By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – An inspector general report found Thursday that former FBI Director James Comey was not politically biased in his handling of a probe into 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, despite alleged favoritism charges by President Donald Trump
The report did find, however, that Comey "deviated" from the bureau's established norms in his handling of the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server.
Namely, it takes issue with Comey's decision to publicly inform Congress in the days before the Nov. 8, 2016, vote that the bureau reopened its investigation to probe newly-discovered information related to Clinton's handling of classified information — an announcement Clinton has blamed, in part, for her defeat.
It also questions Comey's decision in July 2016 to publicly announce that the bureau would not be pursuing charges against Clinton for her use of the e-mail server while she was Secretary of State, as well as faulting Comey for not keeping his Justice Department superiors properly informed about the probe.
"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 Department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the Department as fair administrators of justice," Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report said.
Beyond the former failings of the former FBI chief whom Trump abruptly fired in May 2017, the inspector general faulted several FBI employees who were central to the probe for creating "the appearance of bias" by sending political messages to one another.
The report took "even more seriously" text message exchanges between FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok and Special Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page. particularly a text message from Strzok on Aug. 8, 2017.
Asked by Page if then-Republican nominee Trump is going to become president, Stzrok replied: "No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
Horowitz's findings slammed the exchange.
"The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation and sowed doubt about the FBI’s work on, and its handling of" the Clinton investigation.
Following the publication of the report, the White House said it "reaffirmed the president's suspicions about Comey's conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI."
Comey also responded to the report, saying in a New York Times op-ed he does "not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism.
"The inspector general’s team went through the F.B.I.’s work with a microscope and found no evidence that bias or improper motivation affected the investigation, which I know was done competently, honestly and independently," he wrote.
Trump, however, is likely to attempt to use the report to validate his firing of Comey last year.
"Wow, looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over…and so much more. A rigged system!" he tweeted in December.