Hatch: FBI behavior during Clinton email investigation ‘appalling’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is determined to not repeat any of the mistakes identified in a harshly critical watchdog report on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Director Chris Wray said Monday at a congressional hearing at which he repeatedly sought to distance himself from his predecessor.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, left, and FBI Director Christopher Wray wait to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington June 18, 2018. | Associated Press photo by J. Scott Applewhite, St. George News

Wray told lawmakers that the FBI accepted the findings of the Office of the Inspector General report and has begun making changes, including about how it handles especially sensitive investigations, like the Clinton one.

The FBI is also reinforcing through employee training the need to avoid the appearance of political bias, a key point of criticism in last week’s report, and has referred employees singled out in the report to the agency’s investigative arm for possible discipline.

“The OIG’s report makes clear that we have significant work to do and as I said we’re going to learn from the report and be better as a result,” Wray said, even as multiple Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee pounced on the report’s findings to allege rampant bias within the FBI.

The department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, appeared alongside Wray and repeated the report’s central conclusions that the Clinton investigation was plagued by leadership missteps but not tainted by political bias.

The report blasted FBI actions during the 2016 investigation into whether Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, had mishandled classified information on her private email server when she was secretary of state.

It said anti-Donald Trump text messages exchanged by FBI employees who worked on the investigation cast a cloud on the agency’s handling of the probe and damaged its reputation.

It also said that fired FBI Director James Comey repeatedly broke from protocol, including when he publicly announced his recommendation against charging Clinton and when he bucked the judgment of Justice Department bosses by alerting Congress months later that the investigation was being reopened because of newly discovered emails.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, left, directs FBI Director Christopher Wray and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz to their seats as they arrive for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington June 18, 2018. | Associated Press photo by Alex Brandon, St. George News

Republicans, increasingly skeptical of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and Trump’s Republican presidential campaign, said Monday they weren’t convinced by the report’s conclusion that the decision to spare Clinton from criminal charges was free from bias, or by reassurances that the problems were limited to just a handful of employees. Trump himself had eagerly awaited the inspector general’s report in hopes that criticism of Comey and the FBI could discredit Mueller’s investigation.

“This is appalling and the significance of these findings cannot be overstated,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch. “The report identifies missteps at every level of the Department of Justice – from our nation’s chief federal law enforcement officer to special agents in the field.

“There is a serious problem with the culture at FBI headquarters.”

See video of Sen. Hatch’s remarks at the top of this report

The Republican committee chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, drew a contrast between what he said were aggressive actions taken during Mueller’s investigation and the “kid-glove treatment” that Grassley maintained had occurred during the Clinton investigation.

“The Justice Department faces a serious credibility problem because millions of Americans suspect that there is a double standard,” Grassley said. “They see a story of kid-glove treatment for one side and bare-knuckle tactics for the other. They see politics in that story.”

Though not agreeing with those characterizations, Wray said he accepted that the FBI had made mistakes and chided Comey’s judgment, saying, “There are a number of things that I probably would have done differently.” He also said he could not imagine a scenario in which he would have unilaterally announced his charging decision at a news conference, as Comey did.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, left, and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, are sworn in for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington June 18, 2018. | Associated Press photo by Jacquelyn Martin, St. George News

The report was the culmination of a nearly 18-month investigation by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog into how the FBI handled one of the most consequential investigations in its history.

But Horowitz indicated that his work is not done: He confirmed that the office is investigating Comey’s handling of personal memos he maintained as FBI director, including one whose substance was shared with journalists by a close friend and law school professor after Comey’s May 2017 firing. He’s also investigating the origins of the FBI investigation into Trump’s campaign, including whether surveillance was conducted under improper motivations.

Asked whether the office was still investigating improper leaks, including to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — who claimed to know in advance about damaging revelations against Clinton — Horowitz said, “As we note in the report, our investigative work’s still ongoing.”

