Enlarge / FBI Director James Comey testifies Tuesday before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.Joe Raedle, Getty Images
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It’s been a head-scratching few months for FBI Director James Comey.
It all started last July, when Comey said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should not be prosecuted in connection to her use of a private e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state. He next spoke about the situation on October 28—less than two weeks before the election—saying that the bureau discovered more e-mails relevant to the criminal inquiry that needed to be examined. Days later, on November 6—just two days before the election—Comey announced that everything was hunky dory and the newly discovered e-mail was unrelated to the Clinton investigation from July.
The whole situation prompted many after the election to conclude that Comey’s actions helped thwart Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency. Now, the entire Comey saga will be investigated by the Department of Justice’s inspector general, and his investigation will conclude well after Donald Trump assumes the presidency on January 20.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the main purpose of his examination is to investigate “[a]llegations that Department or FBI policies or procedures were not followed in connection with, or in actions leading up to or related to, the FBI Director’s public announcement on July 5, 2016, and the Director’s letters to Congress on October 28 and November 6, 2016, and that certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations.”
Despite the new investigation, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was quick to point out that nothing the FBI or Comey did can be undone.
The review will not substitute the OIG’s judgment for the judgments made by the FBI or the Department regarding the substantive merits of investigative or prosecutive decisions.
Finally, if circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.
The probe, the agency said, was in response to calls from members of Congress, “various organizations,” and the public. Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon said, “My reaction is that it’s entirely appropriate and very necessary but also not surprising.”
The White House said it didn’t press for the inquiry.
“This administration has assiduously protected the independence of inspectors general, so we wouldn’t weigh in publicly or privately,” press secretary Josh Earnest said.
Eleven days before last fall’s election, Comey spun heads when he forwarded a letter to congressional leaders, saying the bureau had renewed its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server.
Again, just months earlier in July, Comey announced that Clinton was “extremely careless,” but he chose to recommend that Clinton not be prosecuted.
Comey had said he was obligated to tell Congress in October about the renewed e-mail inquiry because he had publicly stated months before that the investigation was over.
Trump seized on the October 28 letter, using it as fodder for his “crooked Hillary” campaign.
All the while, some members of Congress urged Comey to resign while others said the director may have broken laws designed to prevent federal employees from influencing elections.
In addition to Comey’s situation, the inspector general’s inquiry will also investigate the timing, just days before the election, of a DOJ Twitter account that began dumping Freedom of Information Act files in connection to the Clinton e-mail investigation.
The inspector announced Thursday that it will examine if “allegations regarding the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize same, were influenced by improper considerations.”
Our story about that Twitter mishandling was titled “Rogue FBI Twitter Bot dumps months of FOIAs, causing controversy.” According to the report:
On Oct. 30, a long-quiet FBI Twitter account began releasing a torrent of links to documents on the bureau’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) library server.
Among the documents were several from the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server and a decade-old investigation into the Clinton Foundation over a pardon given by President Bill Clinton at the end of his term.
According to an FBI official, the flood of tweets occurred because of a backlog of updates dating to June.
The logjam finally broke when a content management system software patch was installed last week.
Horowitz, the inspector general, did not say when he would issue his findings.
President-Elect Trump did not immediately comment on the developments. While he doesn’t have the power to scuttle the probe, he does have the authority to name or fire inspectors general.