The Justice Department Inspector General has finished its report into law enforcement’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email case. Officials named in the report will now review it, and many have a lot at stake.
Over a year in the making, Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz finished the report Wednesday and a draft has been made available to the agencies and officials involved for review, reported the Washington Post.
“It’s not going to be good, it’s just a question of how bad it’s going to be,” the Washington Examiner quotes a former Justice Department official as saying.
According to the Post, copies of the IG report have been sent to James Comey, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, former FBI deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Their feedback will be incorporated into the final report, which will be then released in the coming weeks.
Since January last year, the Office of the Inspector General has been investigating allegations of misconduct against FBI and Justice Department officials in their handling of a probe into Hillary Clinton’s email practices, which included her use of a private email server for classified communications during her tenure as secretary of state.
The FBI investigation into Clinton’s email practices was one characterized by leaks to the press and accusations of political bias, most notably from President Donald Trump himself.
“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History!” he tweeted last December. Trump had fired Comey earlier that year for his handling of the investigation.
After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
The IG report is expected to go public next month, and will more than likely come down hard on former FBI Director James Comey. Among Comey’s missteps during the Clinton email investigation was his decision in July 2016 to publicly call for Clinton’s exoneration before the probe had concluded; followed by his revelation to Congress weeks before the election that the FBI had reopened its investigation.
Clinton claimed that Comey’s bombshell revelation cost her the election by “raising doubts” about her. In a recent interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Comey said that his decision to publicly announce the re-opening of the FBI investigation was based on an assumption that she would win the election and a desire not to be seen to be helping her.
“I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump,” Comey said. “If I hide this [the investigation] from the American people, she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected.”
The FBI love birds
Among others in the firing line are FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who were having an affair with each other throughout the investigation. Text messages between the two in 2016 revealed a clear preference for Clinton, and suggest an anti-Trump bias.
“God Hillary should win,” said Strzok in a message in March 2016. “I know,” replied Page. “This man cannot be president.”
To Trump, one message in particular, sent after a meeting in deputy Director McCabe’s office, is damning.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected,” Strzok wrote, “but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Trump described the message as “treason,” and said it laid bare an FBI plot to work against him once elected.
“A man is tweeting to his lover that if [Democrat Hillary Clinton ] loses, we’ll essentially do the insurance policy. We’ll go to phase two and we’ll get this guy out of office,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “That is a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”
Following the Clinton investigation, both Page and Strzok both worked on White House Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, although they have both since left or been removed.
Former FBI second-in-command Andrew McCabe has already found himself in hot water since the IG’s investigation began. Last month, the IG found that McCabe lied under oath when discussing his leaking of confidential information to the press.
According to the IG, McCabe told the Wall Street Journal that the FBI was investigating the Clinton Foundation, an investigation that Comey had denied several weeks earlier.
He did this to “rebut a narrative that had been developing” about his impartiality in the Clinton email investigation, after it was revealed in October 2016 that McCabe’s wife had taken donations from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia Democratic Party.
McAuliffe was described as “an influential Democrat with long-standing ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton,” raising concerns about McCabe’s impartiality.
The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2018
After leaking information to the press, McCabe attempted to cover his tracks by blaming agents at the New York and Washington DC field offices. McCabe then claimed that Comey had known that he’d authorized the leak, a statement Comey maintains is false.
Based on these conclusions, the IG referred McCabe’s case to the US attorney's office in Washington last month for possible criminal prosecution.
Days before Comey told Congress that the FBI would not press charges against Clinton, Loretta Lynch, who was the US Attorney General at the time, had an off-the-record meeting with Bill Clinton on board his plane at an Arizona airport in June 2016.
At the time of the meeting, Lynch said that the meeting never touched on the email investigation, and merely involved social matters such as grandchildren and golfing.
In Senate testimony afterwards, Comey revealed that Lynch came to him after the ‘tarmac meeting’ and asked him to refer to the email probe as a “matter” instead of an “investigation.” At the time, the Clinton campaign had been referring to the criminal investigation as a “matter” to divert attention away from the fact that a presidential candidate was actually being investigated by the FBI.
“It gave me a queasy feeling,’’ Comey testified, adding that the direction gave him the “impression” that the Justice Department was aligning itself with the Clinton campaign. Lynch had also allegedly assured someone inside the Clinton campaign that the FBI’s email investigation “would not push too deeply.”
In a statement released last month, Lynch denied attempting to meddle in the investigation. “At no time did I ever discuss any aspect of the investigation with anyone from the Clinton campaign or the DNC,” it read.
If the report finds that any of Comey’s crew acted improperly during the email investigation, pressing criminal charges would be the responsibility of the Justice Department. By itself, the report will more than likely give President Trump fresh ammunition in his endless war of words against a system he still sees as weaponized against him.