WASHINGTON – A new 500-page report from the inspector general's office concludes that former FBI Director James Comey and senior leaders were negligent in following Justice Department protocol during the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server.
"The damage caused by these employees' actions extends far beyond the scope of the midyear (Clinton) investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI's reputation for neutral fact-finding and political independence," the report said.
While the watchdog report doesn't claim any overt bias by Comey and others at the FBI, it does allude to some.
The report, which is called, "A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election," is littered with references to anti-Trump text messages.
That led the report to conclude that, "These text messages and instant messages mixed political commentary with discussions about the midyear investigation, and raised concerns that political bias may have impacted investigative decisions."
Specifically, the report details a conversation between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page form the summer of 2016 when Page told Strzok, " [Trump's] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!"
"No. No, he won't. We'll stop it," Strzok wrote back.
The report says that conversations like that "potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations."
The report criticizes Comey in the events that led up to his decision in the summer of 2016 to publicly announce that he found Hillary Clinton's actions regarding her email server "extremely careless" but didn't believe they merited any criminal charges.
The IG Report is a total disaster for Comey, his minions and sadly, the FBI. Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI. I did a great service to the people in firing him. Good Instincts. Christopher Wray will bring it proudly back!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2018
The IG report says that was done without approval from the Justice Department. It says Comey was wrong for not working with the Justice Department during the Clinton investigation. The report called Comey "insubordinate."
Still, overall, the inspector general's office didn't believe Comey was operating out of political bias or protecting Hillary Clinton.
"There were clearly tensions and disagreements in a number of important areas between midyear agents and prosecutors. However, we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative decisions…," the report said. "Nonetheless, these messages cast a cloud over the FBI's handling of the Midyear investigation and the investigation's credibility."
As you might imagine, reaction to the report was clearly divided along party lines.
"After reviewing the findings, one can reach no other conclusion than the FBI sorely mishandled the investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said. "Director James Comey blatantly broke protocol on numerous occasions, to the point of what the report calls 'insubordination.'"
"It is clear his department resolved to determine Secretary Clinton's innocence well before the investigation was even close to complete—and before an interview with Secretary Clinton even occurred," he continued.
"His FBI agents, like Peter Strzok, displayed such a stunning level of political bias against candidate Donald Trump that IG (Michael) Horowitz called Strzok's conduct 'antithetical to the core values of the FBI and the Department of Justice,'" Meadows concluded.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued a joint statement that was also critical of Comey.
"The stark conclusion we draw after reviewing this report is that the FBI's actions helped Donald Trump become president," the statement read. "Director Comey had a double-standard: He spoke publicly about the Clinton investigation while keeping secret from the American people the investigation of Donald Trump and Russia."
"The FBI should not have spoken publicly about the case after recommending against criminal charges," they charged. "They should not have revealed that they had reopened the case just days before the election."
"These actions violate longstanding guidelines designed to protect citizens from unfair attacks and avoid influencing elections," they said.