Hawaii isn’t the only place bracing for a major eruption at any time. Washington awaits the explosive release of a highly anticipated report from the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on its examination of the FBI’s highly questionable investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to handle her State Department emails when she was secretary of state.
The new OIG report, expected to be released within days, could unleash serious consequences for senior-level Justice Department and FBI officials who served during the Obama presidency.
Given the tools available to the OIG and the credibility of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the latest report could also uncover new and seriously damaging information about Clinton’s email practices, including her handling of classified information.
FBI Director James Comey (later fired by President Trump) criticized Clinton’s handling of emails in July 2016, while she was running for president against Donald Trump.
Comey said in a news conference that no reasonable prosecutor would file charges against Clinton for acting illegally – a controversial finding. But he stated: “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Unlike Congress, the OIG has the cooperation at the Department of Justice to do an in-depth, full-scale investigation. The infighting between branches of government that we see in congressional investigations does not exist with OIG investigations because the OIG is still a part of the executive branch.
Furthermore, each of the 73 inspectors general has a full complement of special agents, auditors, inspectors and attorneys. Inspector General Horowitz has a staff of 450. By comparison, the House Oversight Committee has a staff of roughly 60.
By law, the 1978 Inspector General Act authorizes the inspectors general to access all records and electronic communications of employees, and to provide protection for whistleblowers. The inspectors general are nonpartisan and function independently of the agencies they investigate. Each federal agency is required by law to cooperate with the OIG that reviews its conduct.
While the American people could be forgiven for having low expectations of any attempt to hold government accountable, this time may well be different. Another report released by the OIG last month triggered the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
No less important than the mandate and resources of the OIG is the credibility of Horowitz himself. Appointed by President Obama in 2012, Horowitz demonstrated to me his ability to be both tenacious and fair on a series of investigations, including the Fast and Furious gun running operation and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s prostitution scandal.
Horowitz’s impeccable credentials include serving as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, chief of the Justice Department Public Corruption Unit, and deputy chief of the Justice Department Criminal Division. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. As an attorney in private practice he specialized in white collar crime, internal investigations and regulatory compliance.
Horowitz’s report last month that prompted McCabe’s firing from the FBI was thorough and well-documented. No one on the Horowitz team leaked it.
With the credibility of Michael Horowitz behind it and the access to internal documents Congress has been denied, the soon-to-be released report on the Clinton emails should carry a great deal of weight. I believe it represents our best shot yet to actually uncover the secrets hiding in the bowels of President Obama’s highly politicized Justice Department.
No one knows the frustration of trying to hold government agencies accountable more acutely than I do. When I served in the House of Representatives, I saw firsthand how good officials in the Obama Justice Department became at hiding their tracks, stonewalling Congress, evading federal records laws, manipulating the media narrative, and ultimately escaping accountability.
Fortunately for the American people, the truth is going to come out. When it does, the Trump administration must act swiftly and decisively to send a strong message that the investigative tools of the Justice Department should never be used as political weapons.