TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -Former FBI Director James Comey made a “serious error of judgment” when he announced shortly before the 2016 U.S. presidential election that he was reopening an investigation into candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on Thursday.
But Inspector General Michael Horowitz also concluded in a long-awaited, 500-page report that Comey did not exhibit political bias or try to influence the election; nor did he contest the decision not to charge Clinton with a crime.
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 probe into Clinton’s emails influenced the campaign.
Comey later headed a separate investigation into alleged ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Trump fired him as head of the FBI in May 2017, prompting the appointment of a special counsel now pursuing the Russia probe.
Both sides of the partisan divide found something to trumpet in the report. Democrats said it confirmed political bias did not influence the Clinton investigation, while Republicans seized on a newly disclosed text by an FBI agent in mid-2016 expressing his apparent intention to “stop” the Trump campaign.
And while embarrassing for the FBI, the report appeared to lack the kind of bombshell revelation that would significantly boost an effort by Trump and his allies to paint the FBI as corrupt and discredit the Russia investigation.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters at a briefing that he accepted the inspector general’s report, but stressed it did not find that political bias had impacted its investigations.
“The report does identify errors of judgment, violations of, or even disregard for policy and decisions that at the very least, with the benefit of hindsight, were not the best choices,” Wray said. “We need to hold ourselves accountable.”
The inspector general’s inquiry focused on public statements made by Comey about Democrat Clinton’s use of a private email server, instead of a State Department server, while she was secretary of state.
In October 2016, less than two weeks before Election Day, Comey sent members of Congress a letter disclosing that a probe into Clinton’s emails was being reopened after new emails were discovered, a disclosure Clinton contends contributed to her surprise defeat by Trump. Two days before the Nov. 8 election, Comey said the FBI found no additional evidence in the new emails.
John Podesta, who ran the Clinton campaign, told Reuters “the report demonstrates beyond doubt” that Comey was unfair to Clinton by announcing developments concerning the email probe in the heat of the campaign while not revealing the existence of the Russia probe, launched in late July 2016.