James Comey speaks at the White House following his nomination by President Barack Obama to be the next director of the FBI, 21 June 2013 (White House photo)

James Comey speaks at the White House following his nomination by President Barack Obama to be the next director of the FBI, 21 June 2013 (White House photo)

Former FBI Director James Comey took justice into his own hands, deciding which laws to follow and which to ignore, while FBI agents in a criminal investigation of the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate “prejudged” the outcome, charged House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy in his opening statement Tuesday at a congressional hearing.

Gowdy, addressing Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the agency’s and the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton probe, declared “we can’t survive with a justice system we don’t trust.”

The joint hearing held by the House oversight and judiciary panels followed a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday with Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray in which the inspector general confirmed his office was investigating Comey for allegedly mishandling of classified information through memos he leaked of his conversations with President Trump.

Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, noted Comey softened his initial statement on the Clinton investigation findings, changing her actions from “grossly negligent,” using the language of the criminal statute, to “extremely careless.”

“We see Jim Comey and Jim Comey alone deciding which DOJ policies to follow and which to ignore,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy, noting Comey took action to trigger a special counsel in the Russia matter, questioned why the FBI director didn’t seek a special counsel to investigate Clinton’s use of a unsecure email server to transmit classified information.

“Instead, he appointed himself FBI director, attorney general, special counsel, lead investigator and the general arbiter of what is good and right in the world according to him,” Gowdy said.

The inspector general’s report, he said, should “conjure anger, disappointment and sadness in anyone who reads it.”

Meanwhile, Gowdy noted, FBI agents and attorneys cited in the Horowitz report decided to “prejudge” the Clinton case before it ended and the Russia case before it began, which he argued is the “textbook definition of bias.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ind., contended Horowitz’s conclusion that the expressed biases of FBI officials “cast a cloud” on the Clinton probe didn’t go far enough.

Citing messages quoted in the report, the congressman said, “It’s one thing to say trump’s an idiot, it’s another to say we’re going to stop him and we have an insurance policy (in case Trump wins).”

Horowitz confirmed that while his team did not find any “documentary evidence” that the expressed bias impacted the outcome of the Clinton case prior to its closing July 5, he noted his review found that lead investigator Peter Strzok’s decision in October to prioritize the Russia investigation over newly discovered evidence relative to the Clinton probe did indicate the influence of political bias.

See Michael Horowitz’s opening statement and Rep. Trey Gowdy’s questioning of the inspector general:

In another segment of questioning, Jordan wanted Horowitz to explain why the explosive Aug. 8, 2016, instant message from Strzok stating his intent to “stop” Trump was withheld from Congress until the release of the report last Thursday.

Horowitz confirmed that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was informed of the message in May.

Jordan said it appears that Rosenstein “made a decision” not to release the message and “sat on it for a month.”

“It’s not the first time Rosenstein has kept information from us,” Jordan said.

‘Protect the country from that menace’

In his questioning of Horowitz, Gowdy cited a message Strzok wrote in March 2016: “God Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0.”

Horowitz confirmed to Gowdy that Strzok was present when the FBI finally interviewed Hillary Clinton.

“So four months before that interview where he was present, he’s got her running and winning 100 million to zero.”

Gowdy then confirmed with the inspector general the sequence of events in 2016:

July 5: Comey announces the FBI won’t refer charges for Clinton.

July 28: FBI initiates a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian interference in the election and alleged Russia-collusion with the Trump campaign.

July 31: Strzok wrote, regarding the Russia probe, “And damn this feels momentous. Because this matters. The other one did, too, but that was to ensure we didn’t F something up.”

“Now [the Clinton] investigation was just to make sure they didn’t F things up,” Gowdy said. “This one, we’re three days into it, Inspector General Horowitz, three days into an investigation, but this one really matters.”

The congressman then asked: “I wonder what he meant when he said the purpose of the Clinton investigation was to make sure they didn’t F things up, but the Russia investigation, nah, that one was different really mattered?

“You know, it almost sounded, Inspector General Horowitz, like they were going through the motions with the Clinton investigation. But they sure were excited about the Russia one.”

Then on Aug. 6, FBI lawyer Lisa Page writes to Strzok, “You are meant to protect the country from that menace.”

On Aug. 8, Strzok, the lead FBI agent in the investigation, affirms to Page, “We’ll stop” Trump from becoming president.

“This is two weeks into an investigation, and he’s already prejudged the outcome,” Gowdy said. “And we’re somehow supposed to believe that that bias was not outcome determined.”

On Aug. 15, Strzok writes that they need to have an “insurance policy” in the unlikely event Trump wins.

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