The Justice Department’s watchdog has criticised the FBI and former director James Comey for their handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation but concluded his actions were not motivated by political bias.
The inspector general’s report said Mr Comey, who announced in the summer of 2016 that Mrs Clinton would not be charged with any crime, was insubordinate and departed from normal protocol numerous times.
But it said: “We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, we determined that they were based on the prosecutors’ assessment of the facts, the law and past department practice.”
Mr Comey said he disagrees with some of the conclusions of the report.
But he said in a tweet that he respects the inspector general’s work and believes the conclusions are “reasonable”. He said “people of good faith” can see the “unprecedented situation differently”.
President Donald Trump has looked to the report to provide a fresh line of attack against Mr Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, as he claims that a politically tainted bureau tried to undermine his campaign and, through the later Russia investigation, his presidency.
The White House said the report reaffirmed Mr Trump’s “suspicions” about Mr Comey’s conduct and about the “political bias among some of the members of the FBI”.
But the nuanced findings provide no conclusions to support Republicans and Democrats who want to claim total vindication.
The conclusions were contained in a 500-page report that documents in painstaking detail one of the most controversial investigations in modern FBI history.
It reveals how the FBI, which for decades has strived to stand apart from politics, came to be entangled in the 2016 presidential election.
The report alleges a long series of misjudgments that Democrats will probably use to support their belief that Mrs Clinton was wronged by the FBI.
The watchdog faults Mr Comey for his unusual July 5 2016, news conference at which he disclosed his recommendation against bringing charges. Charging announcements are normally made by the Justice Department, not the FBI, and cases that end without charges are rarely discussed publicly.
In this instance, Mr Comey said that the FBI found Mrs Clinton and her aides to be “extremely careless” in handling classified material but “no reasonable prosecutor” could have brought a case against her.
At a congressional hearing last May, he said he was concerned that the Justice Department could not “credibly” announce the conclusion of its investigation, in part because then-attorney general Loretta Lynch held a meeting on her plane with former president Bill Clinton.
Also criticised was Mr Comey’s decision, against the recommendation of the Justice Department, to reveal to Congress that the FBI was reopening the investigation following the discovery of new emails.
The FBI obtained a warrant nine days before the presidential election to review those emails, found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner, and ultimately determined there was nothing in them that changed its original conclusion.
The inspector general also faulted the FBI for failing to act with more urgency in reviewing emails from Mr Weiner’s laptop.