The report on the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email investigation issued Thursday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirms the gross misconduct of fired FBI Director James Comey, but – incredibly – fails to find any political bias in the actions of Comey and his inner circle.
Yet the political bias by Comey and his team was there and is obvious.
In some ways, the IG report resembles the notorious news conference that Comey held in July 2016 that both excoriated and exonerated Clinton for her improper and irresponsible use of a personal email server to handle official State Department business while she was secretary of state in the Obama administration.
Clinton used her mobile phone for sensitive calls with President Obama while on foreign soil. She transmitted unencrypted classified documents using her personal email account through her personal server. By her actions, she blatantly violated State Department policies and jeopardized our national security, leaving her communications wide open to cyberespionage.
Yet Comey did not recommend prosecution of Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate who was widely expected to be elected in November 2016.
The IG report presents jarring evidence of political bias by the FBI against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but fails to add it all up to come to the inevitable conclusion that political bias was there. This is like saying 1+1 = 0.
The report documents that five of the FBI officials conducting the Clinton email investigation expressed their disdain and contempt for Donald Trump in excruciating detail in texts. This was not subtle – it was clearly stated.
And the report reveals for the first time that the lead investigator in the Clinton email probe, FBI agent Peter Strozk, even texted his lover Lisa Page, who was an FBI lawyer, to tell her he would “stop” Trump from being elected.
Members of this same FBI team investigating the Clinton email practices went on to be assigned to the FBI’s investigation of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
The five FBI officials involved in both probes did not just freely express their anti-Trump bias. They acted on their convictions, by declining to use the normal investigative techniques on the Clinton investigation and by softening language Comey used at his news conference to describe Clinton’s wrongful conduct, to make it seem the misconduct was not criminal.
And after Comey’s publicly stated that Clinton should not be criminally prosecuted for her improper email practices, new and important evidence surfaced in the FBI’s New York office about the email practices. Yet Strozk delayed any follow-up investigation for over a month.
How can this delay be attributed to anything but political bias for Clinton and against Trump?
Strozk and his boss, fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, finally authorized further investigation of the New York evidence only when federal prosecutors in New York alerted their Justice Department superiors.
The New York prosecutors said there was potentially relevant evidence regarding Clinton’s misconduct on the laptop that pedophile and disgraced former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner shared with his wife, Huma Abedin, who was a close Clinton aide.
Despite all these actions, Inspector General Horowitz took the safe and less courageous route in finding that while there was anti-Trump bias on the part of key FBI employees involved in the Clinton email investigation, that bias was not reflected in the investigation.
The IG report does not surprise anyone in finding that Comey violated numerous rules and procedures in playing the role of investigator, prosecutor and judge in publicly exonerating Clinton with a flimsy and self-serving justification.
The report does call out the misconduct of the five FBI employees and refers them for official action. The five offenders do not include former Deputy Director McCabe, who was the subject of another report and is now under consideration for indictment for leaking and lying about his leaks.
Yet while the IG report specifically finds that lovebirds Strozk and Page improperly used FBI communication devices to express their bias against Trump, it concludes there was no specific action taken by them to manipulate the Clinton email investigation.
While Horowitz conducted a thorough investigation, he clearly took the easy way out. Unfortunately the IG has no prosecutorial powers and the office is relatively toothless when the offenders have already been fired or resigned.
The IG report also removes any doubt that the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s email misconduct was – at best – tepid. But it attributes the unusually laid back investigation to “investigative discretion” rather than the political bias in favor of the Democratic presidential candidate and against Donald Trump.
One of the more interesting and damning revelations in the report is the extensive contacts that various FBI officials, apparently including members of the Comey inner circle, had with reporters during a time when there were almost daily leaks about the Clinton investigation.
Charts included in the report depict over 300 phone calls to five separate reporters from FBI employees. These employees accepted gifts of every description, including meals, drinks, sports tickets and golf outings.
This conduct by FBI officials violates so many rules it's difficult to list them all here. The IG report declines to name these employees, but their position descriptions implicate Strozk, Page and several other executives, special agents and investigative analysts.
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch makes cameo appearances throughout the IG report, but like the FBI’s investigation of the Clinton email practices, Lynch is handled with kid gloves. It is impossible to describe how weak and feckless she was throughout the Clinton email fiasco. Comey thumbed his nose at her as he usurped her role.
It is unfair to attribute the conduct of Comey and his inner circle to the vast majority of men and women of the FBI, who perform magnificently every day and work hard to protect us from gangs, child predators, white collar criminals, hostile intelligence services, terrorists and sophisticated criminals of every description.
It was the hope of many of my current and former colleagues in the FBI that Inspector General Horowitz would be courageous enough to unmask Comey and his inner circle for what they were – rogue officials who played by their own rules, leaked with impunity and allowed their personal political biases to impact one of the most important investigations the FBI has ever conducted.
Comey, who is making big money with a self-flattering book and is now lecturing on leadership, led the Clinton probe by example by leaking, lying and flaunting clearly established and long-held rules and procedures.
It's been said that its leader defines an organization. Comey’s short tenure as FBI director does not define the courageous and honorable men and women of the FBI. In fact, he was the worst thing to happen to that agency since its inception.
Comey did major damage to the finest law enforcement and intelligence agency in the world – and it will take the FBI a long time to recover.
The first step towards recovery should be to purge the FBI of every remaining member of the Comey inner circle. With the firing of McCabe and Comey and the resignation of Lisa Page, action should be taken now to immediately fire Peter Strozk and the two attorneys referenced in the report who were so strident in their expressions of animus toward Donald Trump.
It is unfortunate that while Inspector General Horowitz conducted a thorough investigation, his courage failed him when he needed it the most.
There is no question that the FBI investigation of the Clinton email practices was tainted by strong political bias against Trump, and a strong desire to minimize harm to Clinton, so that she could be elected president. The IG report should have reached this conclusion.