- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Justice Department, after a years-long investigation, says it still cannot pinpoint who in the FBI leaked “non-public” information to the press in 2016 about the agency’s probe of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, according to a report by the department’s inspector general.

In the 10-page report released Thursday, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said officials were also unable to link any evidence of FBI leaks to former Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, who said in the days leading up to the 2016 election that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump had some “pretty big surprises” to reveal. 

“The alleged disclosures of non-public information in October 2016 were made to reporters who wrote stories about FBI actions in advance of the 2016 presidential election, including the re-opening of the [Hillary] Clinton email investigation and the Clinton Foundation investigation, as well as alleged disclosures to Rudolph Giuliani,” the report states.

FBI policy requires employees who are unauthorized to contact the media to “coordinate with or seek approval” from the agency’s public affairs office.

But the report found that the agency was “far too permissive of unauthorized media contacts.”

Despite the dead ends, the probe did reveal that dozens of FBI employees contacted journalists who reported on classified information before the 2016 presidential election. The investigative office, however, doesn’t know if the FBI agents leaked the information to them.

The report states that employees “had contact with certain members of the media who reported on non-public information about ongoing criminal investigations during the periods of the OIG’s investigation — April, May and October 2016.”

Most of the employees told investigators that they had indeed contacted the journalists, but they denied revealing any classified information.

Because most did not have records on the “substance” of the communications, investigators were not able “to determine whether the media contacts by FBI personnel involved the sharing of non-public information with media members who reported the non-public information.”

Investigators said the “substantial” number of employees who had contacted journalists also made it “exceedingly difficult” to find out if they disclosed any unauthorized information.

“We frequently find that the universe of department and FBI employees who had access to sensitive information that has been leaked is substantial, often involving dozens, and in some instances, more than 100 people,” the report states.

A large number of employees who had no official reason to contact the media did so, which almost made it more difficult to zero in on leakers, officials said.

The probe stems from allegations that FBI employees leaked classified information to the media in 2016 regarding ongoing criminal probes, as well as the agency’s investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server.

The inspector general said he is planning to refer six employees to the FBI so the agency can decide whether disciplinary or other corrective action must be taken. 

Thursday’s report comes after investigators previously determined that three senior FBI officials engaged in misconduct when they contacted reporters during the same period. The inspector general says those revelations showed “the breakdown of the culture within the FBI relating to media relations.”

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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