The inspector general for the Justice Department released a detailed report this week critical of senior FBI leaders — including former Director James Comey — over how they handled the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.
While Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the decisions were not affected by political bias or other improper actions, he concluded that Comey wrongly announced the FBI’s completion of the investigation without coordinating with the attorney general and wrongly informed Congress — only weeks ahead of the November 2016 general election — that the FBI had reopened the investigation.
Comey wrote an op-ed in the New York Times saying he did not agree with all the conclusions in the report but respected Horowitz’s work and 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.
The release of the report was highly anticipated on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle weighed in quickly with their takes on how the IG report should be read with respect to the ongoing special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.
Senator Richard Blumenthal argued the report should not be used to shut down the Mueller investigation.
“Nothing in this report detracts from the credibility and critical importance of the Special Counsel’s investigation. Nothing here suggests that the Special Counsel investigation resulted from FBI bias or improper conduct,” Blumenthal said. “Special Counsel Mueller continues to uncover the truth, return indictments and convictions, and send the message that Russian information warfare against the United States will be punished.”
California Republican Darrell Issa, a former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the report “sheds new light on the cumulative bias at some of the highest levels of the FBI during the lead-up to the 2016 election.”
“The report shows how the FBI became infected with politics and continuously disregarded rules and procedures to the detriment of Donald Trump and benefit of Hillary Clinton,” Issa wrote. “President Trump was absolutely correct in terminating James Comey for the incompetence, arrogance, and insubordination he consistently displayed in his role as Director of the FBI. If we are to restore faith in the FBI as an institution, we must clean house to reestablish the American people’s confidence in the Bureau.”
Blumenthal said it is “simply ludicrous” to accept that Trump decided to fire Comey over the conduct described in the IG report.
“It doesn’t pass the laugh test,” he said. “The most powerful evidence of Donald Trump’s reason for firing Director Comey came from his own mouth on live television: ‘this Russia thing.’ Repeatedly, in public and private, he has indicated that his main motivation for firing Comey and other similar actions has been to stymie or shut down the Special Counsel — in effect, obstructing justice.”