- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Justice Department inspector general will review the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, including Director James B. Comey’s decision to publicly release information about the resolution of the case in July and his correspondence with Congress about renewing the probe just ahead of the presidential election.

The wide-ranging investigation, announced Thursday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, will review several sets of accusations: that FBI policies were not followed when Mr. Comey made a series of disclosures about the investigation, that at least two agency officials should have recused themselves from involvement in the case because of close Clinton ties and that department employees may have leaked information.

In a statement, Mr. Horowitz said the review was requested by “numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public.”

The inspector general’s review, Mr. Horowitz said, won’t reopen the issue of whether Mrs. Clinton should be prosecuted over her email server and the resulting mishandling of classified information.

It “will not substitute the OIG’s judgment for the judgments made by the FBI or the Department regarding the substantive merits of investigative or prosecutive decisions,” he said.

It was during a July 5 news conference that Mr. Comey publicly announced that although Mrs. Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of sensitive national security information, investigators couldn’t prove that it was intentional and as a result no criminal charges would be sought.

Less than two weeks ahead of the November election, Mr. Comey wrote to Congress that the FBI was renewing its investigation as a result of emails recovered as part of a separate case: the sexting charges against former Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Two days before the election, Mr. Comey again updated Congress, saying Mr. Weiner’s computer turned up no new evidence of Clinton wrongdoing.

Democrats and Republicans varyingly decried or cheered each of Mr. Comey’s actions at certain points. The Clinton camp blamed Mr. Comey’s Oct. 28 disclosure for her election loss to Donald Trump.

Mr. Comey’s July announcement was a departure from typical federal law enforcement agency protocol. Officials usually decline to discuss criminal cases that are closed without criminal charges.

The watchdog’s review will look into whether the FBI policies and procedures were violated by Mr. Comey’s disclosures in the run-up to the November presidential election and whether “certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations.”

Mr. Comey issued a statement welcoming the investigation.

“I am grateful to the Department of Justice’s IG for taking on this review. He is professional and independent and the FBI will cooperate fully with him and his office,” Mr. Comey said. “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.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman has not responded to requests for comment on the inspector general’s announcement.

Mr. Horowitz said his agency’s review will look whether two high-level officials should have been recused from participation in certain aspects of the Clinton probe — including FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Peter Kadzik, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for legislative affairs.

Reports that surfaced ahead of the election said Mr. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from organizations overseen by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally, during her unsuccessful 2015 campaign for Virginia Senate.

Mr. McCabe at the time oversaw the FBI’s Washington field office, which was providing the manpower to investigate Mrs. Clinton’s secret email server at the time of the donations. He was promoted to the position of deputy director in February 2016.

The inspector general’s statement indicates that it will also review whether Mr. Kadzik “improperly disclosed nonpublic information to the Clinton campaign.” Emails published on WikiLeaks show Mr. Kadzik contacting Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta to alert him about an upcoming congressional hearing and action related to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit involving Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Horowitz said the investigation could grow to encompass other matters and he “will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the inspector general made the decision independently of any White House influence. “I can tell you the White House was not involved in that decision,” he said. “We wouldn’t weigh in publicly or privately.”

He expressed confidence that the inspector general’s office will “follow the evidence where it leads, if they find any evidence.”

Just before Election Day, President Obama criticized Mr. Comey’s actions without mentioning the FBI director by name.

“We don’t operate on incomplete information,” Mr. Obama said. “We don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”

Clinton campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN on Thursday that he was happy to see the watchdog undertake the review.

“We saw unprecedented intervention over the course of this campaign, from the FBI and frankly from Russia,” he said. “I do think this needs to be examined very closely.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle welcomed news of the investigation.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, was among those who asked the inspector general to look into concerns about the Justice Department’s ability to fairly investigate the Clinton matter. Although he was pleased by the announcement, he questioned why the inspector general did not include Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch’s meeting with former President Bill Clinton ahead of the investigation’s closure.

“It’s in the public interest to provide a full accounting of all the facts that led to the FBI and Justice Department’s decision-making regarding the investigation,” Mr. Grassley said.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, said in a joint statement that they were pleased by the watchdog’s review.

“Our citizens must be able to trust that the FBI, our chief federal law enforcement agency, is nonpartisan and does not insert itself into the electoral process,” they said.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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