Top former Justice Department and FBI officials are expected to face scrutiny in Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s highly anticipated report on the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information, set for release Thursday.
Among the officials are former FBI Director James Comey, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and FBI official Peter Strzok.
Horowitz began examining more than a year ago whether “certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations,” meaning: Did the Justice Department and the FBI give Hillary Clinton special treatment for political reasons?
Last week, sources familiar with Horowitz’s draft report said the IG rebuked Comey, concluding the former FBI director was “insubordinate,” defying authority at times during his tenure.
The report, the sources told ABC News, also rebuked Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her handling of the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s transmission of classified information through a personal email server.
President Trump last week expressed impatience with the delay of the report’s release, tweeting: “What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey. Hope report is not being changed and made weaker!”
The draft of Horowitz’s report criticized Comey for failing to consult with Lynch and other senior Justice Department officials before taking the unusual step in July 2016 of announcing on national TV the FBI’s decision not to refer the Clinton case for prosecution.
Comey told the nation, nevertheless, that Clinton was “extremely careless” in her “handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
In his memoir, which became an immediate bestseller in April, Comey admitted drafting a statement exonerating Clinton months before the former secretary of state was interviewed by investigators.
He insisted it was a routine move, writing, “Any investigator or prosecutor who doesn’t have a sense, after nearly a year of investigation, where their case is likely headed, is incompetent.”
Lynch already had gone against protocol by publicly declaring she would accept the FBI’s recommendations in the case. She made the announcement in the wake of her infamous tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, which raised questions about her impartiality.
Horowitz’s draft report specifically criticizes Lynch for how she handled the airport meeting and its aftermath, the sources told ABC News.
ABC News said it was “unable to ascertain information about another key part of the inspector general’s report: whether animus toward Trump may have influenced the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails or the subsequent probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”
Comey also has faced criticism for waiting a month to act during the 2016 presidential election campaign after thousands of emails were discovered on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop that appeared to be relevant to the Clinton investigation. Comey informed Congress of the emails Oct. 28, 2016. Then, two days before the Nov. 8 election, he told lawmakers the team had found “no new classified” emails.
However, Judicial Watch says that at least 18 emails containing classified information were found on Weiner’s laptop that had been forwarded from his wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. She regularly forwarded emails for her husband to print out so she could give them to Clinton.
Horowitz also is reviewing whether McCabe should have recused himself from the probe early because of his family’s ties to the Democratic Party.
Lawyers representing McCabe have filed a suit against the Justice Department and FBI, alleging that the agencies wouldn’t give up files connected to his ouster.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., already has weighed in on the Horowitz report.
“Spoiler alert: President Trump’s cronies have already readied their talking points to exaggerate & distort the facts of tomorrow’s DOJ IG report and spin them into a false narrative about the Special Counsel investigation,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, the Democratic senator wrote: “I’m calling it now: no matter what the DOJ IG report actually says, President Trump’s sycophantic supporters will try to claim that somehow he is the victim of FBI wrongdoing & bias. Talk about fake news.”
Meanwhile, McCabe has asked the Senate Judiciary Committee for immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying at an upcoming congressional hearing focused on how senior officials at the FBI and Justice Department handled the Clinton probe, according to a letter obtained by CNN.
Last month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked Horowitz to review a claim that the Obama administration placed an FBI informant inside the Trump campaign in 2016.
On May 22, as WND reported, 17 Republican House members introduced a resolution calling for a second special counsel to focus on the closure of the Clinton probe, the Trump-Russia investigation, the origins of the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel and alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in obtaining a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign.
In an interview with WND, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the inspector general review is “necessary” but “not sufficient” and warned that the Justice Department and FBI could use an IG investigation to prevent public disclosure of documents. He urged Congress “to keep up the pressure.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions already has rejected requests for a second special counsel. However, in March he appointed John Huber, a U.S. attorney in Utah, to examine allegations related to the Russia probe.
Democrats have criticized calls for a second special counsel as an attempt to undermine Mueller’s investigation and protect the president.