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The Justice Department (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General found that former FBI director James Comey “deviated” from FBI and DOJ norms while handling the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
The official report is set to be released Thursday afternoon.
Inspector general Michael Horowitz will reportedly conclude that Comey departed “clearly and dramatically” from FBI and DOJ guidelines while overseeing the Clinton investigation. He will add that Comey’s decisions “negatively impacted the perception of the FBI” and DOJ, according to Bloomberg.
2 highly scrutinized moves during the 2016 election
Horowitz’s investigation into Comey and the FBI was first announced in January 2017.
At the center of the inquiry are two controversial decisions Comey made during the 2016 presidential election.
The first was to hold a press conference in July 2016 announcing that the FBI would not be recommending charges against Clinton, who was the Democratic presidential nominee at the time.
He noted during the presser that he had not consulted with the DOJ about the statement he was about to make.
Comey’s move was considered highly unusual, given that making the announcement should have fallen to the attorney general at the time, Loretta Lynch.
In explaining his decision after President Donald Trump fired him last year, Comey accused Lynch of having a “tortured half-out, half-in” approach to the investigation.
He said he was also concerned by her decision not to recuse herself from the investigation following a controversial and much-publicized meeting on an airplane tarmac with former President Bill Clinton.
Those misgivings made up the basis of the FBI director’s decision to independently announce that the bureau would not recommend charges against Clinton. Lynch criticized Comey after he made his comments and reiterated that she did not act improperly during the course of the investigation.
Comey again drew scrutiny when, three months after the press conference, he sent a letter to Congress announcing that the FBI was reopening the Clinton investigation after it discovered new emails that it believed could be relevant to the probe.
He sent the letter on October 28, 2016, just eleven days before Election Day. Clinton has repeatedly said since then that she believes Comey’s letter was the final nail in the coffin for her presidential bid.
Comey has said he would have refrained from sending the letter if Lynch had told him not to, but he drew criticism for sending the letter at all.
At least one DOJ official warned the FBI against publicizing details about the Clinton investigation
ABC News reported last week that at least one senior DOJ official told the FBI that publicizing such a detail about a sensitive investigation so close to the election would violate department policy and federal guidelines about disclosing information on ongoing investigations.
Comey said after he was fired that it made him “nauseous” to think his actions had swayed the outcome of the election, but he maintains that he did what he thought was right at the time.
After his firing, Comey enraged conservative lawmakers when he revealed that he asked a friend, Columbia law professor Daniel Richman, to share with the press details of a contemporaneous memo he wrote about his interactions with Trump. The president has since accused the former FBI director of leaking classified information.
Of the seven memos Comey created about his conversations with Trump, four are now marked classified — two are marked “confidential,” which is the lowest classification level, and two are marked “secret.” It is unclear when they were classified. Richman said in a 2017 interview that Comey shared four memos with him, and The Wall Street Journal later reported that at least two of the memos Comey shared with Richman are now marked classified.
The Journal noted that Comey redacted portions of one memo that he believed were classified, and that another memo was designated as classified after Comey left the FBI.
Comey’s memos and his decision to share their contents with Richman are said to be part of the focus of Horowitz’s upcoming report.
Conservatives and Trump loyalists have been chomping at the bit to see the report, cheering its release because they believe it will vindicate Trump for firing Comey and reveal the former FBI director’s misjudgment.