With an expanding scope in another probe, Inspector General Michael Horowitz will soon release his report on the Department of Justice’s conduct of the Hillary Clinton probe. According to sources talking to the Associated Press, the IG report will take aim at the FBI and its leadership at the time for a series of curious decisions, including a long delay in seeking a warrant to probe e-mails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Had the FBI acted properly, the report will say, much of the October confusion could have been avoided:
An upcoming report from the Justice Department’s internal watchdog is expected to criticize senior FBI leaders for not moving quickly enough to review a trove of Hillary Clinton emails discovered late in the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with findings.
The FBI’s timing has been a sore point for Clinton supporters, who say then-director James Comey’s announcement of the review less than two weeks before the Nov. 8, 2016, election contributed to her loss. The agency’s findings affirming their decision not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton were disclosed two days before the vote — too late, her supporters say, to undo the damage.
Some FBI officials knew in September 2016 of the emails on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop but the bureau did not obtain a warrant to review them until the following month. Clinton supporters say the candidate’s name could have been cleared much faster if the FBI acted on the emails as soon as they knew about them.
The criticism will hit the very top of the ladder at the bureau:
An inspector general report examining a broad range of FBI actions during the Clinton email investigation will criticize officials, including Comey, for not moving fast enough to examine the email trove and for a weekslong delay in getting a warrant, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.
All of this is certainly interesting, but … not all that interesting. Hillary Clinton supporters have long blamed Comey and the FBI for the timing of these actions, and with some justification, apparently. However, the FBI wasn’t the proximate cause of the problem. The proximate cause was Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a private, secret, and unsecured e-mail server for official business in violation of the Federal Records Act and the Espionage Act too, despite Comey’s decision to let Hillary off the hook for it. Had Hillary used the official State Department e-mail system, those e-mails would never have been on Weiner’s laptop in the first place — and it demonstrated just how unsecured the system was.
That also points out how oddly weak of a leak this is ahead of the release of the IG report. Horowitz had much more meaty questions on his Hillary probe plate than just the timing of the Weiner search warrant. What was Loretta Lynch’s role in determining the scope of the investigation and potential action? Why did Comey usurp Lynch’s role in determining outcomes without a formal recusal by Lynch? Did the White House apply undue pressure on the FBI? Why did FBI investigators allow Cheryl Mills — a potential witness — represent Hillary in the interview? Why did the FBI not recommend charges when Mills and Huma Abedin misled investigators?
This leak either indicates that the IG report will take a large pass on these questions, or is intended to distract from the answers it might contain. Unless more leaks about those issues emerge, we won’t find out for another few weeks which it is.