DOJ IG Report Faults Comey’s Judgment
The U.S. Justice Department’s internal auditor on Thursday sharply criticized former FBI Director James Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe during the 2016 election, but said investigators found no evidence that Comey’s conduct was motivated by “political bias.”
In a long-awaited report, the department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, took Comey to task for a series of controversial steps he took during the investigation, including publicly exonerating Clinton in the midst of the campaign and then reopening — and later closing — the probe just as the November election was drawing near.
Comey’s move to clear the Democratic candidate of any wrongdoing at a July 5, 2016, press conference, without informing the attorney general, “was extraordinary and insubordinate,” while his decision to send a letter to members of Congress on October 28, 2016, despite the attorney general’s opposition, informing them that he was reopening the investigation, constituted “a serious error of judgment,” the inspector general wrote.
These and other missteps by Comey and other FBI and Justice Department officials damaged the FBI’s credibility, Horowitz concluded in his 500-page review of the investigation. The report took 18 months to complete.
“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,” Horowitz wrote.
Comey has stood by his actions. He told investigators the FBI found itself in the middle of a “500-year flood” and that he “weighed the need to preserve the credibility and integrity of the Department and the FBI.”
In a recently released book, Comey wrote that he decided to do “something I could never imagine” in order to protect the bureau’s reputation after concluding that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch “appeared politically compromised” by her association to the Clintons.
In a Twitter message posted Thursday afternoon, Comey wrote that the inspector general’s “conclusions are reasonable, even though I disagree with some.”
“People of good faith can see an unprecedented situation,” he wrote.
Attorney general’s statement
In a statement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the report shows “a number of significant errors by the senior leadership of the Department of Justice during the previous administration.”
“Accordingly, this report must be seen as an opportunity for the FBI — long considered the world’s premier investigative agency — and all of us at the Department to learn from past mistakes,” Sessions said.
New leadership brought in by Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray is “one in which the American people can have confidence,” Sessions said.