In his highly anticipated report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded former FBI Director James Comey was “insubordinate” and “deviated” from FBI and Justice Department procedures in his oversight of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information but did not find that he was motivated by political bias.
However, the report also reveals a newly discovered Aug. 8, 2016, text exchange between senior FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page showing they were bent on helping Clinton win the 2016 presidential election.
Page wrote to Strzok: “(Trump’s) not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
Strzok replied: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
That bias is significant, Horowitz concluded, in light of Strzok’s role in the decision not to immediately inform Congress that some 300,000 emails related to the Clinton investigation had been found in a separate probe on the laptop of Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Strzok had a leading role in both the Clinton and the Russia-collusion investigations.
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.”
At the daily White House news conference, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump was given a briefing on the report Thursday morning prior to its release.
“It reaffirmed the president’s suspicions about Comey’s conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI,” she said.
Sanders noted FBI Director Christopher Wray will hold a briefing on the report Thursday afternoon at about 5:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, in an interview with The Hill’s web show “Rising,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the firings of Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and said the IG report could result in more firings.
“If anyone else shows up in this report to have done something that requires termination we will do so,” Sessions told The Hill.
‘Troubling lack’ of communication
In his report, Horowitz criticized Comey for failing to consult with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other senior Justice Department officials before taking the unusual step in July 2016 of announcing on national TV the FBI’s decision not to refer the Clinton case for prosecution.
Comey told the nation, nevertheless, that Clinton was “extremely careless” in her “handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Horowitz said he found a “troubling lack of any direct, substantive communication” between Comey and Lynch ahead of the July 5 public announcement and also Comey’s Oct. 28 letter informing Congress of the discovery of emails related to the probe found on Weiner’s computer.
“We found it extraordinary that, in advance of two such consequential decisions, the FBI director decided that the best course of conduct was to not speak directly and substantively with the attorney general about how best to navigate those decisions,” Horowitz said.
Lynch – after a controversial private meeting with former President Bill Clinton – did not formally recuse herself from the case, but she had announced that she would go along with whatever Comey recommended.
Comey already has been criticized for waiting a month to act during the 2016 presidential election campaign after thousands of emails were discovered on Weiner’s laptop that appeared to be relevant to the Clinton investigation. Comey informed Congress of the emails Oct. 28, 2016. Then, two days before the Nov. 8 election, he told lawmakers the team had found “no new classified” emails.
However, Judicial Watch says that at least 18 emails containing classified information were found on Weiner’s laptop that had been forwarded from his wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. She regularly forwarded emails for her husband to print out so she could give them to Clinton.
Strzok-Page ‘cast a cloud’ over probe
Horowitz concluded the anti-Trump bias shown in the infamous text messages of Strzok and Page “cast a cloud” over their investigation of Clinton, but he did not find it affected the outcome.
“We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed,” Horowitz said. “The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation.”
Horowitz’s reference to the “specific investigative actions we reviewed” apparently indicated the conclusion pertained only to the Clinton investigation. Strzok and Page also investigated alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia, and it’s possible the inspector general will come to a difference conclusion in that review.
Thursday afternoon, just ahead of the report’s release to Congress, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., charged that the newly discovered Strzok-Page text exchange about “stopping Trump from winning the election was “hidden” from congressional investigators.
Meadows tweeted: “We never had it. Absolutely unreal.”
On the eve of the Horowitz report’s release, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sought to counter its political impact.
“Spoiler alert: President Trump’s cronies have already readied their talking points to exaggerate & distort the facts of tomorrow’s DOJ IG report and spin them into a false narrative about the Special Counsel investigation,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, the Democratic senator wrote: “I’m calling it now: no matter what the DOJ IG report actually says, President Trump’s sycophantic supporters will try to claim that somehow he is the victim of FBI wrongdoing & bias. Talk about fake news.”
Last month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked Horowitz to review a claim that the Obama administration placed an FBI informant inside the Trump campaign in 2016.
On May 22, as WND reported, 17 Republican House members introduced a resolution calling for a second special counsel to focus on the closure of the Clinton probe, the Trump-Russia investigation, the origins of the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel and alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in obtaining a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign.
In an interview with WND, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the inspector general review is “necessary” but “not sufficient” and warned that the Justice Department and FBI could use an IG investigation to prevent public disclosure of documents. He urged Congress “to keep up the pressure.”
Attorney General Sessions already has rejected requests for a second special counsel. However, in March he appointed John Huber, a U.S. attorney in Utah, to examine allegations related to the Russia probe.
Democrats have criticized calls for a second special counsel as an attempt to undermine Mueller’s investigation and protect the president.