US Justice Dept watchdog: Comey deviated from FBI norms but no bias

WASHINGTON, June 14 (Reuters) - Former FBI Director James Comey deviated from the bureau's norms in handling a probe into former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but there is no evidence his actions before the 2016 election were motivated by political bias, a Justice Department watchdog report concludes, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.

"While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey's part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice," Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the report's conclusions, which were obtained by Bloomberg.

The report by Horowitz on the FBI's handling of a probe into Clinton's emails is due to be released publicly at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT). It arose from a review he launched about a week before President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.

RELATED: James Comey's life after President Trump fired him as FBI director

12 PHOTOS
James Comey's life after President Trump fired him as FBI director
See Gallery
James Comey's life after President Trump fired him as FBI director
James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Comey said he's 'disappointed and disgusted' with Republican attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, a campaign led by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani since he became one of President Donald Trump's top lawyers. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former FBI Director James Comey arrives to speak about his book "A Higher Loyalty" in New York, U.S., April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Attendees collect their copies of former FBI director James Comey's book as they arrive to hear him speak at an onstage interview at George Washington University in Washington, U.S. April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former FBI Director James Comey is sworn in prior to testifying before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 07: Former FBI director James Comey laughs while answering questions during an interview forum at the Washington Post May 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. Comey discussed his stormy tenure as head of the FBI, his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, his tense relationship with President Trump and his controversial firing a year ago, during the forum. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Former FBI Director James Comey arrives for a taping of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Former FBI director James Comey speaks about his book during an onstage interview with Axios Executive Editor Mike Allen at George Washington University in Washington, U.S. April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey departs after testifying before a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 30: Former FBI Director James Comey talks onstage at George Washington University April 30, 3018 in Washington, DC. Comey discussed his new book 'Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Russian Federation Efforts to Interfere in the 2016 U.S. Elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The inquiry has focused on whether public statements made by Comey about Democrat Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state were based on "improper considerations."

A long-serving law enforcement official, Comey became a controversial figure in the 2016 election, drawing accusations from both Republicans and Democrats that his handling of the Clinton investigation influenced the campaign.

He later headed a separate probe into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. Trump fired him as head of the FBI in 2017.

In July 2016, Comey held an unusual news conference to explain why the FBI would not be recommending criminal charges against Clinton over her use of the private server, instead of a State Department server, for some official business.

He chastised Clinton for being "extremely careless" but said there was insufficient evidence to charge her with a federal crime. That upset Republicans who said Comey's statement could have helped Clinton's election campaign.

But in October 2016, less than two weeks before Election Day, Comey sent members of Congress a letter disclosing that the probe was being reopened after new emails were found on the computer of the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Clinton has since said that Comey's letter contributed to her unexpected defeat by Trump. Two days before the Nov. 8 election, Comey said the FBI had found no additional evidence in the new emails.

John Podesta, who ran the Clinton campaign, said "the report demonstrates beyond doubt" that Comey was unfair to Clinton by announcing details of the email investigation during the campaign while not revealing the presence of the separate probe beginning in July 2016 into the Trump campaign and Russia.

"This report confirms what we have known for a long time - that the FBI inappropriately applied a double standard to the Clinton and Trump investigations which hurt her and helped elect him," Podesta told Reuters.

 

FBI LEAKS?

Trump's allies have signaled they will use the Horowitz report to press their argument that Comey did not act properly while overseeing the Russia probe.

The Inspector General also examined whether FBI employees leaked information about investigations of the Clinton Foundation charitable organization and emails in a bid to help Trump's campaign.

Law enforcement officials previously told Reuters the information was leaked to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an adviser to the Trump campaign. He now represents Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

The report will also discuss Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI staffers whom Republicans accused of bias against Trump after thousands of text messages sent via their work-issued mobile phones were made public.

RELATED: Inside the White House on the day Trump fired James Comey

13 PHOTOS
Inside the White House on the day Trump fired James Comey
See Gallery
Inside the White House on the day Trump fired James Comey
White House Deputy Press Secretary Lyndsey Walters hands out documents to reporters in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House, advising them that there will be no further on camera statements, after US President Donald Trump sacked FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture shows a copy of the letter by U.S. President Donald Trump firing Director of the FBI James Comey at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Writers work on the story about Director of the FBI James Comey's firing by U.S. President Donald Trump in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Writers work on the story about Director of the FBI James Comey's firing by U.S. President Donald Trump in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
This picture shows a copy of the letter by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to U.S. President Donald Trump recomending the firing of Director of the FBI James Comey, at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Reporters work on the story about Director of the FBI James Comey's firing by U.S. President Donald Trump in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Reporters work on the story about Director of the FBI James Comey's firing by U.S. President Donald Trump in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters hands out a statement relating to the firing of the Director of the FBI James Comey by U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters (R) hands out a statement relating to the firing of the Director of the FBI James Comey by U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters (R) hands out a statement relating to the firing of the Director of the FBI James Comey by U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A journalist looks at a copy of the termination letter to FBI Director James Comey from US President Donald Trump in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on May 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A journalist looks at a copy of a letter from US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to US President Donald Trump recommending the termination of FBI Director James Comey in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on May 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
White House Deputy Press Secretary Lyndsey Walters speaks to reporters in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House, advising them that there will be no further on camera statements, after US President Donald Trump sacked FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

While some of their messages were anti-Trump, others took aim at lawmakers such as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, whom Clinton defeated for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Page and Strzok were involved in both the Clinton and Russia probes. Mueller removed Strzok from his team after Horowitz disclosed the texts to him.

Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017 while leading the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, an allegation the president has denied. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Walcott and Alistair Bell)

Read Full Story