DOJ watchdog will ‘assess’ allegations of irregularities in Comey testimony

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz -- who's been conducting high-profile probes related to the FBI and DOJ’s actions in the Russia election meddling investigation – told lawmakers Wednesday his investigators will “assess” new Republican allegations of “inconsistencies” in former FBI Director James Comey’s congressional testimony.

Horowitz made the comments during an appearance before a House Oversight Committee hearing with other inspectors general.

“We would assess it,” Horowitz said, under questioning from Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

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Meadows told Horowitz that he and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan plan to make a referral to him about inconsistencies in what Comey has said about opening up an obstruction case against President Trump.

“I'm finding just a number of irregularities,” Meadows said. “So would it be appropriate if ranking member Jordan and I were to refer those inconsistencies to the IG and if we did that with the IG look at those inconsistencies?”

Horowitz replied: “It's certainly appropriate for us to get a referral about a then-employee of the department.”

Meadows told Horowitz he believes Comey gave conflicting information when his closed-door testimony in December 2018 is compared against what’s in Horowitz’s latest report. That report, released last month, found that Comey violated bureau policies by drafting, leaking and retaining memos documenting private discussions with Trump.

Meadows said Comey told lawmakers he denied initiating an obstruction-of-justice investigation because of comments the president made to him. But the inspector general’s report on Comey said the former FBI director purposely leaked his memos of those conversations with Trump to spark a special counsel investigation of alleged obstruction.

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“So two of those can't be true,” Meadows said. He added, “So we'll be referring those inconsistencies to you today, Mr. Horowitz.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller opted against drawing a conclusion on whether the president obstructed investigators' work in the Russia probe.

Wednesday's hearing was billed as a forum to “examine the community of inspectors general, their resources and ongoing work.” Many lawmakers focused questions on Horowitz’s reviews related to the FBI and Justice Department.

Horowitz was asked to elaborate on his report saying Comey set a “dangerous example” though his memo leaks.

“Our concern was empowering FBI directors or frankly any FBI employee or other law enforcement official with the authority to decide that they're not going to follow established norms and procedures because in their view they've made a judgment that the individuals they're dealing with can't be trusted,” he said.

Last week, Horowitz told lawmakers his team is nearly finished with a hotly anticipated review of alleged surveillance abuses by the DOJ and FBI during the Russia investigation, saying that a draft was sent to Attorney General Bill Barr, and that the report is being finalized ahead of a public release.

Horowitz and his investigators have probed how the infamous and salacious anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was used to secure a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant for former Trump aide Carter Page in October 2016, as well as three FISA renewals. Horowitz’s team has questioned why the FBI considered Steele a credible source, and why the bureau seemed to use news reports to bolster Steele’s credibility.

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In his letter Friday, Horowitz indicated that once the Justice Department and the FBI send back a marked document relating to classified material, his team will “proceed with our usual process for preparing final draft public and classified reports, and ensuring that appropriate reviews occur for accuracy and comment purposes.”

Meanwhile, a key FBI player during the time frame under scrutiny, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, is facing the prospect of federal charges after Horowitz faulted him in a separate inquiry over statements he made during a Hillary Clinton-related investigation. The review found that McCabe "lacked candor" when talking with investigators, but the former FBI official has denied wrongdoing.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.