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Political bias did not affect Clinton probe, watchdog report finds

The much-anticipated report on the probe of Hillary Clinton's email practices was released Thursday. It runs hundreds of pages, finds fault with the FBI, and may be fodder for Republicans and Democrats alike. While the watchdog found that political bias did not influence the probe, the report found that former Director James Comey had been “insubordinate.” Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It runs hundreds of pages, finds fault with the FBI, and may be fodder for Republicans and Democrats alike. A much-anticipated report is out tonight on the probe of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail practices.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Hillary Clinton:

    Thank you, and God bless you!

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The Clinton e-mail investigation that some believe influenced a presidential election today officially became a dark mark over the agency that led it.

    In a detailed 500-page report, the Department of Justice inspector general reached mixed conclusions, first, finding no evidence that political bias affected any of the Clinton investigation decisions that the I.G. reviewed.

    Also in the report, referrals of five current or former DOJ staffers for potential disciplinary action related to anti-Trump bias they declared, largely in private text messages, during the investigation. It also finds that while then FBI Director James Comey didn’t act out of bias, he was insubordinate when he didn’t notify his bosses before announcing the Clinton findings and then the reopening of the Clinton investigation in October.

    That all refers to events beginning In July 2016, when Comey gave a rare public statement on the conclusions of the investigation.

  • James Comey:

    Although we didn’t find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Then, in late October of 2016, a bombshell letter from Comey to Congress, the FBI was reopening the probe after it discovered new e-mails that appeared to be pertinent to the investigation.

    On November 6, Comey wrote again to Congress, saying the FBI had “not changed our conclusions after examining the e-mails.”

    Donald Trump was elected president two days later. He fired James Comey in May of 2017.

    Today, Comey defended his decisions in a New York Times op-ed, writing, “I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office.”

    The White House said the report bears out what President Trump has said all along, that the FBI conspired against him.

  • Sarah Sanders:

    There are a lot of things in this report that not only worry those of us in the administration, but should worry a lot of Americans, that people played this political bias.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But Democrats pushed back, saying the president has wrongly said that the FBI is influencing the current Mueller investigation into his campaign.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    We know that, in the days ahead, the president and his allies will try to twist themselves into pretzels, and try to use this report to undermine the special counsel and the Russia probe. Unfortunately for them, nothing in this report lays a glove on special counsel Mueller or the ongoing Russia probe.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And late today, FBI Director Christopher Wray weighed in at a press conference. Asked to sum up his feelings on today’s report, in one word, he said, “Disappointed.”

    And Lisa Desjardins is here now help us fill in the details of the report.

    So, as you say in the report, no evidence they found of bias in the overall investigation, but there is still mistakes made?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That’s right. That’s right.

    And let’s start at the top with James Comey. This report finds that James Comey didn’t operate out of bias. In fact, here — I’m reading from page 497 of this large report — that they believe his decisions were based on what he believed was in the FBI’s interest.

    However, it found that he was insubordinate because he went outside of normal procedure. And that found that wasn’t just a mistake, but it was something that, to this day, is a cloud over the FBI. They used those words, a cloud over the FBI.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, no — again, no evidence of bias in — affecting the final investigation conclusions, but some sense of bias or evidence of bias on the part of the thinking of individuals involved in that investigation.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That’s correct.

    There were five people involved in this investigation that they found evidence had an anti-Trump bias. And, today, Judy, we saw new texts from two of the most prominent of those. That is Lisa Page and also Peter Strzok. Peter Strzok was one of the top officials in this investigation.

    Let’s look at this text that we learned about today. He wrote — Lisa Page wrote to him in August of 2016, “Trump’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?”

    And Strzok responded to her, “No. No, he’s not. We will stop it.”

    Those are glaring, eye-popping words for someone who is running an investigation involving his — Trump’s opponent. Strzok said that he thinks he was referring to some things more general, but this report, while Strzok clearly had an anti-Trump bias, it concludes, they look through all of the decisions in the Clinton investigation, could not find evidence concluding that that bias had an effect on the investigation itself.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And then there is a different sort of whiff or question about bias in how they handled the laptop of Anthony Weiner, who, of course, was married to Hillary Clinton’s former aide.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This of course is a real sore point for Clinton supporters, that moment when the FBI in September of 2016 found Anthony Weiner’s laptop, had 100,000 e-mails on it.

    The question in this report, Judy, is, why did the FBI take one month before actually looking at those e-mails to see if they were pertinent or not? Ultimately, they concluded they weren’t pertinent, that there was nothing there. But it waited for a month actually open that laptop.

    Peter Strzok was the one who — involved in that decision. This report says all of the reasons given for that delay are not plausible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just quickly, we should note Hillary Clinton has retweeted an e-mail today — I’m sorry — a tweet today about the fact that James Comey was using his own personal e-mail in some of his work.

    And she says, but what about my e-mails? That is what they were — they were looking into…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It’s astounding.

    Buried in this report, news that James Comey had used personal e-mail, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, finally, Lisa, the president, President Trump, has repeatedly pointed to the Clinton investigation, Comey’s handling of this whole thing, saying this is evidence that there was bias against him. Where does the report come down on that?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The report is very clear that James Comey didn’t have a bias of any sort and that this was separate from the Mueller investigation. Really, the president is trying to impugn the Mueller investigation here.

    As far as this report goes, those are two separate things, and this report could not find conclusive evidence that there actually was a bias affecting the Clinton investigation. Were there biased people? Yes.

    And that’s something the president, I’m sure, will bring up again.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.

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