Former FBI director James Comey is under investigation for mishandling classified information, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed Monday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Horowitz was speaking to Congress along with FBI Director Christopher Wray for the first time since the release of his report on the DOJ’s and the FBI’s investigation of Hillary’s mishandling of classified information. He said Comey is being investigated for the leaking of memos he wrote about his private meetings with President Trump. Comey has testified to Congress that he released the memos with the objective of triggering a special counsel investigation.
Horowitz said the inspector general’s office received a referral on the matter from the FBI.
“We are handling that referral and we will issue a report when the matter is complete, consistent with the law and rules that are — a report that’s consistent and takes those into account,” Horowitz said.
The inspector general also told the panel Monday that, according to testimony, Comey was concerned about his “survivability” as FBI director when he took certain steps during the 2016 election campaign regarding the Clinton probe.
“Do you think Mr. Comey, expecting Ms. Clinton to win the presidency, was thinking about his future as the FBI director?” asked Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“I think that was a concern we had,” Horowitz said, stating the evidence was “even clearer” when Comey revealed on Oct. 28, 2016, the discovery on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner of new emails related to the probe then three days before the election announced they contained no new discoveries of classified information. Judicial Watch later found 18 classified emails were on the laptop, and the IG report concluded the email discovery should have been reported to Congress a month earlier.
“We have testimony indicating when [Comey] explained through his chief of staff why he was going to do what he did on October 28, he was concerned about his survivability,” Horowitz said.
As WND reported Thursday, the inspector general concluded Comey was “insubordinate” and “deviated” from FBI and Justice Department procedures in his oversight of the Clinton email investigation but did not find that he was motivated by political bias. However, the report also revealed a newly discovered Aug. 8, 2016, text exchange between the lead investigator in both the Clinton and Russia-collusion probes, Peter Strzok, showing he was determined to “stop” Trump from winning the election.
At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday, Cornyn asked the inspector general what he thought Comey had in mind when in his original draft he used the term “grossly negligent” to describe Clinton’s actions — which are the words of the relevant criminal statute — and then changed it to “extremely careless.” Was he “writing toward a preordained result, or that this was a genuine process to think through what the evidence was and to try to apply the applicable law?”
“I think that would be hard to say and probably be speculation in terms of what he was thinking at the time,” Horowitz replied.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noting the lead investigator’s determination to “stop” Trump, pointed out that if the aim was to ensure a Trump defeat, Clinton’s actions could not be deemed “grossly negligent.”
“What is the difference between ‘grossly negligent’ and ‘extremely careless’?” Graham asked Horowitz.
“Not much,” the inspector general replied.
Graham declared: “I’m not buying that the Clinton email investigation was on the up and up.”
Cornyn asked Horowitz if he was “shocked” to learn that Comey had a private gmail account at the same time he was investigating Clinton for using a private account as secretary of state.
“I have to say it surprised us that he would have been sending emails — although they were unclassified, but nevertheless using a gmail account,” he said.
‘These were not junior field agents’
Wray was put on the defensive about his argument at a news conference Thursday that the IG report found bias and “errors of judgment” pertaining to “only a small number” of bureau employees.
“Director Wray, I have to say that I was disappointed by your response last week to the inspector general’s report,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
“Lets remember who that small number of employees was: the director of the FBI, the deputy director, the leader of both the Clinton investigation and the Russia investigations,” said Hatch.
Along with Comey and Strzok, the senator was referring to former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“These were not junior field agents,” Hatch emphasized. “These were senior agency officials. They were running two of the most important investigations in the bureau’s history. And they were insubordinate, grossly unprofessional in their communications, even untruthful.”
“Let’s not pretend this is a one-off problem,” he said. “There is a serious problem with the culture at FBI headquarters.”
‘Willingness’ to impact election
In his report, Horowitz calls the Strzok-Page texts “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.”
The “stop Trump” text was discovered only last month, according to the Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge.
The IG report said Comey harmed the law enforcement agencies’ image of impartiality.
“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 in his summary.
The report is based on 18 months of review of more than 1.2 million documents and more than 100 interviews.
The significance of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to transmit classified information was underscored Thursday in a new memo from two Republican-led House committees and an internal FBI memo indicating “foreign actors” obtained access to some of Clinton’s emails.
Fox News obtained the memo prepared by the House Judiciary and Oversight committees. It lays out key interim findings ahead of a congressional hearing next week with Horowitz.
“Documents provided to the Committees show foreign actors obtained access to some of Mrs. Clinton’s emails – including at least one email classified ‘Secret,'” the memo says.
Horowitz also discovered that as director, Comey used a personal Gmail account on numerous occasions to conduct FBI business, even though he had warned his employees they would be in “huge trouble” for doing the same.
And the IG found that numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the bureau, received perks from media.
The report identified employees with “no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters.”
Horowitz said he had “profound concerns about the volume and extent of unauthorized media contacts by FBI personnel that we have uncovered our review.” The activities included “improperly receiving benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events.”