After a 17-month investigation, the Department of Justice on Thursday released a 500-page report into how the agency, the FBI and then-director James Comey handled its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The report, from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, also examined whether political bias among FBI agents influenced the investigation.
Here are key takeaways from the report.
James Comey was insubordinate …
The report concluded that Comey was insubordinate to his superiors when he went outside the department’s chain of command and broke with FBI norms to announce his initial findings, and then later, to announce he was reopening the Clinton investigation without notifying higher-ranking officials.
… but there’s no evidence of Comey bias.
Comey based his decisions on what he believed was the FBI’s institutional interests, the report concluded.
There’s no evidence that broader FBI bias affected the investigation …
The inspector general “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed.”
… but some officials had personal bias against then-candidate Donald Trump, according to newly-released text messages.
One text message from August 8, 2016 — which was included in the report but had not been previously made public — stands out. In it, FBI lawyer Lisa Page wrote to FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Strzok was a pivotal player in the FBI’s Clinton investigation and was involved in the FBI’s decision-making process after the bureau discovered new emails, potentially related to the Clinton probe, on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner, then-husband to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The FBI’s discovery of the Weiner emails, made in a separate federal probe, led to Comey’s decision to announce the reopening of the FBI’s Clinton investigation 11 days before the 2016 election.
Strzok later joined the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. Strzok was removed from that investigation following news of his texts.
No criminal referrals outlined …
The report does not outline any criminal referrals, though the inspector general’s office is not required to make any such referrals public.
… but disciplinary referrals for five people
The report refers five current or former FBI employees for potential disciplinary action under the bureau’s internal guidelines for conduct, based on their politically-weighted texts and emails while working on the Clinton investigation. The report named two of the five employees as Strzok and Page, and referred to the three other unnamed employees as “agent 1,” “agent 5” and “FBI attorney 2.”
Unresolved: The Weiner laptop delay
The inspector general found that political bias may have been in play, but could not be proven, in the FBI’s delayed decision to look into the emails discovered on Weiner’s laptop in September 2016.
The bureau’s New York field office executed a search warrant for the laptop on Sept. 26, 2016, and was aware of the discovery of thousands of emails by Sept. 28. Yet there is no evidence that the agency looked into the content of those emails or took any further actions until at least a month later, after Comey notified Congress of their existence and reopened the Clinton investigation.
The inspector general found none of the reasons given for that delay to be plausible.
The report did not include any recommendation to reopen the Clinton investigation.
The report found that investigators did not pursue every possible avenue in their probe — for example, not seeking to obtain every device that may have been involved. But the inspector general pointed to investigators’ desire to finish the investigation before the election as a plausible reason for those decisions.
The report does not address the topic of whether the Clinton probe should be reopened.
Overall, the Clinton investigation handling cast a cloud over the FBI, the report says
The report is highly critical of some actions taken in the investigation, concluding that Comey and the bureau’s actions, and the behavior of the five employees, “negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and Department of Justice as fair administrators of justice.”
The PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.