January 12, 2017, 1:09 PM EST January 12, 2017, 4:39 PM EST
Pre-election decision to reopen Clinton probe to be examined
Comey’s pronouncements angered Trump and Clinton in turn
New questions were raised Thursday about whether FBI Director James Comey will be able to keep his job after the Justice Department’s internal watchdog opened an investigation into his handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server.
The investigation by the department’s inspector general will examine whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to follow appropriate procedures and improperly released information about the Clinton probe — renewing scrutiny of one of the most contested developments of the 2016 election campaign.
Public pronouncements by Comey at different points last year drew denunciations from Donald Trump, who will become president next week, and from Hillary Clinton, who has blamed her defeat in part on Comey’s statements.
“What Comey did, commenting on an investigation, was totally improper,” said Nick Akerman, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP and a former federal prosecutor. “There is no need to have an inspector general investigation to justify the president firing him.”
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a statement Thursday that his investigation will examine actions leading up to Comey’s decision to announce findings of his probe on July 5, when he said that Clinton and her top aides were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” but that no criminal prosecution should be pursued.
He said it also includes a review of actions surrounding Comey’s later announcements that he was reopening and then again closing the probe, both made days before the Nov. 8 election. Democrats say those moves damaged Clinton’s candidacy at a crucial moment and helped hand the presidency to Trump.