On the heels of FBI Director James Comey's late bout of discretion, the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General has announced it will investigate the FBI's and Comey's conduct during the election. The investigation is the result of requests from, among others, Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
Those concerned with the undue influence of FBI Director James Comey’s multiple intrusions into the 2016 presidential election will be glad to hear that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz will be conducting a review of those intrusions, as well as other allegations of improper conduct by the FBI.
That review will be bolstered by the fact that it is being conducted, according to the OIG press release, at the request of lawmakers from both parties (emphasis mine):
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today that, in response to requests from numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will initiate a review of allegations regarding certain actions by the Department of Justice (Department) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in advance of the 2016 election.
Since Republicans are in the majority in both houses, “Chairmen” indicates Republicans are included among those requesting the review — which will make it difficult for Republicans to dismiss the final product if it shows what it is expected to: In July, Comey took the self-serving and unprecedented step of offering a 15-minute, evidence-free excoriation of Hillary Clinton even as he was announcing that no charges would be filed against her over her use of a private email server. Then, with days to go before the election, Comey sent a vague, baseless letter to Congress announcing the revival of the email investigation, and thus the story, a move which even staunch Clinton detractors denounced.
According to the OIG announcement, both of those intrusions will be investigated, along with additional allegations: That Department or FBI policies or procedures were not followed in Comey’s actions; that certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations; that the FBI Deputy Director should have been recused from participating in certain investigative matters; that the Department’s Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs improperly disclosed non-public information to the Clinton campaign and/or should have been recused from participating in certain matters; that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information; and that decisions regarding the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents on October 30 and November 1, 2016, and the use of a Twitter account to publicize same, were influenced by improper considerations.
Comey may have dug the hole a little bit deeper for himself this week when he laughably testified that he would never comment on an open investigation, but then later, seemed to tell Sen. Angus King (I-ME) that the Clinton investigation was closed when he sent that letter to Congress, a detail he failed to include in the letter itself:
KING: Just to — I just want to be sure I heard correctly. Mr. Comey, did you answer Senator Wyden’s question that there is an investigation underway as to connections between either the political campaigns and the Russians?
COMEY: I didn’t say one way or another.
KING: You didn’t say that there was —
COMEY: That was my intention, at least.
KING: You didn’t say one way or another whether even there’s an investigation underway?
COMEY: Correct. I don’t — especially in a public forum, we never confirm or deny a pending investigation. I’m not saying —
KING: The irony of your making that statement here I cannot avoid, but I’ll move on.
COMEY: But we sometimes think differently about closed investigations. But he asked me if I had any pending investigations, and we’re not going to talk about that.
That stunning assertion could land Comey in hot water, along with whatever else the OIG investigation reveals. The 600 days during which the email story was covered were aided by a string of misleading and outright false leaks, the sources of which could come to light as a result of this investigation.
It may be too late to correct the outcome of this outrageous politicization of our nation’s most powerful law enforcement agency, but it will open the door to accountability for Comey and others, as well as providing a model for how to conduct and cover the current, much more serious scandals unfolding.