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Inspector General To Release Report On DOJ Clinton Email Probe


We are going to see a highly anticipated report later today from the Department of Justice. It's going to have the findings of the DOJ's inspector general, the department's internal watchdog. He's been looking into allegations that the FBI and, specifically, former Director James Comey improperly handled the probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

Now, many Democrats felt that Comey's investigation just before the 2016 election shattered Clinton's chances of winning. Many Republicans, when Comey didn't charge Clinton with a crime, felt that he let her off the hook. NPR's Ryan Lucas has been following the 18-month investigation, and he joins us. Ryan, only 18 months, huh?

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: That's it, right?

GREENE: (Laughter) That's it. All right. So it's all these twists and turns. We're going to see this report today. Remind us what this is about and how it sort of plays into the whole picture here.

LUCAS: So the Justice Department's Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced this probe back in January of 2017 about a week before President Trump's inauguration. And Horowitz said he was conducting this investigation in response to complaints from members of Congress and the public about the FBI's actions around the Clinton probe. Horowitz said he would look at several issues, but one of the biggest and the most highly anticipated things that he's looking into was then-FBI Director James Comey's decision to go public about the Clinton investigation.

Now, Comey's announcement in July 2016 closing the investigation was something that, as you mentioned, Republicans cried foul about at the time saying that Clinton was getting off easy. There's also Comey's letter on October 28 of that year, saying that the FBI was reopening the investigation to look at new emails that it had found.

And then Comey sent a letter two days before the election saying that the bureau had found nothing in those emails and was closing the probe again. Democrats, as you noted, blasted Comey for those letters, accused him of possibly costing Clinton the election. So this is all stuff that Horowitz was looking at.

GREENE: All stuff that we've heard about, right? I mean, hasn't Comey talked a lot about each of those decisions and what led to them? I mean, what exactly are we going to learn from the inspector general here?

LUCAS: Well, the events are well-covered ground, as you said. Important to say that the inspector general is not going to be questioning the decision to charge Clinton, but he will certainly - well, what we'll get from him, basically, are conclusions on the actions that certain people like Comey took.

So Comey, for example, is expected to be faulted for violating department guidelines, mishandling the investigation, particularly related to that July 5 press conference when he said that he was closing the investigation without charges but also said at the time that Clinton was extremely careless in her handling of classified information. And by reopening the investigation days before the election, Comey appeared to run afoul of certain department policies saying that you shouldn't do anything, you know, that might impact the election.

GREENE: Sounds like this report is really all about Comey. Or, no?

LUCAS: No. It's not. There are a lot of people who are involved in this investigation. Loretta Lynch, for example, who was the attorney general at the time, may also be chastised for her oversight of the investigation. And a few other people. There's Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. These are the two FBI officials whose text messages were discovered in the course of the investigation. Some of those texts, of course, were very critical of then-candidate Trump. The president and his allies have used those texts to accuse the FBI of political bias. So there are a number of people who could get, well, criticized in this.

GREENE: And I guess it's worth noting a lot of the criticism of the FBI looking back in 2016, I mean, a lot of that criticism has continued. There's a narrative that's ongoing.

LUCAS: That's right. And the president and his allies are likely to seize on the report's conclusions to, you know, further those attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department. Trump, of course, has used the Clinton investigation to batter the FBI and the DOJ, and by extension, really, special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. And Trump can also use this report and is really expected to use it to defend his decision to fire James Comey, which, of course, is something that the special counsel is looking into.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Ryan Lucas speaking to us as we expect that big report from the Justice Department sometime later today. Ryan, thanks a lot.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.