By Alisha Haridasani
The way that former FBI director James Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server broke protocol and damaged the Justice Department's reputation as an impartial law enforcement arm, the department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz said.
“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,” Horowitz wrote in his highly-anticipated report released on Thursday.
The 500-page report also criticized two FBI agents ー Peter Strzok and Lisa Page ー for exchanging politically charged text messages. Many of those texts had been released, but in one previously undisclosed message, Strzok said the FBI "will stop" Trump from winning. "The conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation," the report said.
But, the Justice Department investigator concluded that Comey was not motivated by politics, despite the views of some members of the team.
"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," the report said.
"I do not agree with all of the inspector general's conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism," Comey said in a response to the report in The New York Times.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the report on Monday. The report's findings will likely reanimate Senators on both sides of the aisle who were equally critical of Comey’s actions ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Republicans, especially President Trump, have said Comey’s decision not to recommend charges against Clinton was a clear ploy to help her win. Democrats point to Comey's public announcement a week before election day that he was reopening the investigation because of new evidence as the reason Clinton lost.
The inspector general's report may also give Trump more ammunition to try to discredit the Justice Department and the FBI as they continue to investigate whether his campaign worked with Russia during the 2016 race. Trump said he fired Comey last year over his role in the Russia investigation, which led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel.