The Justice Department will conduct a wide-ranging probe into purported misconduct by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for its handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server and FBI Director James Comey's decision to alert members of Congress to its renewed interest in the Clinton shortly before the presidential election.
“The review will not substitute the [Office of the Inspector General's] judgment for the judgments made by the FBI or the Department regarding the substantive merits of investigative or prosecutive decisions,” according to a release from Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz.
Comey shocked some lawmakers and drew harsh criticism for publicly revealing just nine days before the election that the bureau was reviewing a bevy of emails - found on a laptop during a separate investigation of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), estranged husband of trusted Clinton aide Huma Abedin - that he said at the time may or may not have related to the Clinton probe.
The Justice Department had advised Comey not to break with long-held policy to refrain from publicly commenting on cases. Indeed, Comey stuck to that protocol on Tuesday when he was grilled by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats about speculation that Russian intermediaries and Donald J. Trump's surrogates were in communication throughout the presidential campaign.
“I would never comment on investigations, whether we have one or not, in an open forum like this,” Comey said, drawing an incredulous response from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) who noted “the irony of your making that statement here.”
Just two days before the election Comey told Congress that after a review, the FBI concluded that nothing in the roughly 650,000 emails reviewed changed the FBI's previous recommendation not to prosecute Clinton.
The IG probe will focus not only on “allegations that the Department or FBI policies or procedures were not followed” but also probe whether Comey should have been recused in certain instances, whether non-public information was “improperly exposed” by the Department and by the FBI and “improper considerations” influenced the timing of the bureau's release of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents as well as its use of Twitter to publicize that release.
Comey said he is "grateful" to IG for opening a review. "He is professional and independent and the FBI will cooperate fully with him and his office," Comey said in a statement. "I hope very much he is able to share his conclusions and observations with the public because everyone will benefit from thoughtful evaluation and transparency regarding this matter."
Some House Democrats left a confidential briefing Friday with doubts and more questions.
"I was nonjudgmental until the last 15 minutes. I no longer have that confidence in him," Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee, was quoted by The Hill as saying after the meeting. "Some of the things that were revealed in this classified briefing — my confidence has been shook."
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include James Comey's statement and comment by Rep. Tim Waltz.