JUN 14, 2018: Former FBI Director James Comey broke from usual procedures in his handling of an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails, but his actions weren’t politically motivated, the Justice Department’s Inspector General said in a long-awaited report Thursday.
The 500-page report details ways in which Comey broke with protocol in the Clinton investigation and messages from FBI personnel opposed to President Donald Trump. According to the report, Comey used a personal Gmail account for official government business while FBI director, after leading the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.
The report contains several examples, including times Comey sent himself drafts of a testimony he planned to deliver to Congress and drafts of bureau-wide updates he planned to send to mark milestones during the year.
Asked by IG investigators if he had any concerns about conducting bureau business on his personal device and account, “Comey stated that he did not,” the report says. He also said he was certain his work would be captured by FBI email servers for record-keeping purposes.
Comey added that he did not use his personal email or laptop for classified or sensitive information, and only did use his personal email “when I needed to word process an unclassified (document) that was going to be disseminated broadly, (such as a) public speech or public email to the whole organization,” the report says.
Clinton has also said she did not use personal emails for classified purposes and stressed that her messages were captured by State Department servers at some point.
IG Michael Horowitz expanded his probe to include non-Clinton-related moves within the Justice Department in the lead-up to the 2016 election, including decisions made by Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Horowitz said Comey should have sought approval from senior Justice Department officials before announcing in July 2016 that while Clinton’s decision to keep a private email server at her home was “extremely careless,” he did not recommend charges against her.
The former FBI head also went against Justice Department recommendations when he announced in late October 2016 the FBI was reviewing the possibility of new Clinton emails.
“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 wrote in his report.
“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,” the report said.
The report also took issue with text messages between two FBI officials working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. The messages were exchanged prior to the formation of Mueller’s team and the election.
“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” FBI lawyer Lisa Page texted investigator Peter Strzok in August 2016.
Strzok also worked on the Clinton probe.
“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok replied.
The exchange likely will pique the interest of Trump, who has slammed the Clinton probe for being rigged in her favor.
“Agent 1” was one of the key players in the investigation—one of just four “case agents” on the probe—and he not only expressed his political support for Clinton, he advocated against subjecting Hillary to an FBI interview.
Perhaps the most shocking information in the IG’s report is the revelation that Lisa Page and Peter Strzok were not the only amorous agents with a habit of texting. There were also “Agent 1” and “Agent 5,” who were involved in the Clinton investigation and, according to the IG’s report “were in a relationship at the time and are now married.” Their communications make for a searing indictment of the culture of the FBI and paint a portrait of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices as fiasco.
Agent 1 was one of the key players in the investigation—one of just four “case agents” on the probe—and he not only expressed his political support for Clinton, he advocated against subjecting Hillary to an FBI interview.
After the release of the IG report, FBI Director Christopher Wray defended his agency and said he was disappointed by the findings.
“As far as the report goes, there are some sobering lessons in there,” he said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. “Number one, the importance of trying to make sure we avoid even the appearance of bias in all of our work.
The inspector general’s report was based on interviews with 100 people, including review of more than 1.2 million documents.