- ABC News says the Department of Justice’s internal watchdog has concluded that James Comey and Loretta Lynch, then the FBI director and the attorney general, acted improperly in their handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
- The DOJ’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, characterised Comey’s conduct as “insubordinate” in a draft report on the subject, one source told ABC News.
- Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal defence lawyer, has said Trump’s team is “anxiously awaiting” the report because it believes the report will help make the case that senior FBI and DOJ leaders were biased against Trump.
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The Department of Justice’s inspector general has concluded that James Comey defied authority at times during his time leading of the FBI, ABC News reported Wednesday, citing sources familiar with a draft report on the matter.
The report, when finished and officially released, will cap Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s inquiry into the FBI’s handling of its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. The report is said to focus on senior FBI leadership at the time, like Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, rather than on Clinton.
One source told ABC News the draft report about Comey described his conduct as “insubordinate.” Another source reportedly agreed with that characterization but could not confirm that the exact term had been used.
ABC News’ sources also said the draft report chastised Lynch for the way she handled the Clinton email investigation.
Comey has accused Lynch, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, of having a “tortured half-out, half-in” approach to the Clinton investigation. He also expressed disapproval with her decision not to recuse herself from the investigation and added that he considered calling for a special prosecutor to be appointed to oversee the investigation because he considered Lynch to have bias in favour of the Clintons.
Comey said it was Lynch’s apparent ambivalence toward the investigation that prompted him to call a press conference in July 2016 announcing that the FBI would not recommend charges be filed against Clinton. He noted during the presser that he had not consulted with the Department of Justice about the statement he was about to make. Comey later said he specified that to assure the public of the FBI’s independence.
Nevertheless, his move was considered highly unusual, given that the attorney general – in this case Lynch – was meant to announce whether Clinton would be charged.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said as much last year, writing in a memo recommending Comey’s firing that it “was wrong” for Comey to “usurp the Attorney General’s authority” when he held the press conference.
Horowitz’s draft report also reportedly criticised Comey for sending a letter to Congress in October 2016 announcing that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Clinton, who has repeatedly said the letter – sent days before the election – was the final nail in the coffin for her 2016 presidential bid.
While Comey has said he would have refrained from sending the letter if Lynch had told him not to, he drew sharp criticism for his role in sending it at all.
In particular, ABC News reported that before Comey sent the October letter to Congress, at least one senior DOJ official told the FBI that publicizing such a detail so close to the election would violate department policy and federal guidelines restricting the disclosure of information pertaining to ongoing investigations.
Comey, whom President Donald Trump fired last year, has said it makes him “nauseous” to think he may have swayed the election, but he maintained that he did what he thought was right.
The final report is pending release while Comey and other parties involved have the chance to go over a draft and recommend changes and offer responses to allegations contained in the report, as is normal practice with such investigations.
This is a win for Trump
Trump and his allies are gearing up to use the report to vindicate the president’s claims that he fired Comey as FBI director over what the administration characterises as gross misconduct.
The White House initially said as much when it released a statement immediately after Comey’s firing saying he had been dismissed because of the way he handled the Clinton email investigation. But Trump later said on national television that he fired Comey because of “this Russia thing.”
Comey had been spearheading the FBI’s Russia investigation when he was fired. The inquiry, now led by a special counsel, is examining whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign.
Since then, Trump and his allies have cast Comey and other senior DOJ officials as conflicted and as seeking to use the Russia investigation to undermine the Trump campaign and his presidency.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who leads Trump’s personal defence team, told Business Insider in a recent interview that Trump’s team was “anxiously awaiting” the final Comey report because it would show “the lengths these guys went to to hurt the president.”
Trump said as much this week, writing on Twitter: “What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey. Numerous delays. Hope Report is not being changed and made weaker! There are so many horrible things to tell, the public has the right to know. Transparency!”
Giuliani added that if the final report found any fault with Comey, it would help Trump’s lawyers cast not only the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel but also the whole Russia investigation as illegitimate.
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