WASHINGTON -- Former FBI Director James Comey "deviated" from FBI and Justice Department procedures in handling the probe into Hillary Clinton, damaging the law enforcement agencies' image of impartiality even though he wasn't motivated by political bias, the department's watchdog found in a highly anticipated report.
"While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey's part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice," Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the report's conclusions, which were obtained Thursday by Bloomberg News.
Horowitz's report examined actions taken by top officials before the 2016 election, including the handling of the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. The investigation expanded to touch on an array of politically sensitive decisions by officials including Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
While the report being sent to Congress on Thursday doesn't deal with the origins of the probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion with those around President Donald Trump, the president and his Republican supporters in Congress are primed to use it as evidence of poor judgment and anti-Trump bias within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department.
In tweets, Trump has said Comey's investigation into Clinton was "phony and dishonest" and that Comey, who he fired on May 9, 2017, left the FBI's reputation in tatters.
Trump has expressed great interest in the inspector general's report, as well as some skepticism it might not be as damning as he hoped.
"What is taking so long with the Inspector General's Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey," Trump tweeted on June 5. "Numerous delays. Hope Report is not being changed and made weaker! There are so many horrible things to tell, the public has the right to know. Transparency!"
Among topics the inspector general reviewed was Comey's announcement in July 2016 that no prosecutor would find grounds to pursue criminal charges against Clinton for improperly handling classified information on her private email server, as well as Comey's decision to inform Congress only days before the election that the Clinton investigation was being re-opened. Comey's public announcement of findings angered Republicans, while his reopening of the inquiry outraged Democrats.
Some of what Horowitz discovered has already been made public.