- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2018

The inspector general’s report faulting former FBI Director James Comes for his handling of the 2016 campaign-season investigation into Hillary Clinton “puts an asterisk” on President Trump’s victory, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, in an interview on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program airing Friday night, said there’s no doubt Mr. Comey’s decision to deliver a public criticism and exoneration of Mrs. Clinton in July, and his decision to send a letter in October announcing a brief reopening of the investigation, damaged the Democratic nominee.

“Whether they effected it enough to change the outcome is very difficult to say,” he said.

But, he added, “I think it puts an asterisk.”

“The fact is the FBI, in the person of its director, intervened twice, both in highly improper ways that were against the FBIU guides and practices, for reasons basically of Comey’s arrogance,” he said. “Both of those certainly injured Hillary.”

Mr. Nadler, as the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, is in line to become chairman should the Democrats win the majority in the House in November’s elections. As such, he would be in charge of leading any push to impeach the president.

The New York congressman, however, played down those prospects on Friday, saying he wants to wait to see the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian activities in the 2016 election, and whether he concludes Mr. Trump obstructed justice with firing Mr. Comey.

“It’s much too early to determine whether there ought to be impeachment proceedings or not,” he said.

He also laid out his standards for going down that route, setting a high bar for what it would take to have him lead an impeachment attempt.

“It would be very harmful to the country to pursue impeachment if the case weren’t so overwhelming and the evidence so overwhelming that by the end of the impeachment proceeding … an appreciable fractions — not necessarily a majority but an appreciable fraction — of the people who voted for the president would agree that you had to do it,” he said.

Some congressional Democrats have already attempted to push impeachment on the House floor. Mr. Nadler voted against that effort in January.

The congressman said the inspector general’s report, while dinging Mr. Comey for defying Justice Department leaders, did not challenge the fired FBI director’s credibility. He said that means Mr. Comey remains a viable and valuable witness against Mr. Trump in the ongoing Mueller probe.

He also said it’s possible Mr. Comey’s behavior in 2016 — which the inspector general called “insubordinate” — should have merited firing.

But he said Mr. Trump, who did fire Mr. Comey, did it for the wrong reasons. Mr. Nadler pointed to an interview the president gave to NBC where he said Mr. Comey’s ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was the basis for the firing.

Mr. Trump’s original exploration for the firing, though, and the reason top Justice Department gave in their recommendation to the president for the firing, was that he bungled his handling of the 2016 election — allegations that the inspector general’s report bear out.

“In key moments, then-Director Comey chose to deviate from the FBI’s and the department’s established procedures and norms and instead engaged in his own subjective, ad hoc decision making. In so doing, we found that Comey largely based his decisions on what he believed was in the FBI’s institutional interests,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded.

Mr. Horowitz will testify before Mr. Nadler’s committee next week.

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