Former FBI Director James Comey deviated from the bureau's norms in a probe into former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but there is no evidence his actions before the 2016 election were motivated by political bias, a Justice Department watchdog report concludes, a source familiar with the report said on Thursday.
For example, the minority leaders of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees cited Comey's choice to reveal the FBI's investigation into Clinton but not its counterintelligence investigation into Trump aides' ties to Russians. "They're loyal", Trump said.
Most notably, Horowitz found that anti-Trump text messages between Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Peter Strzok and Federal Bureau of Investigation attorney Lisa Page "potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations". That investigation is now being led by special counsel Robert Mueller III, who once considered Strzok a key member of his team but removed him once informed of the anti-Trump messages.
Beyond the text message referring to Sanders as an "idiot", Page also sent a message to Strzok in which she seemed to express concern "sandernistas" (Sanders supporters) would spoil things for Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in July 2016.
Strzok was one of the agents whose texts about seeking to keep Trump from being elected were made public to a great fury.
Strzok responded: "No. No he won't".
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But Trump's claim was baseless: the report made no conclusions about the president's involvement.
Comey was criticized in the report for his decision, despite the discouragement of the Justice Department, to reveal to Congress that the FBI was reopening the investigation into Clinton's private server after the discovery of new emails.
"I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey's letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off, "she later said".
And Trump took it one step further, barreling out of the White House Friday for an unannounced, early-morning television interview that turned into a almost hour-long freewheeling give-and-take with reporters, during which he returned time and again to assert that report had exonerated him amid Mueller's ongoing probe into Russian election interference.
"Good Instincts. [FBI Director] Christopher Wray will bring it proudly back!"
The report says the exchange is "indicative of a biased state of mind" and "implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate's electoral prospects".
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With all of the above, the New York Times curiously said Democrats found "vindication" in the report and said in an editorial the real message of the report is "Trump Is Lying".
During an interview with Fox News Channel at the White House Friday morning, Trump said "the end result was wrong" and there was "total bias". It also calls him "insubordinate" for not alerting then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to his plans to say publicly that Clinton would not be charged in the case.
"The question I have [is] was the Department of Justice and the FBI, the people in charge of the Clinton investigation, were they really in the tank or not?"
Meanwhile, Mueller's investigation has recently taken on increased urgency and higher stakes.
The report says Lisa Page wrote to Peter Strzok in a text message: "(Trump's) not ever going to become president, right?" His advisers had suggested that a decision would be delayed until after Trump's summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Singapore, which the president completed earlier this week.
But a almost two-year investigation by the Justice Department's watchdog found no evidence that those private sentiments expressed by Strzok actually influenced his work.
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