Horowitz said there are lessons to be learned from the 500-page report, including about respecting an institution’s hierarchy and norms.

“No rule, policy or practice is perfect, of course,” Horowitz said. “But at the same time, neither is any individual’s ability to make judgments under pressure or what may seem like unique circumstances.”

He also called into question assertions made by Trump before and after the report’s release, including his claim that the document exonerated him and the president’s concern that the inspector general was watering down its findings because of political pressure.

“We followed normal processes, we took comments … it was not made weaker or softer in any regard,” Horowitz said.

Horowitz said he was especially troubled by anti-Trump text messages between an FBI agent and an FBI lawyer who worked on the Clinton investigation and were both on Mueller’s team. In one August 2016 text, the agent, Peter Strzok, said, “We’ll stop it,” in reference to a possible Trump victory. The inspector general brought those texts to Mueller’s attention. Strzok was dropped from the team last summer.

“That should not be downplayed by anybody,” Horowitz said of the texts. “I can’t think of something more concerning than a law enforcement officer suggesting that they’re going to try and use or may use their powers to affect an election.”

Strzok’s lawyer has said his client’s work wasn’t driven by political views and that Strzok is willing to testify before Congress.

Written by ERIC TUCKER and MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • jaybird June 18, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Best to start paying attention to the Trump appalling behavior. Its nazi stormtrooping not in line with American values. Also stupid.

  • mesaman June 18, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    Huh! Explain the simile between Trump(‘s) apalling behavior and nazi stormtrooping. I think your attitude fly is open.

    • John June 18, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      jailbird is clueless and has Trump derangement syndrome. No hope for that libtard!

      • jaybird June 18, 2018 at 9:26 pm

        And john, you are just, a john – lacking a lid.

    • jaybird June 18, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      Of courxe you dont get it. Anyone in the Trump cult dont get his racist statements, lies, pervasive selfish observations, love of thugs, special treatment, payoffs and cruel policies that hurt children for his stupid bas cult. Yes the fly is open and spraying urine your way. Human waste.

      • John June 18, 2018 at 9:08 pm

        jailbird, you are wrong again. go clean your cage!

      • John June 19, 2018 at 12:09 pm

        jailbird, the fact remains your’e an idiot and you prove it with every comment! hahahahahahahahaha!

        • No Filter June 19, 2018 at 1:40 pm

          Laugh it up all you want now Lumpy, I am sure we won’t hear anything from you once the story lines on Fox News says “Trump Impeached”. Enjoy your time thinking your winning, when in reality Robert Mueller is winning. 5 guilty pleas, 17 indictments just for starters!

          • ladybugavenger June 20, 2018 at 2:15 pm

            What is he going to be impeached for?

            I dont watch the news, so what is the impeachable act?

  • Rafiki June 18, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    I remember when Obama was first elected. I wanted so much for him to go after the previous administration for the evils they’d conducted. He didn’t and I wondered why, Cheney alone was worth some sort of investigation….

    Now I think it’s kind of sad that the focus of the ‘right’ is so determined to mine in the past. Our focus should be on the now! What’s happening now that deserves headlines and/or investigations???

    To live in the past is a sad occupation of time.

    • comments June 19, 2018 at 1:19 am

      There were reasons bush/cheney weren’t ever investigated. Revealing that that administration actually orchestrated 9/11 could very well have collapsed all faith in the american system of governing. They literally got away with murder on an absolutely massive scale, from 9/11 to all the wars started on false pretexts. Things have only gone downhill since then, as far as corruption. Events from the past very much still effect policy to this day. The past very much matters. History matters. Unfortunately much of it is just lies and falsities. Hard to even know what the truth is anymore. Obfuscation by media is likely the worst it’s ever been.

  • Brian June 19, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Forget the all the hot air and posturing. The only thing I want to hear is who is going to prison. (Almost no one, unfortunately, and certainly not Hillary)

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