The Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation is a damning indictment. Despite its attempt to paint most of the actions of the FBI as inherently reasonable, they simply don’t come off that way. Here are the most important points:
- FBI Agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok Texted About Stopping Trump. As already reported, Strzok texted Page that he would “stop it” – it being Trump’s election. This is a damning indictment of his political bias. The IG report found that the texts “potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.” The report added, “it is not only indicative of a biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects. This is antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice.” The report found that the Hillary investigation was not adversely impacted by Strzok or Page’s decisionmaking – but this report did not cover the Russia investigation.
- Comey Concluded That He’d Let Hillary Off In Spring 2016. While Comey didn’t announce his decision until July 2016, he made his decision in Spring 2016 that Hillary was off the hook. He also determined that he should make an independent announcement in order to protect “a sense of justice more broadly in the country – that things are fair not fixed, and they’re done independently.” He threatened to appoint a special counsel, but never seriously considered it, according to the report.
- Comey Watered Down His Draft Statement On Hillary Dramatically. The original draft statement on Hillary said she’d been “grossly negligent”; that was changed to “extremely careless.” The statement was changed from “reasonably likely” that Hillary had been hacked by hostile actors to “possible.” And finally, the original statement mentioned that President Obama had been in an email exchange with Hillary; his name was removed.
- Comey Is A Glory Hound. He had already concluded before the tarmac meeting that he was likely to make his own statement on Hillary. He “acknowledged that he made a conscious decision not to tell Department leadership about his plans to make a separate statement because he was concerned that they would instruct him not to do it.” The IG’s language is damning: “We determined that Comey’s decision to make this statement was the result of his belief that only he had the ability to credibly and authoritatively convey the rationale for the decision to not seek charges against Clinton, and that he needed to hold the press conference to protect the FBI and the Department from the extraordinary harm that he believed would have resulted had he failed to do so. While we found no evidence that Comey’s statement was the result of bias or an effort to influence the election, we did not find his justifications for issuing the statement to be reasonable or persuasive.”
- The DOJ and FBI Changed The Law To Exonerate Hillary. The IG says that based on precedent, Hillary would have had to have demonstrated a state of mind that was “so gross as to almost suggest deliberate intention.” That’s not part of the law.
- The FBI Wildly Botched The Re-Opening Of The Hillary Case. The IG report found that the Anthony Weiner case agent had spotted Hillary emails on September 26, and he informed the New York Field Office on September 28. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe knew about it the same day. He then mentioned it to Comey – and nobody mentioned it again for nearly a full month, until just prior to the election. As the report states, “We found that, by no later than September 29, FBI executives and the FBI Midyear team had learned virtually every fact that was cited by the FBI in late October as justification for obtaining the search warrant for the Weiner laptop.” Comey said that he didn’t realize Weiner was married to Huma Abedin.
- The FBI Agents Prioritized The Russia Investigation Above The Hillary Investigation Reopening. According to the report, “The FBI’s failure to act in late September or early October is even less justifiable when contrasted with the attention and resources that FBI management and some members of the Midyear team dedicated to other activities in connection with the Midyear investigation during the same period.” What was the FBI focused on? A Comey speech that would fight back against public perception of his July 5 announcement; and the Russia investigation. The IG report explains: “Moreover, given the FBI’s extensive resources, the fact that Strzok and several other FBI members of the Midyear team had been assigned to the Russia investigation, which was extremely active during this September and October time period, was not an excuse for failing to take any action during this time period on the Weiner laptop. … In assessing the decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop, we were particularly concerned about text messages sent by Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions they made were impacted by bias or improper considerations. Most of the text messages raising such questions pertained to the Russia investigation, and the implication in some of these text messages, particularly Strzok’s August 8 text message (“we’ll stop” candidate Trump from being elected), was that Strzok might be willing to take official action to impact a presidential candidate’s electoral prospects. Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”
- Comey Revealed The Reopened Investigation To Congress Because He Thought Hillary Was Going To Win, and He Wanted To Preserve Her Legitimacy. This is what the report explicitly says: “we found that his decision was the result of several interrelated factors that were connected to his concern that failing to send the letter would harm the FBI and his ability to lead it, and his view that candidate Clinton was going to win the presidency and that she would be perceived to be an illegitimate president if the public first learned of the information after the election.” Comey didn’t speak with anyone at the DOJ about releasing the letter.
- Five Separate Agents Sent Pro-Clinton, Anti-Trump Texts — Many Of Which Implied Using Official Authority To Target Trump. The IG report is brutal. Not only does it state that these five agents discussed their support for Clinton, but that they “appeared to mix political opinions with discussions about the Midyear investigation.” One agent texted that “no one is going to pros[ecute] [Hillary Clinton] even if we find unique classified” after the discovery of Weiner’s laptop; Page texted about the possibility of interviewing Clinton with fewer agents in the room since “she might be our next president,” to which Strzok agreed; Page texted Strzok, ”maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace,” to which Strzok responded, “I’ll try and approach it that way…I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps…”; Strzok texted Page, “We’ll stop it,” it being Trump’s election; Strzok texted Page about an “insurance policy” against a Trump victory, then excused it by saying he was just pushing for a quicker investigation; another FBI attorney texted, “Vive le resistance” after the election; after the election, Strzok texted regarding the special counsel investigation, “For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business.”
- Comey, Strzok, and Page Used Personal Email To Conduct FBI Business. Perhaps this is why they went easy on Hillary Clinton — they were all participating in similar activity.
- FBI Employees Leaked To The Press Regularly. According to the IG report, “We identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters.” FBI agents received “benefits from reporters” as well, including golf outings, drinks and meals.
- Former Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik Should Have Recused. While Hillary was under investigation, Kadzik tried to get his son a job on Hillary’s campaign. He also sent an email to John Podesta, head of the Clinton campaign, which included the schedule of the release of Clinton’s emails in FOIA litigation.
More to come . . .