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DOJ Watchdog Investigating FBI Decisions in Clinton Email Probe

Image: DOJ Watchdog Investigating FBI Decisions in Clinton Email Probe

Thursday, 12 Jan 2017 03:04 PM

The U.S. Justice Department's inspector general opened an investigation into whether the FBI followed appropriate procedures in its probe of Hillary Clinton's use of private email while serving as secretary of state, reopening one of the most contested developments of the 2016 election campaign.

That review includes a look at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's actions leading up to Director James Comey's decision to announce findings of his probe on July 5, when he publicly said that Clinton and her top aides were "extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information" but no charges should be pursued.

It also includes a review of actions leading to Comey's later announcements that he was re-opening and then again closing the probe, both made days before the Nov. 8 election. Democrats say those moves damaged Clinton's candidacy at a crucial moment and helped hand the presidency to Donald Trump. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced the investigation in a statement Thursday.

In the process, Comey managed to offend both sides in a highly polarized presidential campaign: His initial conclusion that Clinton and her aides shouldn't face charges drew condemnation from Trump and other Republicans, who said the probe had been politicized. Comey's surprise October announcement that he would reopen the investigation based on new and potentially relevant evidence drew praise from Trump but infuriated Democrats, even drawing criticism from President Barack Obama.

'Glaring and Egregious'

Former Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon called the investigation announced Thursday "entirely appropriate and very necessary but also not surprising."

"The deviations from the protocols at the FBI and the Justice department were so glaring and egregious," Fallon said in an interview on MSNBC. Were it not for Comey's letter just before the election, Clinton would be president, Fallon said.

Horowitz said there will also be an examination of whether FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have recused himself from participating in the Clinton email investigation. And investigators also will look at whether non-public information was improperly released prior to Election Day. The inspector general's decision came following requests "from numerous chairmen and ranking members of congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public," according to the statement.

Policy Violation

It wasn't immediately clear who would be in charge of responding to recommendations made by the inspector general. Trump's nominee to head the Justice Department, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, appears likely to be confirmed by the Senate as the next attorney general. However, Sessions said during his confirmation this week that he would recuse himself from any matters related to the Clinton investigation because of disparaging comments he made about Clinton during the campaign.

Nevertheless, the internal investigation could ultimately help restore confidence in the Justice Department and FBI, both of which had their reputations heavily damaged by the way the Clinton investigation was handled. Some critics, including several lawmakers, have said Comey should have resigned over how the probe and the public announcements were handled.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other senior department officials told Comey at the time not to send his letter to lawmakers on Oct. 28 announcing that the Clinton investigation was being reopened. They argued that doing so violated long-standing policy to not undertake anything significant with a major investigation so close to an election if, by doing so, it could affect the results.

Tarmac Meeting

Comey proceeded anyway-- writing to lawmakers about a fresh trove of emails possibly tied to Clinton that needed to be reviewed. But handling of the probe had already been assailed by that point, after Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac in late June. Lynch said she and the former president discussed only personal issues, such as their grandchildren, but the private meeting quickly became a pivotal, controversial event in the investigation's timeline.

The Justice Department watchdog also will investigate allegations that the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs improperly disclosed non-public information to the Clinton campaign, and whether he should have been recused from participating in certain matters.

It also will review whether the FBI's decision to release certain Freedom of Information Act documents on Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 via a Twitter account was influenced by improper considerations.

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The U.S. Justice Department's inspector general opened an investigation into whether the FBI followed appropriate procedures in its probe of Hillary Clinton's use of private email while serving as secretary of state, reopening one of the most contested developments of the...
hillary, clinton, fbi, email, probe
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2017-04-12
Thursday, 12 Jan 2017 03:04 PM
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