Justice Department to Probe FBI Director’s Role in Election

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department's inspector general said Thursday that he would open a broad investigation into how FBI Director James Comey handled the case over Hillary Clinton's emails, including his decision to discuss it at a news conference and to disclose 11 days before the election that he had new information that could lead him to reopen it.The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, will not look into the decision not to prosecute Clinton or her aides. But he will review actions Comey took that Clinton and many of her supporters believe cost her the election.They are: the news conference in July at which he announced he was not indicting Clinton but described her behavior as "extremely careless"; the letter to Congress in late October in which he said newly discovered emails could potentially change the outcome of the FBI's investigation; and the letter three days before the election in which he said he was closing the inquiry again.The inspector general's office said it was initiating the investigation in response to complaints from members of Congress and the public about actions by the FBI and the Justice Department during the campaign that could be seen as politically motivated.For Comey and the agency he heads, the Clinton investigation was politically fraught from the moment the FBI received a referral in July 2015 to determine whether Clinton and her aides had mishandled classified information. Senior FBI officials believed there was never going to be a good outcome since it put them in the middle of a bitterly partisan issue.Whatever the decision on whether to charge Clinton with a crime, Comey, a Republican former Justice Department official appointed by President Barack Obama, was going to get hammered. And he was.Republicans, who made her use of a private email server a centerpiece of their campaign against Clinton, attacked Comey after he decided there wasn't sufficient evidence that she had mishandled classified information to prosecute her. Clinton campaign officials believed the FBI inquiry was overblown and seriously damaged her chances, and they resented Comey's comments about Clinton at his news conference. But they were particularly upset about Comey's two letters, which created damaging news stories at the end of the campaign, after they thought they had put the email issue behind them.In the end, the emails that the FBI reviewed -- which came up during an unrelated inquiry into Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin -- proved irrelevant.Scrutiny welcomedThe Clinton campaign said Comey's actions were probably responsible for a significant number of undecided voters casting their votes for President-elect Donald Trump.FBI officials said Thursday that they welcomed the scrutiny. In a statement, Comey described Horowitz as "professional and independent" and promised to cooperate with his investigation. "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," Comey said.Brian Fallon, former press secretary for the Clinton campaign and former top spokesman for the Justice Department, said the inspector general's investigation was long overdue."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 nonpartisan institution."Horowitz has the authority to recommend a criminal investigation if he finds evidence of illegality, but there has been no suggestion that Comey's actions were unlawful. Rather, the question has been whether he acted inappropriately, showed bad judgment or violated Justice Department guidelines. It's not clear what the consequences might be for Comey if he is found to have done any of those things.  Continue reading...

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