Trump and his allies are wagering heavily on findings by Inspector General Michael Horowitz that former FBI Director James Comey and his top allies made mistakes or violated department standards in the Clinton investigation in ways that would validate the president’s decision last year to fire Comey. Trump’s allies also believe that FBI officials harbored political bias that led them to soft-pedal the Clinton inquiry and ultimately let her off the hook.
It’s a crucial bet because Comey is a central witness in Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s own actions in 2017 and whether he obstructed the FBI’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. In addition to Comey, Trump backers have homed in on private texts between two senior officials that included anti-Trump comments, as well as on discussions about how to characterize the decision not to indict Clinton and the handling of interviews of Clinton and her top aides.
But early indications suggest that Horowitz’s findings may cut against their claims, pointing to Comey’s unusual departure from FBI protocols that hurt Clinton politically in the crucial months of the campaign. In July 2016, Comey bucked the Justice Department and issued a public statement assailing Clinton’s carelessness with classified information, even as he announced the decision to exonerate her. Then, 10 days before the election, he informed Congress that the investigation had been reopened, an explosive development that Clinton has argued contributed to her last-minute plunge. At the same time, he declined to confirm publicly that there was an ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.