DOJ Watchdog Report to Shine Light on FBI Handling of Clinton Case
The Justice Department Inspector General’s long-awaited report on the Obama DOJ and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation is set to be released Thursday, and will likely spark new questions over whether she should be prosecuted.
The report is expected to address controversial decisions made at the highest echelons within the Obama DOJ and the FBI, including by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, fired FBI Director James Comey, fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and other former and current senior officials.
“We’re going to find out exactly how compromised the FBI and DOJ were. We’ll have some insights there as it relates to the mangling of the Clinton email investigation and the corruption associated with that cover up,” said Tom Fitton, president of the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch.
“I think we’re going to get additional details that will probably be devastating to anyone who frankly has been defending the Obama DOJ/FBI conduct. There’s a reason Comey got a book out early,” Fitton said.
The report is expected to address Lynch’s private tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton on June 27, 2016, just eight days before FBI Director James Comey announced that the FBI concluded that Clinton should not face any charges. It is also expected to address Comey’s decision to make a public announcement about the FBI’s conclusion on the case, which Clinton has partially blamed for her election loss.
The report will also likely examine when Comey concluded Clinton should not be recommended for prosecution. The former FBI director drafted and passed around an exoneration of Clinton statement several months before he announced his decision.
But perhaps most significantly, it will also examine how Comey came to his conclusion — which could have major repercussions for Clinton, since it potentially allowed her to avoid felony charges.
“Hillary Clinton may get some satisfaction of criticism of James Comey or his handling of her case and publicity around it. But it’s going to put the focus back on the Justice Department as to what it’s going to do about the Clinton email issue,” Fitton said.
Comey had argued that Clinton was “extremely careless” in handling classified information on her server, although in an earlier statement draft, he had used the words “grossly negligent” — a phrase that could have held legal repercussions.
He argued that Clinton showed no “criminal intent.”
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, senior contribution for National Review, has argued that Clinton’s intent should not have mattered. In a column last year, he wrote:
Prosecutors are not required to prove motive. The question is whether she knew classified information would end up on the server, and her set-up made that inevitable.
This line of reasoning is fatuous — and it’s another instance of the Justice Department adopting Clinton campaign cant. Petreaus shared his classified diaries with a single person, a paramour who actually had a security clearance (albeit not one high enough to view what she was shown). Clinton’s offense was more extensive in duration and seriousness.
Fitton predicted the DOJ IG’s report will put pressure on the Justice Department as to whether they will endorse Comey’s decision.
“The IG I’m sure is going to reaffirm the conclusion that most of us have, that Hillary Clinton got an improper get-out-of-free jail card from the Obama administration, and the challenge for the FBI and the Justice Department now is are they going to endorse that?” Fitton said.
“Is James Comey or Loretta Lynch going to have the final say as to whether Mrs. Clinton violated the law or not? Is that the law, or is that their interpretation of the law that you can handle classified information the same way she did knowingly … and with such gross negligence and still not be in violation of the law? Will they let Hillary Clinton get away with it too? The IG report might make it harder for them to do that,” he said.
Other top Obama DOJ and FBI officials are also not expected to go unscathed.
It will likely address actions by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whom Horowitz has already recommended for a criminal referral for discussing classified information in a phone call with reporters, and lying about it to federal investigators on multiple occasions.
The report will likely also look into why there was a weeks-long gap between when the FBI learned there were Clinton emails on the laptop of Anthony Weiner, Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband, and when investigators tried to obtain them.
It will also likely address other unusual practices used by the FBI during the investigation, such as allowing five Clinton aides to receive immunity deals for cooperating with investigators, and allowing aide Cheryl Mills, a witness in the investigation, to attend Clinton’s interview with investigators.
The report will also shine a light on the behavior of other senior officials involved in the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
One such current FBI official is Peter Strzok, who played a key role in the Clinton email investigation and officially opened the Trump Russia investigation. He also served on the special counsel team until Robert Mueller removed him after Horowitz found thousands of text messages exchanged with his fellow FBI official and lover Lisa Page.
Page also played key roles in the Clinton and Trump-Russia FBI investigations, and also served briefly on the special counsel team. She left the FBI earlier this year.
Strzok and Page’s texts have provided insight into how they approached both investigations. In one text, Page warned Strzok in February not to go too hard on Clinton, since she “might be our next president.”
“The last thing you need [is] going in there loaded for bear,” Page texted. “You think she’s going to remember or care that it was more [DOJ] than [FBI]?”
The two also suggested that they preferred Clinton’s election over Trump’s. Strzok texted Page on August 15, 2016, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok texted on Aug. 15, 2016. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Horowitz is expected to issue an additional report at a later date specifically addressing the DOJ and FBI’s handling of the Trump-Russia investigation.
Fitton said he wants to know how personally involved former President Obama was in directing the DOJ’s decisions leading up to both investigations. Strzok and Page had also discussed preparing talking points for Comey, to give to then-President Barack Obama, whom they said wanted “to know everything we’re doing.”
Several congressional committees are expected to follow up on Horowitz’s report, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has already invited Lynch, Comey, and McCabe to testify.
House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) indicated Congress could take legislative action to prevent political influence in future investigations.
“My expectation is we will see a theme where senior leadership at the FBI and Department of Justice who are very interested in shaping public opinion by leaking information and by making statements to the media,” he told Fox News on Wednesday.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to craft some bipartisan solutions so that we don’t see further political infection of the FBI or the Department of Justice in the future,” he added.