It is fair to say that the report released on June 14 by Inspector General Michael Horowitz left many observers shaking their heads. Expectations were high, to be sure, and interested parties on both sides of the political divide were, it seems, anticipating – or hoping for – something more conclusive. While it is worth considering that Horowitz did not start his investigation with the intent to prove any wrongdoing or criminal act, it does appear that his report on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation leans heavily toward giving most of the individuals involved the benefit of the doubt.
Most Americans – perhaps all Americans – would agree that government officials, both elected and unelected, should be held to at least the same standard as private citizens. Power comes with responsibility, and since these officials have far greater power over the lives of ordinary citizens than those citizens have over the lives of said officials, it is not, in fact, unreasonable to suggest that the latter should be held to a higher standard?
FBI Hit With Mild Rebuke
According to this report, the standards to which Horowitz and his team believe government officials should be held appear flexible at best and extremely lax at worst. The 13-page executive summary is full of presumptions of good intent, even if the judgment was lacking and the rules ignored. It concludes with a list of recommendations for the FBI, all of which have little substance beyond mild rebuke. Practices and procedures should be more closely adhered to; additional “education” and “guidance” of personnel is recommended; the Bureau should even consider attaching warning labels to issued mobile devices to remind agents “that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Whilst many will see this report as damning, the FBI views it as nothing more than a slap on the wrist. While some within the Bureau may face disciplinary action and others will likely lose their jobs, it appears depressingly doubtful that much will change at the nation’s top law enforcement agency.
Is there any meat on the bones at all, then? Are any solid conclusions drawn, and does this report incriminate anybody? The answers to these questions are open to interpretation. This report is, without doubt, an indictment of the FBI’s conduct with regard to the Clinton email scandal. Hardly any aspect of the investigation was handled in a manner consistent with the Bureau’s own procedures. Senior officials, it seems, were constantly making judgment calls rather than following protocol. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was less than satisfied with many of the explanations provided by those individuals it summoned for an interview.
Among the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI personnel singled out for admonishment were then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch; former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; James Comey, who was the Director of the FBI at that time and his deputy, Andrew McCabe. The report also cites misconduct by five FBI officials who worked on the Clinton investigation; among them were Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who served as counsel to Deputy Director McCabe.
These are not the only individuals named. It is worth noting that hardly a single person identified in the report is found to have been beyond reproach in the way they conducted themselves or in the decisions they made.
For each of these officials, there is much that can be said about how – and to what extent – they were guilty of wrongdoing. Horowitz has laid out, in detail, how each of them conducted themselves, what actions they took and how they explained those actions. Comey, McCabe, Lynch, and Strzok are the names that stand out. Between them, these four exhibited astoundingly poor judgment and a willingness to disregard standard practices and procedures.
Political Bias in Abundance But Not Proven?
The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is whether any of these actors were driven by political bias and what intent they had in their decision-making. Those who supported Hillary Clinton argue that the OIG report absolves everyone involved of acting on partisan political allegiance. This is entirely inaccurate. Horowitz concludes that, while there is no documented evidence that political bias dictated the outcome of the investigation – a claim still open to question – the appearance of such bias was overwhelming.
The mere fact that the Clinton email investigation was so grossly mishandled and that so many of the officials involved made decisions based on what they thought was best rather than what was procedurally correct, is, in itself, worthy of much suspicion. Put this in the context of a presidential election between one candidate who was obviously favored by most of those investigating her and another candidate toward whom so much contempt was openly expressed, and the idea that bias played no role is inconceivable.
Closer examination of the report reveals a disturbing pattern of behavior that indicates bias in favor of Clinton and against then-candidate Donald Trump. Horowitz may have failed to pinpoint concrete evidence of bias but, like everyone else, he cannot know what is in a person’s mind. In the final analysis, he chose to judge those involved in this scandal free of intent to influence a presidential election in favor of one candidate and against the other. Evidence of such intent was clear, however. Liberty Nation will continue to explore the motivations of DOJ and FBI officials and detail those motivations in forthcoming articles that will delve into the entire OIG report.