DOJ IG, “James Comey extraordinarily insubordinate”
Disgraced, sacked former FBI Director James Comey was “insubordinate” in handling the probe into Hillary Clinton, damaging The Bureau and the US Justice Department’s image of impartiality even though he was not motivated by politics, the department’s watchdog found.
The report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, released Thursday, does not deal with the origins of the probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 US election and possible collusion with those around Donald Trump, the President and his Republican allies in Congress were primed to seize on it as evidence of poor judgment and anti-Trump bias within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Justice Department.
IG Horowitz said that 5 top level FBI officials expressed hostility toward Donald J. Trump before his election as President and disclosed in his report to Congress Thursday that their actions have been referred to The Bureau for possible disciplinary action.
One example cited
There was an prominent exchange of texts between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page on 8 August, 2016. Ms. Page questioned whether Donald J. Trump would become President. Mr. Strzok replied: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Under those circumstances, IG Horowitz said “we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up” on new evidence in the Clinton case “was free from bias.”
IG Horowitz, whose office said it reviewed more than 1.2-M documents and interviewed more than 100 witnesses, did not challenge Mr. Comey’s fundamental decision against recommending prosecution of Hilary Clinton for mishandling classified information.
But the IG called it “extraordinary and insubordinate for Mr. Comey to conceal his intentions from his superiors the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, for the admitted purpose of preventing them from telling him not to make the statement, and to instruct his subordinates in the FBI to do the same.”
He said that “we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part,” but “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 also noted that Mr. Comey used personal e-Mail at times to conduct official business.
IG Horowitz examined actions taken by top officials before the 2016 election, including the handling of the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private e-Mail server when she was Secretary of State. The inquiry expanded to touch on an array of politically sensitive decisions by officials including Mr. Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Some of what IG Horowitz discovered has already been made public, and President Trump and Republican lawmakers have focused on those findings in an effort to discredit Mr.Comey and, by extension, the investigation now being run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Among topics the IG reviewed was Mr. Comey’s announcement in July 2016 that no prosecutor would find grounds to pursue criminal charges against Mrs. Clinton for improperly handling classified information on her private e-Mail server, as well as Mr. Comey’s decision to inform Congress only days before the election that The Clinton Investigation was being re-opened.
Mr. Comey’s public announcement of findings angered Republicans, while his reopening of the inquiry outraged Democrats.
Republican have focused on revelations from the IG that lovers Strzok and Page, 2 of the FBI officials who worked on Mr. Mueller’s Russia investigation, exchanged text messages sharply critical of Donlad J. Trump. Mr. Mueller removed Mr. Strzok from the inquiry after the texts were discovered, and Ms. Page has since left the FBI.
IG Horowitz said in the report issued Thursday that “we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.” Still, he wrote that “the conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation.”
IG Horowitz found a “troubling lack of any direct, substantive communication” between Mr. Comey and Attorney General Lynch ahead of Mr. Comey’s 5 July press conference on Mrs. Clinton and his 28 October letter to Congress.
“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.”
Ms. Lynch had announced that she would go along with whatever Mr. Comey recommended with regard to the Clinton case, although she did not formally recuse herself.
Ms. Lynch had come under heated criticism for agreeing to meet with former President Bill Clinton in June 2016 on her plane while it was sitting on a tarmac in Phoenix.
The IG released a report in April finding that Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe lacked candor on 4 different occasions regarding interactions with the media, including providing information to a news reporter about the FBI’s investigation into the Foundation created by Hillary and Bill Clinton.
The IG has referred the matter to the US Attorney for the District of Columbia for further investigation.
Attorney General Sessions relied on the report to fire Mr. McCabe only hours before he was set to retire and qualify for his full government pension.
The IG also has opened a separate review into whether the Justice Department and FBI followed appropriate procedures in obtaining a secret warrant to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late Y 2016 and early Y 2017.