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story.lead_photo.caption In this April 6, 2017, file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department watchdog declared Thursday that former FBI Director James Comey was "insubordinate" in his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation in the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign. But it also found there was no evidence that Comey's or the department's final conclusions were motivated by political bias toward either candidate.

President Donald Trump and his supporters had looked to the report to provide a fresh line of attack against Comey and the FBI as Trump claims that a politically tainted bureau tried to undermine his campaign and — through the later Russia investigation — his presidency.

Clinton and her supporters, on the other hand, have long said that she was the one whose election chances were torpedoed by Comey's investigation announcements about her email practices, in the summer and then shortly before the election.

Comey, whom Trump fired shortly after taking office, bore the brunt of much criticism in the report, but not for political favoritism.

The inspector general concluded that the FBI director, who announced in the summer of 2016 that Clinton had been "extremely careless" with classified material but would not be charged with any crime, departed from normal Justice Department protocol several times.

But it also said: "We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, we determined that they were based on the prosecutors' assessment of the facts, the law and past department practice."

The conclusions were contained in a 500-page report that documents in the investigation and reveals how the bureau, which for decades has endeavored to stand apart from politics, came to be entangled in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump supporters quickly focused on the report's recounting of anti-Trump text messages from two FBI officials who worked the Clinton probe and later the Russia case, including one in which an agent says, "We'll stop it" with regard to a possible Trump victory. The report suggests that text from Peter Strzok, who was later dropped from Mueller's team, "implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate's electoral prospects."

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the report "reaffirmed the president's suspicions about Comey's conduct and the political bias amongst some of the members of the FBI."

FBI Director Chris Wray told reporters that the bureau accepted the report's findings and was making changes, including requiring further training for FBI employees and reemphasizing the importance of objectivity. In a New York Times opinion piece released after the report, Comey wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times in which he said he disagreed with some conclusions but respected the watchdog's work.

But the report rejects the Trump talking point that the FBI favored Clinton over him and that its leaders were driven by politics. It also does not second-guess the FBI's conclusion that Clinton should not have been prosecuted, despite repeated assertions by Trump and his supporters that anyone less politically connected would have been charged.

The report underscores efforts by senior FBI and Justice Department leaders in the final stages of the presidential race to juggle developments in the Clinton investigation — she had used private email for some government business while secretary of state — with a separate probe into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia that was diverting FBI resources and attention. The Russia investigation was unknown at the time to the American public.

The White House cited as the original rationale for Comey's firing his handling of the Clinton investigation, even though Trump days later said he was thinking of "this Russia thing."

The watchdog faults Comey for his July 5, 2016, news conference at which he disclosed his recommendation against bringing charges in the email investigation. Cases that end without charges are rarely discussed publicly. And Comey did not reveal to Attorney General Loretta Lynch his plans to make an announcement.

"We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to do so, and we found none of his reasons to be a persuasive basis for deviating from well-established Department policies in a way intentionally designed to avoid supervision by department leadership over his actions," the report says.

Comey has said he was concerned that the Justice Department itself could not credibly announce the conclusion of its investigation, in part because Lynch had met earlier in the summer aboard her plane with former President Bill Clinton. Both said they did not discuss Hillary Clinton's case.

Concerned about the "appearance that former President Clinton was influencing" the probe, Lynch began talking to her staff the next morning about possibly recusing herself from overseeing the investigation, according to the report. She told the inspector general she decided not to step aside because it might "create a misimpression" that she and the former president had discussed inappropriate things.

Bill Clinton, who was also interviewed in the inspector general investigation, said he had "absolutely not" discussed the email probe.

Also criticized was Comey's decision, against the recommendation of the Justice Department, to reveal to Congress that the FBI was reopening the investigation following the discovery of new emails.

The FBI obtained a warrant nine days before the presidential election to review those emails, found on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, and ultimately determined there was nothing in them that changed its original conclusion.

The report faulted the FBI for failing to act with more urgency in reviewing emails from Weiner's laptop. Comey has said had he had known more about the laptop earlier, it might have affected his decision to notify Congress.

The report sharply criticizes FBI agent Strzok and a now-retired FBI lawyer Lisa Page for text exchanges that it says were "deeply troubling" and created the appearance "that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations." Most of the problematic texts relate to the FBI's Russia investigation, the report notes.

