Former FBI Director James Comey

Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA

Watchdog Says Comey Broke Protocol, But Finds No Political Bias In Clinton Probe

June 14, 2018 - 12:51 pm
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department's watchdog delivered a stinging rebuke Thursday to the FBI and former Director James Comey for their handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but the report does not conclude Comey's actions were motivated by political bias or a preference for Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

The inspector general's report says Comey, who announced in the summer of 2016 that Clinton would not be charged with any crime in the email probe, was insubordinate and departed from normal protocol numerous times.

READ THE FULL REPORT

But it also says, "We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, we determined that they were based on the prosecutors' assessment of the facts, the law and past department practice."

In an opinion piece published in the New York Times, Comey said he disagrees with the watchdog's conclusion but respects its work.

"I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism. All of our leaders need to understand that accountability and transparency are essential to the functioning of our democracy, even when it involves criticism. This is how the process is supposed to work," Comey wrote.

President Trump has looked to the report to provide a fresh line of attack against Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, as he claims that a politically tainted bureau tried to undermine his campaign and, through the later Russia investigation, his presidency. Trump is certain to try to use the report to validate his firing of Comey last year.

But the nuanced findings provide no conclusions to support Republicans and Democrats who want to claim total vindication.

The White House saysthe report reaffirms Trump's "suspicions'' about Comey's conduct. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the inspector general's report is also reaffirming Trump's suspicions about the "political bias among some of the members of the FBI.'' She is deferring additional comments to FBI Director Christopher Wray. 

The conclusions, which follow an 18-month review, were contained in a 500-page report that document in painstaking detail one of the most consequential investigations in modern FBI history and reveal how the FBI, which for decades has strived to stand apart from politics, came to be entangled in the 2016 presidential election.

The report criticized Comey for publicly announcing his recommendation against criminal charges for Clinton. It also faulted him for alerting Congress days before the 2016 election that the investigation was being reopened because of newly discovered emails. The report from the inspector general also criticizes Comey for not keeping his superiors at the Justice Department, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, properly informed about his handling of the investigation.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz, a former federal prosecutor appointed by President Barack Obama, prepared the report. Supporters from both parties regard him as apolitical. His most significant report before this was the 2012 study of the botched Obama-era gun operation known as Fast and Furious.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)