DOJ watchdog investigating FBI decisions in Clinton email probe

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. government watchdog said on Thursday it would examine whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation followed proper procedures in its probe of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

The inspector general's announcement comes amid outcry from Democrats who say Clinton's loss to President-elect Donald Trump was in part due to Comey's bringing Clinton's emails back into the public spotlight less than two weeks before the 2016 election.

Related: James Comey through the years

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James Comey through the years
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James Comey through the years
UNITED STATES - JUNE 14: Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey speaks at a conference at the Bloomberg News Bureau in Washington DC June 14, 2004. (Photo by Ken Cedeno/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: James Comey (L) FBI Director nominee walks with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (R) to a ceremony annoucing Comey's nomination in the Rose Garden at the White House June 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. Comey, a former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, would replace Mueller. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
James Comey, U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee as director of the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), arrives to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Comey, the nominee to be the next FBI director, said interrogation techniques such as waterboarding used during his time in President George W. Bush's administration constitute torture and are illegal. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
FBI Director James Comey, right, talks to Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz, left, during a meeting in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Photo: Rodrigo Garcia/NurPhoto (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)
FBI Director James B. Comey testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 20: Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey speaks during a press conference at the conclusion of a visit to the Denver FBI Field Office on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Director Comey's visit to the Denver FBI Field Office is part of his plan to visit all FBI Field Offices in his first year as director. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
The shadow of FBI Director James Comey is seen as he addresses the audience during the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) annual meeting at the State Department in Washington, DC on November 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
FBI Director James Comey adjusts his tie before testifying to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on ?Russia?s intelligence activities" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the "Oversight of the State Department" in Washington U.S. July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: FBI Director James Comey arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a classified briefing on Russia for all members of the House of Representatives January 13, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The internal Office of the Inspector General at the Justice Department announced yesterday that it is conducting a review on the handling of FBI and DOJ's investigation into the Hillary Clinton private e-mail server case. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
FBI Director James Comey testifies to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on ?Russia?s intelligence activities" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 10: FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (L-R) arrive to testify before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. The intelligence heads testified to the committee about cyber threats to the United States and fielded questions about effects of Russian government hacking on the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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The Justice Department's Office of Inspector General said its probe would focus in part on decisions leading up to public communications by FBI Director James Comey regarding the Clinton investigation, and whether underlying investigative decisions may have been based on "improper considerations."

Although the FBI ultimately decided not to refer Clinton's case for prosecution, Comey aroused suspicion that may have diminished trust in Clinton among voters.

The controversy involved Clinton's use of a private email server for official correspondence when she was secretary of state under President Barack Obama, including for messages that were later determined to contain classified information.

SEE ALSO: FBI director: 'Can't answer' whether we are investigating reports Trump had contact with Russia during election

Comey publicly announced the status of the agency's investigation into Clinton's emails two times in 2016.

In July, Comey held a press conference and testified before Congress to explain why the FBI had decided not to refer Clinton for prosecution, explaining that she was "extremely careless" but should not be charged with gross negligence or any other federal crime.

In October, less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election, Comey said the FBI was continuing the investigation because of new emails found on the computer of disgraced former Representative Anthony Weiner, the husband of one of Clinton's top aides.

On Nov. 6, Comey said the investigation into Weiner's computer produced no new evidence that would incriminate Clinton.

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Brian Fallon, Clinton's spokesman, told MSNBC on Thursday that Comey's actions "cried out for an independent review."

It is the usual practice of prosecutors and law enforcement, including the FBI, not to disclose information about investigations that do not end in criminal charges.

(Reporting by Timothy Ahmann; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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