The long-awaited Justice Department inspector general report on the DOJ and FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation released Thursday found that FBI agent Peter Strzok had a “biased state of mind” that may have played a role in his conduct during the investigation.
Specifically, the inspector general found a text from FBI official Peter Strzok that did evidence bias, and might have been behind the FBI’s lack of action in investigating Clinton emails found on Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s husband Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
The report said the August 8, 2016 text message exchange between Strzok and his lover FBI lawyer Lisa Page that showed that Strzok had a “biased state of mind” and implied a “willingness to take action.”
Page had texted Strzok: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president right? Right?!”
Strzok texted back, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”
Investigators believe Strzok’s bias may have led to his inaction in September 2016 when Clinton emails were found on Weiner’s laptop and it took weeks before the FBI acted on it.
The report stated:
“Text messages of FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok indicated that he, McCabe, and Priestap discussed the Weiner laptop on September 28. Strzok said that he initially planned to send a team to New York to review the emails, but a conference all with [New York Office] was scheduled instead.
“Additional discussions took place on October 3 and 4, 2016. However, after October 4, we found no evidence that anyone associated with the Midyear investigation, including the entire leadership team at FBI Headquarters, took any action on the Weiner laptop issue until the week of October 24, and then did so only after the Weiner case agent expressed concerns to [Southern District of New York], prompting SDNY to contact the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) on October 21 to raise concerns about the lack of action.”
The report said instead of following up on the emails, Strzok decided to prioritize the Russia investigation into the Trump campaign.
“[We] did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the [Clinton investigation]-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias,” it said.
Furthermore, the inspector general report makes it clear that it does not weigh in on any judgment the DOJ or FBI made on the Clinton email case, and only investigated whether there was some legal justification behind those decisions, versus evidence of political bias.
The inspector general found that there were legal justifications behind those decisions — written either at the time or explained to investigators afterwards, but refrained from making a judgment on the decisions themselves.
Thus, the IG did not weigh on whether former FBI Director James Comey’s judgment that Clinton did not act with “gross negligence” was correct or not — just whether there was actual evidence of political bias behind it.
The report said Comey’s interpretation of “gross negligence” was based on “core prosecutorial discretion that were for the Department to make.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that U.S. Attorney John Huber would continue to review decisions made by the DOJ and FBI, and would provide recommendations on whether further investigation is necessary or merit a special counsel.
“This is not the end of the process. United States Attorney John Huber continues his work in cooperation with the Inspector General to review certain prosecutorial and investigative determinations made by the Department in 2016 and 2017,” Sessions said.
He has reviewed this report and, based on its findings and his own investigation, will provide recommendations as to whether any matter not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of Special Counsel,” he said.