advance of the FBI’s surprise move had touted ‘some pretty big surprise,’ telling Fox News: ‘You’ll see.’
He told NBC he was referring to a major TV ad buy, ‘where we were going to buy a tremendous amount of time unlike anything we had ever done before.’ He says he was able to ‘show them a memo, a contemporaneous memo I have’ about it.
Asked by host Chuck Todd if he had a heads-up, Giuliani replied: ‘Right, no heads up. I had a speculation.’