FBI investigated over pre-election
decisions on Clinton email
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[January 13, 2017]
By Julia Edwards Ainsley and Julia Harte
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice
Department on Thursday said it would probe a Federal Bureau of
Investigation decision to announce an inquiry into Hillary Clinton's
emails shortly before the November presidential election, a move she has
blamed as a factor in her defeat.
The Justice Department's Office of Inspector General said in a statement
that its investigation would focus in part on decisions leading up to
public statements by FBI Director James Comey regarding the Clinton
investigation and whether they may have been based on "improper
The controversy involved Clinton's use of a private email server for
official correspondence when she was secretary of state under President
Barack Obama, including for messages that were later determined to
contain classified information.
The office of Inspector General Michael Horowitz said it decided to open
the review "in response to requests from numerous chairmen and ranking
members of congressional oversight committees, various organizations and
members of the public."
Although the FBI ultimately decided not to refer Clinton’s case for
prosecution, Democrats said Comey's announcement damaged her with voters
right before the election, and he faced complaints that his moves were
Law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, by custom do not
disclose information about investigations that do not end in criminal
If the review finds evidence of misconduct, any officials involved would
be referred for disciplinary action.
In a statement, Comey said the FBI would cooperate fully and he was
"grateful" to Horowitz for the probe.
"He is professional and independent and ... I hope very much he is able
to share his conclusions and observations with the public because
everyone will benefit from thoughtful evaluation and transparency
regarding this matter."
Brian Fallon, Clinton's spokesman, told MSNBC on Thursday that Comey's
actions "cried out for an independent review."
Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. Senate said Comey's
statements were not “fair, professional or consistent with the policies
of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn in Jan. 20, will not
have the power to dismiss the probe. But federal law permits U.S.
presidents to dismiss inspectors general for federal agencies, as long
as the president provides Congress a written justification for the
removal 30 days in advance.
Often leading crowds in chants of "lock her up!" during the election
campaign, Trump as a candidate repeatedly accused Clinton of illegal
conduct over the emails. In a debate in October, he vowed she would "be
in jail" over the matter if he became president, but he has since said
he would not pursue prosecution.
Comey publicly announced the status of the agency's investigation into
Clinton's emails two times in 2016.
[to top of second column]
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton holds an unscheduled
news conference to talk about FBI inquiries into her emails after a
campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. October 28, 2016.
In July, Comey held a press conference and testified before Congress
to explain why the FBI had decided not to refer Clinton for
prosecution, explaining that she was "extremely careless" but should
not be charged with gross negligence or any other federal crime.
In October, less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election, Comey
sent members of Congress a letter saying the FBI was resuming the
investigation because of new emails found on the computer of
disgraced former Representative Anthony Weiner, the husband of one
of Clinton's top aides.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had informed Comey the day
before he sent the letter that doing so would conflict with official
Justice Department guidance that instructs employees to "never
select the timing of investigative steps ... for the purpose of
affecting any election."
Comey asked whether he was being explicitly directed not to send the
letter, and Lynch never gave Comey the order not to do so, a senior
government official told Reuters at the time.
On Nov. 6, Comey said the investigation into Weiner's computer
produced no new evidence that would incriminate Clinton.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary
Committee, on Thursday commended Horowitz for opening the probe.
"Conspicuously absent, though, is any specific reference to the
attorney general’s failure to recuse herself from the probe,
particularly after her meeting with former President (Bill)
Clinton," said Grassley in a statement.
That half-hour meeting, which took place in June on board Lynch's
plane while it was parked on the tarmac in Phoenix, drew criticism
that Lynch was politically biased and unfit to oversee the
investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server.
Critics of Comey's decisions also said he could be in violation of
the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that bars government employees from
interfering with U.S. elections.
(Reporting by Timothy Ahmann, additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe;
Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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