FBI faces probe over Clinton e-mail saga

FBI director James Comey had announced an inquiry into Mrs Clinton's e-mails shortly before the election - a move that Democrats believe damaged her standing with voters and was politically motivated.
FBI director James Comey had announced an inquiry into Mrs Clinton's e-mails shortly before the election - a move that Democrats believe damaged her standing with voters and was politically motivated.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Decisions that led to FBI director's statement shortly before the election to be investigated

WASHINGTON • The US Justice Department has said it would probe an FBI decision to announce an inquiry into Mrs Hillary Clinton's e-mails shortly before the November presidential election, a move she has blamed as a factor in her defeat.

The Justice Department's Office of Inspector-General said in a statement on Thursday that its investigation would focus in part on decisions leading up to public statements by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey regarding the Clinton investigation and whether they may have been based on "improper considerations".

The controversy involved Mrs Clinton's use of a private e-mail server for official correspondence when she was secretary of state under President Barack Obama, including for messages that were later determined to contain classified information.

The Office of Inspector-General Michael Horowitz said it decided to open the review "in response to requests from numerous chairmen and ranking members of congressional oversight committees, various organisations and members of the public".

Although the FBI ultimately decided not to refer Mrs Clinton's case for prosecution, Democrats said Mr Comey's announcement damaged her standing with voters right before the election, and he faced complaints that his moves were politically motivated.

Law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, by custom do not disclose information about investigations that do not end in criminal charges. If the review finds evidence of misconduct, any officials involved would be referred for disciplinary action.

In a statement, Mr Comey said the FBI would cooperate fully and he was "grateful" to Mr Horowitz for the probe.

"He is professional and independent and... I hope very much he is able to share his conclusions and observations with the public because everyone will benefit from thoughtful evaluation and transparency regarding this matter," he said.

Mr Brian Fallon, Mrs Clinton's spokesman, told MSNBC on Thursday that Mr Comey's actions "cried out for an independent review".

Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate said Mr Comey's statements were not "fair, professional or consistent with the policies of the Federal Bureau of Investigation".

President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn in on Jan 20, will not have the power to dismiss the probe. But federal law permits US presidents to dismiss inspectors general for federal agencies, as long as the president provides Congress a written justification for the removal 30 days in advance.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'FBI faces probe over Clinton e-mail saga'. Print Edition | Subscribe