WASHINGTON – The internal watchdog at the Justice Department says his review of alleged misconduct by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the 2016 presidential election is almost complete and results should be released by early spring.
Testifying before a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz explained the investigation into whether former FBI Director James Comey violated FBI policy when he publicly announced the bureau reopened an investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email.
In its multi-faceted investigation, the inspector general also is examining election leaks from the FBI and DOJ and claims into whether Comey violated established procedures when he updated Congress about new evidence that agents discovered shortly before the election.
Additionally, the inquiry addresses conflict of interest allegations against FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
While McCabe investigated Clinton’s email scandal during the height of the 2016 presidential election, his wife received over $700,000 in campaign donations from longtime Clinton backer Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia. McCabe was also discovered campaigning for his wife in violation of FBI protocol.
President Trump cited some of the issues as grounds for his firing of Comey in May.
Before Trump terminated Comey, the former director also led an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Horowitz said the election-related investigation will be completed by March or April, but that is subject to change if new issues arise.
“We are aiming to release the report in late winter/early spring – hopefully in that March/April time period. We’re moving along quite expeditiously,” the inspector general said. “We’ve interviewed dozens of people. We’re not at the hundreds yet, but we’re in the dozens range.”
He also said the inspector general’s office has reviewed 1.2 million records in the investigation.
Horowitz’s office announced in January it would review the FBI’s pre-election decision-making after being inundated with congressional requests. His testimony Wednesday is the first public update on the investigation.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have requested Horowitz expand his review into Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ agreement to recuse from various election-related issues.
Horowitz said his office could investigate Sessions’ recusal after Special Counsel Robert Mueller concludes the probe into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential race, but he did not reveal if he has consulted with Mueller about the scope of his work.
“We have not made a final decision on that,” the inspector general said in responding to a query from Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. “One of the things we generally try and do is hold in abeyance any activity while there’s any ongoing FBI or in this case special counsel investigation – that’s what we’re doing here.”
The Justice Department has been cooperative in expediting the review, Horowitz said.
He also revealed the job of inspectors general have gotten easier during the Trump era.
Records that have been withheld from the inspector general’s office have finally been accessible due to legislation signed into law in the waning days of the Obama administration, Horowitz explained.
“The IG community’s ability to continue its important work was greatly enhanced by the passage of the IG Empowerment Act,” Horowitz testified. “At the DOJ OIG, we have not had any access issues since the enactment of this law.”
When disputes arose in different departments, he continued, “IGs were able to quickly resolve those issues by pointing their respective agencies to the provisions in the IG Empowerment Act.”
Congress unanimously passed the that law last year, strengthening the authority of more than 70 inspectors general across the federal government and guaranteeing unfettered access to relevant records requested by government watchdogs.
Inspectors general previously were denied access to information from department heads or faced long delays in obtaining key documents.
Horowitz said some aspects of the investigation are classified, which could create delays in disclosing the final report.
As WND reported, Comey exonerated Clinton months before interviewing witnesses in the probe or Clinton.
In July 2016, he held a press conference justifying why the FBI had declined to refer Clinton for prosecution, claiming she was negligent and careless but did nothing criminal.
The former FBI chief then sent a letter to Congress in October 2016 explaining why the FBI reopened its investigation after it uncovered new emails on the computer of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y, who had been married to one Clinton’s top aides, Huma Abedin.
Two days before the presidential election, on Nov. 6, 2016, Comey said the FBI had not uncovered any further incriminating evidence.
Comey’s detractors argue he violated the Hatch Act with his public disclosures, which bars government employees from interfering with U.S. elections.