The Department of Justice’s internal watchdog is reviewing actions taken at the department and at the FBI during the election, including those regarding the bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
The internal review will examine whether FBI Director James Comey broke protocol when he publicly announced just 11 days before Election Day that the agency found more emails that “appear to be pertinent” to the server investigation, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a statement Thursday.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had immediately criticized Comey’s actions in light of their potential influence on the outcome of the presidential race.
The DOJ review will also look at whether the DOJ and the FBI improperly released information to the public shortly before Election Day — specifically, documents responsive to Freedom of Information Act requests. The decision to launch the internal review was made after multiple calls from chairmen and ranking members of congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public, Horowitz said.
Clinton and many Democrats blamed her loss in part on Comey’s pre-election announcement, which they said was unprecedented and improperly swayed public opinion. The FBI’s mandate is to avoid involvement in or influence on U.S. politics.
“To show how awful this situation is, [Comey] ignored precedent that had been going on for decade after decade after decade,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid told CNN in December. “The FBI does not get involved in politics — except Comey did.”
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, voiced his support for the internal review of the investigation Thursday.
The findings from the review will not override any decisions made by the DOJ or FBI, Horowitz said. But the Office of Inspector General “will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.”