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Comey cited as 'insubordinate', but report finds no bias in FBI decision to clear Clinton
[WASHINGTON] The Justice Department's inspector general on Thursday painted a harsh portrait of the FBI during the 2016 presidential election, describing a destructive culture in which James Comey, the former director, was "insubordinate", senior officials privately bashed Donald Trump and agents came to distrust prosecutors.
The 500-page report criticised Mr Comey for breaking with long-standing policy and publicly discussing — in a news conference and a pair of letters in the middle of the campaign — an investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server in handling classified information.
The report was a firm rebuke of those actions, which Mr Comey has tried for months to defend.
Nevertheless, the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, did not challenge the conclusion that Mrs Clinton should not be prosecuted. That investigation loomed over most of the presidential campaign, and Mr Horowitz and his investigators uncovered no proof that political opinions at the FBI influenced its outcome.
But the report was far from an exoneration. Mr Horowitz was unsparing in his criticism of Mr Comey and referred five FBI employees for possible discipline over pro-Clinton or anti-Trump commentary in electronic messages.
He said agents were far too cozy with journalists. And he described a breakdown in the chain of command, calling it "extraordinary" that the attorney general acceded to Mr Comey during the most controversial moments of the Clinton investigation.
The result, Mr Horowitz said, undermined public confidence in the FBI and sowed doubt about the bureau's handling of the Clinton investigation, which even two years later remains politically divisive.
Mrs Clinton's supporters blame Mr Comey for her election loss. Mr Trump believes Mr Comey and his agents conspired to clear Mrs Clinton of wrongdoing because they were openly hostile to his candidacy.
Mr Horowitz repeatedly said he found no evidence that the FBI rigged the outcome.
"Our review did not find documentary or testimonial evidence directly connecting the political views these employees expressed in their text messages and instant messages to the specific investigative decisions we reviewed," the report said.
Mr Comey has defended his actions, saying he would have faced criticism for any decision, so he opted to be transparent.
FBI officials have acknowledged that they made those decisions in part because they assumed Mrs Clinton would win, and they worried about appearing to conceal information to help her.