The Justice Department’s inspector general repeatedly criticizes former FBI director James Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails all throughout the newly released, 586-page report.
1. Comey Baited, Switched DOJ in Proclaiming Hillary’s Innocence
Comey misled former deputy attorney general Sally Yates and former attorney general Loretta Lynch about issuing a joint statement regarding his decision to not pursue criminal charges against Clinton for disseminating classified information via a private, unsecured e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state. “Unbeknownst to them,” the report says, Comey began drafting a statement about the end of the investigation into her e-mails, known throughout the report as the “Midyear investigation,” to deliver by himself.
He says he did this to protect “a sense of justice more broadly in the country—that things are fair, not fixed, and they’re done independently.”
Comey admitted that he kept the announcement a secret from DOJ officials because he didn’t want them to tell him not to do it. He informed Yates and Lynch about the announcement only after the FBI had already alerted the press. The IG criticized this move to usurp the attorney general, calling it “extraordinary and insubordinate.”
“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 stated.
2. Comey Has Messianic Tendencies
Comey thought that he alone could save the integrity of the investigation into Clinton’s e-mails. Because he believed his co-workers’ reputations were tainted beyond repair, he reasoned that he alone could save the integrity of the case. Read it for yourself.
We determined that Comey’s decision to make this statement was the result of his belief that only he had the ability to credibly and authoritatively convey the rationale for the decision to not seek charges against Clinton, and that he needed to hold the press conference to protect the FBI and the Department from the extraordinary harm that he believed would have resulted had he failed to do so.
3. Comey Never Seriously Considered Making Hillary Testify Before A Grand Jury
Remember when Clinton announced that her longtime aides Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson were her new attorneys — making them unable to testify against her? They were also allowed to be in the room with Clinton while the FBI interviewed her, a move the IG slammed as “inconsistent with typical investigative strategy.”
This unusual accommodation was made because the FBI was never going to make Clinton testify in front of a grand jury, the report says. This decision was also made during a time when Comey was determined that, absent a shocking twist in the case or an outright lie from Clinton herself during the interview, they would not pursue criminal charges against the former first lady.
4. Comey Pretended to Appoint a Special Counsel to Speed Up the Investigation
Comey pretended to be interested in appointing a special counsel in order to speed up the investigation towards its close. He told Yates and Lynch, as well as FBI employees assigned to the Midyear investigation, that the closer it got to the party conventions, the more likely he would be to appoint a special counsel.
“We did not find evidence that Comey ever seriously considered requesting a special counsel,” the inspector general report reads. “Instead, he used the reference to a special counsel as an effort to induce the Department to move more quickly to obtain the Mills and Samuelson culling laptops and to complete the investigation.”
5. Comey Asked Top FBI Officials To Help The Declaration Of Hillary’s Innocence Sound More Convincing
Comey began to draft his “extremely careless” statement in May 2016 and shared it with top FBI officials to tweak before his big proclamation of Clinton’s innocence on July 5, 2016. Throughout those two months before he delivered the statement, the language within was changed from “gross negligence” to “extremely careless.
Here’s a list of the changes made, according to the IG report.
The description of Clinton’s handling of classified information was changed from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless;”
A statement that the sheer volume of information classified as Secret supported an inference of gross negligence was removed and replaced with a statement that the classified information they discovered was “especially concerning because all of these emails were housed on servers not supported by full-time staff”;
A statement that the FBI assessed that it was “reasonably likely” that hostile actors gained access to Clinton’s private email server was changed to “possible.” The statement also acknowledged that the FBI investigation and its forensic analysis did not find evidence that Clinton’s email server systems were compromised; and
A paragraph summarizing the factors that led the FBI to assess that it was possible that hostile actors accessed Clinton’s server was added, and at one point referenced Clinton’s use of her private email for an exchange with then President Obama while in the territory of a foreign adversary. This reference later was changed to “another senior government official,” and ultimately was omitted.
6. Comey, Other FBI Officials Used Personal E-mail Accounts For Official Government Business
Yes, really. The same people who were tasked with investigating whether Clinton should be charged with a crime for conducting official government business on a private server did the exact same thing. Here’s what the IG had to say.
We identified numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account to conduct unclassified FBI business. We found that, given the absence of exigent circumstances and the frequency with which the use of personal email occurred, Comey’s use of a personal email account for unclassified FBI business to be inconsistent with Department policy.
7. Comey Took a Month Before Getting a Warrant For the E-mails Found On Weiner’s Laptop
The IG found that the FBI knew about the 34,000 e-mails stored on Anthony Weiner’s laptop — many containing exchanges between Clinton and her longtime aide Huma Abedin — as early as September 29, 2016. Yet Comey did not give the Midyear investigative team clearance to seek a warrant until October 27, 2016. He notified Congress about this development in the case a day later — just days before the 2016 election.
8. Comey’s Decision to Tell Congress About Weiner’s Laptop Violated Protocol
Writing to Congress informing them about the development in the case after the investigation was formally closed without first speaking to his superiors violated DOJ protocol. The IG found Comey’s explanation as to why he did this to be unconvincing and full of illogical reasoning.
“Comey’s description of his choice as being between ‘two doors,’ one labeled ‘speak’ and one labeled ‘conceal,’ was a false dichotomy,” the report states. “The two doors were actually labeled ‘follow policy/practice’ and ‘depart from policy/practice.'”
Ultimately, the IG found that Comey’s decision to unilaterally alert Congress that the investigation was being re-opened was detrimental to the investigation.
We found it extraordinary that Comey assessed that it was best that the FBI Director not speak directly with the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General about how best to navigate this most important decision and mitigate the resulting harms, and that Comey’s decision resulted in the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General concluding that it would be counterproductive to speak directly with the FBI Director.