A long-awaited report on the Hillary Clinton email investigation criticizes "certain actions" by FBI investigators, and says former FBI Director James Comey's actions were "extraordinary."
- Report is on FBI's handling of investigation
- Former FBI director criticized for taking "extraordinary" actions
- Some FBI workers also criticized for private text messages
- Report concludes no evidence of political bias in the investigation
- Report issues 9 recommendations for the department
- READ the report from the Dept. of Justice (.PDF)
- RELATED: FBI Releases Hillary Clinton Email Investigation Documents
However, the report said evidence did not find that Comey himself was motivated by political bias or preference in his decisions.
The report by the Justice Dept.'s inspector general's office said some of the things that happened during the investigation were inconsistent with "longstanding policies, practices and norms."
Regarding the original decision to not seek criminal charges against Hillary Clinton, the inspector general's report found "no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, we determined that they were based on the prosecutors' assessment of the facts, the law, and past department practice."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the report proved Comey helped sink Clinton's presidential ambitions.
"Director Comey's mishandling of the publicity around the Clinton email campaign, all acrued to the benefit of then-candidate Trump," Schumer said. "Not the other way around. It was Trump who benefited from all these mistakes."
One Republican we talked to said the report calls Comey's credibility into question.
"It suggests that Comey just didn't follow the appropriate protocols within the Dept. of Justice and FBI," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina. "And some of his testimony to Capitol Hill is at best misleading."
Meanwhile, current FBI Director Christopher Wray says the report shows the integrity of the FBI is still intact.
"Nothing, nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our workforce as a whole or the FBI as an institution," Wray said.
The Midyear Investigation
The report looked into the so-called "Midyear Investigation" and actions related to it. The investigation was opened by the FBI in July 2015 and focused on whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intentionally sent classified information on unclassified email systems, knew the information in unmarked emails was classified, or became aware of classified information but failed to report it.
The investigation culminated with a July 5 statement from Comey, in which the former FBI director announced that there was a lack of evidence supporting criminal prosecution for Clinton, but Comey did call Clinton's handling of classified information"grossly negligent."
A few months later the investigation was reopened after emails from Clinton's assistant Huma Abedin were found on the laptop of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, Abedin's ex-husband.
Comey sent a letter to Congress regarding the decision on Oct. 28, just a few days before the election.
James Comey's "extraordinary" actions
Regarding Comey, the report found the director deviated from established procedures and engaged in "ad hoc decisionmaking" at key moments during the investigation.
"In so doing, we found that Comey largely based his decisions on what he believed was in the FBI's institutional interests and would enable him to continue to effectively lead the FBI as its director," the report said. "While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey's part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and [Justice] Department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice."
The report also accuses Comey of "usurping the authority of the attorney general [at the time Loretta Lynch] and upset the well-established separation between investigative and prosecutorial functions," the report continued.
The report also criticizes Comey for publicly announcing his recommendation against criminal charges for Hillary Clinton in the email investigation, hiding his intentions from the attorney general.
Comey told investigators that he was concerned about involving Lynch in the announcement because of Lynch was appointed by a Democratic president.
Among the actions that made him concerned about Lynch's perceived impartiality was Lynch meeting with former President Bill Clinton on an airplane in Arizona in June of 2016.
Lynch insisted to investigators that she and the former president did not discuss the Midyear Investigation. She said she felt their conversation did, however, do to long and that afterwards she got an ethics opinion from the Departmental Ethics Office on the discussion. That opinion said she did not have to recuse herself from the Clinton probe.
Comey was also criticized for not contacting Lynch or then Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates directly about sending a letter to Congress on October 28, 2016, regarding the decision to reopen the investigation because of the newly-discovered emails.
Comey responded to the report on Twitter Thursday:
The Strzok-Page text messages
The report criticizes the FBI for not acting more quickly on the newly-discovered emails, which were found in September.
The IG says there were given several reasons by witnesses for not doing so, which investigators found to be "unpersuasive justifications for not acting sooner."
Among the explanations given was the fact that key members of the Midyear team had been reassigned to the Russian election interference investigation, which was now considered a higher priority.
Among those reassigned members of the team was FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok.
The report criticized Strzok for sending political messages that created the appearance of bias. In particular the report cited text messages between Strzok and Special Counsel Lisa Page, that included this dialogue: "[Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!" and a response of "No. No he's not. We'll stop it."
The IG report said this was "antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice," creating a cloud of suspicion over the investigations.
The report found no evidence of bias involving Strzok and the Midyear investigation.
The report said Strzok was not the only decisionmaker in the investigation, and evidence shows in some cases both he and Page pushed for more aggressive investigative measures in the Clinton probe.
The report does, however, say Strzok's text messages affect his conduct on the Russia investigation.
"Under these circumstances, we did not have confidense that Strzok's decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias."
But Strzok was not the one supervising the Russia investigation, and the report says investigators found no evidence of bias in the investigation's supervisor, FBI Assistant Director E.W. "Bill" Priestap.
The report also said there is no evidence the new emails from Weiner's laptop were "deliberately placed on the back-burner by others in the FBI to protect Clinton."
The inspector general made nine recommendations to the FBI and the Justice Dept.:
- Develop practice guidance to help investigators and prosecutors in identifying the general risks with and alternatives to permitting a witness to attend a voluntary interview of another witness, in particular when the witness is serving as counsel for the other witness
- Considering making it clear that, except in situations where the law requires or permits disclosure, an investigating agency cannot publicly announce its recommended charging decision without consulting the attorney general, deputy attorney general, U.S. attorney, or a designee, and cannot proceed without the approval of one of these officials.
- Adopt a policy addressing the appropriateness of employees discussing the conduct of uncharged individuals in public statements.
- Consider providing guidance to agents and prosecutors concerning the taking of overt investigative steps, indictments, public announcements, or other actions that could impact an election.
- Consider taking steps to improve the retention and monitoring of text messages department-wide.
- The FBI add a warning banner to all of the FBI's mobile phones and devices in order to further notify users that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
- The FBI should consider A) assessing whether employees have been adequately trained about the proper use of text messages and instant messages, including any related discovery obligations; and B) Provide additional guidance on allowable uses of FBI devices for non-governmental purpose, including political conversations.
- The FBI should consider whether A) it is appropriately educating employees about both its medica contact policy and the department's ethics rules regarding acceptance of gifts; and B) its disciplinary provisions are sufficient to deter improper conduct.
- Department ethics officials should consider implementing a review of campaign donations when department employees or their spouses run for public office.
Christie Zizo and reporter Kevin Frey contributed to this report.