On Thursday, Bloomberg News got the early scoop on the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on the actions of the FBI during the 2016 election cycle with regard to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her email server. According to Bloomberg, the report’s conclusions from IG Michael Horowitz – the same man who recommended the prosecution of former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe for leaking information in unauthorized fashion to the press – state that Comey and the FBI violated protocol but did not do so for reasons of political bias. Here’s their conclusion:
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 said that Comey had troublingly failed to inform the Department of Justice in advance about his July 5 statement condemning Clinton for carelessness but absolving her of criminal activity. Horowitz said that Comey’s failure to coordinate with the DOJ involved a “troubling lack of any direct, substantive communication” with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Horowitz added that Comey should have coordinated with Lynch before sending his October 28, 2016 letter to Congress announcing the reopening of the Hillary email investigation based on discoveries on Anthony Weiner’s computer. Horowitz stated:
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.
While Horowitz did investigate anti-Trump text messages between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, he found that there was no “documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.” He did state, “The conduct by these employees cast a doubt over the entire FBI investigation.”
This report is likely to be taken in polar opposite ways by the two political parties. Democrats will claim that Comey’s actions damaged Hillary by failing to coordinate with the DOJ; Republicans will suggest that Horowitz is wrong, and that Comey was indeed biased in favor of Hillary and attempted to clear Lynch of any responsibility by taking responsibility on the FBI to exonerate Hillary. The report, in other words, will settle nothing.
With that said, the most plausible explanation is Comey’s own self-aggrandizing explanation: he wanted to “save” the FBI from the implication of bias, and thus broke protocol – and in the process, made the FBI look more biased than usual.