Let the leaks begin! The long-awaited inspector general report on the Hillary Clinton investigation will get released today, after a special presidential briefing by Rod Rosenstein this morning. We might get a few Oval Office leaks immediately afterward, but CBS News gets the first scoop … such as it is:
A long-awaited report by the Justice Department inspector general on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation by the FBI and Justice Department is expected to focus on former FBI chief James Comey and the decisions he made during the course of the Clinton investigation, CBS News’ Paula Reid reports.
The findings, which are slated to be released Thursday afternoon, describe Comey as “insubordinate” while also criticizing then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch for weak leadership, Reid also reports.
That’s … not much of a surprise, actually. From the moment his statement to the media ended on July 5, 2016, Comey faced accusations of both insubordination and usurpation of Loretta Lynch’s authority. The specific issue of insubordination might also relate to the later decision to notify Congress of the reopening of the Clinton investigation, but again, these were all well known long before Horowitz decided to take a peek into the DoJ/FBI operations.
That’s even more true of the assessment of Lynch as a weak leader. Comey’s actions alone proved that much two years ago. Of much greater interest to Lynch critics was her airport-tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton just as the investigation was about to wrap up, and whether or not Barack Obama interfered in the probe by signaling to both Lynch and Comey that he expected them to come up with nothing.
If the biggest takeaways from today’s report are that Comey was insubordinate and that Lynch was a weak leader, it’s going to be anticlimactic, to say the least. The report runs more than 500 pages, CBS also reports, so it’s likely to say much more than that, but perhaps Horowitz focused more on lower-level personnel in his final report.
That’s not to say that these conclusions won’t have an impact, however. The New York Times notes the stakes involved, not for the Hillary probe but for the Russia-collusion investigation:
Neither the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, nor his investigation is the focus of the report. But it looms over everything that will happen Thursday around the release the report.
When the Russia investigation began, Mr. Comey made a decision that ultimately proved fateful. Rather than assign the case to agents in the field, he gave it to the same team at headquarters that had investigated Mrs. Clinton. So, any criticism of decisions in the Clinton case — no matter how unrelated to the Russia investigation — will ultimately be used by Mr. Trump challenge the integrity of the team that began investigating his campaign.
If the IG report finds them at fault, especially if Horowitz suggests that political motives went into some of the actions in the investigation, it might be a body blow to the credibility of the current probe. Those kinds of accusations play right into the “witch hunt” declarations made by Donald Trump and others in the campaign, and might even undermine the plea deals on process crimes that Robert Mueller has managed to produce.