The US Justice Department is to review broad allegations of misconduct involving FBI director James Comey and how he handled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices, the department’s inspector general announced last night.
The investigation will be wide ranging – encompassing Mr Comey’s various letters and public statements on the matter and whether FBI or other Justice Department employees leaked non-public information.
Democrats and Mrs Clinton herself have blamed Mr Comey for her election loss, arguing that the renewed inquiry and the FBI director’s public missives on the eve of the election blunted her momentum. Mr Comey has faced months of criticism, some of it from former justice officials, for violating the department’s policy of avoiding any action that could affect a candidate close to an election.
Brian Fallon, a former Clinton campaign spokesman, praised the investigation yesterday.
“This is highly encouraging and to be expected given Director Comey’s drastic deviation from Justice Department protocol,” he said.
“A probe of this sort, however long it takes to conduct, is utterly necessary in order to take the first step to restore the FBI’s reputation as a non-partisan institution. ”
Lawmakers and others had called previously for the inspector general to probe the FBI’s pre-election actions when it came to the Clinton probe.
Mr Comey has faced allegations that he bucked long-standing policies with his communications about the case and that information seemed to have leaked inappropriately – perhaps to former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, said that he will explore the circumstances surrounding the actions of Mr Comey and others, though he will not examine whether anyone should have faced charges.
In a statement, Mr Comey said: “I am grateful to the Department of Justice’s inspector general for taking on this review. He is professional and independent and the FBI will cooperate fully with him and his office. I hope very much he is able to share his conclusions and observations with the public because everyone will benefit from thoughtful evaluation and transparency regarding this matter. ”
The FBI’s probe into whether Mrs Clinton mishandled classified information by using a private email server when she was secretary of state has long been controversial and politically charged.
Perhaps most notably, Mr Comey – after previously announcing publicly that he was recommending no charges in the case – sent a letter to congressional leaders telling them that agents had resumed the Clinton probe after finding potentially relevant information in an unrelated case.
The day before, senior Justice Department leaders had warned Mr Comey not to send the letter, because it violated two long-standing department policies: discussing an ongoing investigation and taking any overt action on an investigation so close to an election.
At the time, it was less than two weeks to the election, and early voting had already begun.
Mr Comey has notably declined to talk about any possible investigations of President-elect Donald Trump or his campaign, as recently as this week rebuffing requests from legislators to confirm agents were looking into any such matters. (© Washington Post)