Both Strzok and Page acknowledged that some of their texts could be read as showing bias against Trump, but both insisted bias played no part in their work.

The report also notes that Comey, despite chiding Clinton for mishandling government business, occasionally used personal email himself to discuss FBI matters.

"But my emails," she said, reacting in a three-word tweet.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Comments

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  • Packman
    June 14, 2018 at 1:53 p.m.

    The IG report is turning out to be a big nothingburger, in that it isn't telling us anything we didn't already know. Republicans will use it to attack Comey/Mueller/Clinton/Lynch as worthless partisan hacks and democrats will say it essentially exonerates the Obama administration and Clinton campaign and legitimizes the Mueller investigation.
    .
    Although, the two FBI lovebird's texts are troublesome at best and raises the question as to how many others at the highest levels of the FBI and DOJ were in the bag for Clinton and to what extent were they willing to bend/break the law to damage Trump and help Hillary? Another special prosecutor may be warranted to answer that and similar questions raised in the report.

  • BOLTAR
    June 14, 2018 at 3:02 p.m.

    I think partisans from both sides can agree, although for different reasons, that Comey made a lot of mistakes, but I'm confident many will cherry pick or ignore different parts of the unsurprising findings in this report in order to pursue their own agendas.

  • BoudinMan
    June 14, 2018 at 4:37 p.m.

    Someone reminded that trump said during the campaign that if Hillary were elected we would have a president under constant investigation. He was right. Hillary won the election by over 3 million votes, and trump is now under constant investigation.

  • LRCrookAttorney
    June 14, 2018 at 5:22 p.m.

    Boudin...God, get over it, Hillary lost and there is no way to calculate it any differently. If there was any modicum of possibility that she could construe a win, she would have. Trump is the president, just like Obama was elected and this continuous attack on the electoral college will not change that. We can play what ifs until the cows come home. I remember many people I knew when Clinton (Bill) won complained incessantly that Bill didn't win. But when all was said and done, Bill won at the end of a recession and after two years (approximately) into a recovery. So, Bill had plenty of time to walk around with his pants around his ankles and dealing with the new communist power (China)!

  • TimberTopper
    June 14, 2018 at 7:16 p.m.

    I think the Russian support did more damage than Comey. When you consider all the fake news from the Russian bots to those over here that became Russian Trolls, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent supporting Trump, that looks to me like the strength of the win. Now just to get to the bottom of whether Trump was in on the coordination in some way. Of course, his lawyer buddy may lead a verse or two of, "He's in the jailhouse now".

  • WhododueDiligence
    June 14, 2018 at 8:53 p.m.

    TT, thanks for that "In the Jailhouse Now" reminder. The great Leon Russell recorded that song in slower-switching-to faster tempo on Russell's great album "Hank Wilson's Back" which similarly featured "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" in normal-switching-to-overdrive-bluegrass tempo. If Trump's lawyer buddy doesn't like "In the Jailhouse Now" he might feel like singing the final song on that album which isn't as upbeat, "Goodnight Irene".

  • WhododueDiligence
    June 14, 2018 at 9:15 p.m.

    I'm a slow learner. It took me years to learn to appreciate the greatness of Merle Haggard. It took me years to appreciate the greatness of George Jones. It took me by surprise that Leon Russell, who could do any kind of music, could do country music. And it took me much longer than it should have while looking at the cover of my Leon Russell album "Hank Wilson's Back," which is now revealed clear as can be on you tube, to figure out why Russell's classic country album is titled "Hank Wilson's Back".

  • CartoonDude
    June 15, 2018 at 7:27 a.m.

    "We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations..." Did they miss the text by the FBI lawyer that said "Viva le resistance?" How about the Lisa Page/Peter Strzok text exchange: "He is not ever going to become president, right? Right?!"...."No. No he won't. We'll stop it." How can they be so oblivious to the obvious conclusion? The same anti-Trump bias, that gave Hillary a pass on crimes she is known to have committed, that never placed her under oath during her testimony (done months after Comey wrote her exoneration document), and immunized almost everyone else that might have anything on her, is driving the hyper-aggressive Mueller investigation against Trump. Why can't anybody ever be held to account in DC ?

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