IG report will hit FBI officials for slow response to 2016 Clinton emails
Former FBI director James Comey was villain #1 on the left after he announced late in the 2016 campaign that the bureau was going to examine Hillary Clinton emails found on the laptop of disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner. Democrats claimed that that announcement cost Hillary Clinton the election.
Comey is now a hero on the left but questions about the timing of Comey's announcement have persisted.
It now appears that the inspector general for the Department of Justice has unraveled the mystery in his much anticipated report, to be released soon, and will criticize top FBI officials for sitting on the emails for at least a month before getting a warrant to examine them.
Some FBI officials, like then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, knew as early as September 2016 of the emails, but the bureau did not obtain a warrant to review them until the following month.
The IG report, which is examining a broad range of FBI actions during the email investigation, is expected to criticize officials, including Comey, for not moving fast enough to examine the email trove and for a weekslong delay in getting a warrant, sources told the AP.
Clinton supporters say the candidate's name could have been cleared much faster if the FBI acted on the emails as soon as they knew about them. But Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, a Republican, also pressed the DOJ earlier this year for answers on that timeline.
There are suspicions about whether there was an effort to delay pursuing those Clinton files. The Washington Post first reported in January that Horowitz was investigating whether McCabe wanted to avoid taking action on the laptop findings until after the presidential election.
It will be difficult for the I.G. to prove intent on the part of McCabe unless he can show that he was deliberately slow-walking the request for a warrant up the food chain. That it took a month for the bureau to get the warrant after discovering the Clinton emails – something it could have gotten in a matter of hours – is pretty damning.
The report itself may disappoint. The I.G. is asking the FBI and DoJ to review the report for redactions:
Horowitz announced last week that the draft report was finished in a letter to members of Congress. He did not say when the results of the review will be officially released to the FBI, DOJ and congressional committees.
But the inspector general said he has provided a draft report to the Department and the FBI, and requested that they review it to identify any information that should be protected from disclosure.
We've been down this road before with the report on the Steele dossier – the Nunes memo – when outraged Republicans on the intelligence committee ordered many of the original redactions to be removed. It turns out that most of the redactions were not about national security, but about covering the rear ends of officials.
The I.G. is giving top officials in the DoJ the same opportunity.
Will the I.G. refer individuals like Andrew McCabe for prosecution? At the very least, McCabe lied to investigators. That should warrant some kind of legal sanction. As for the rest, we'll just have to wait for the release of the report to find out.