IG takes former FBI boss to the woodshed

The FBI’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has laid it out there.

James Comey, the FBI director during the 2016 presidential campaign, messed up royally. He broke with Justice Department protocol by failing to consult with Attorney General Loretta Lynch when he called a press conference to say he had no hard evidence to prosecute Hillary Clinton over the use of her personal e-mail account.

That press conference in July 2016 brought out allegations of “rigged election” from Donald J. Trump.

There’s more. The IG also said Comey messed up when, 11 days from the election, he sent a letter to Congress revealing that he was looking once again at Clinton’s e-mail matter.

The Clinton camp said the latter announcement swung the election in Trump’s favor.

Oh … brother.

This investigation by Horowitz is likely to grow dozens of legs. The president no doubt is going to seize on some element of the IG’s findings to demonstrate that the FBI was biased against him.

Except that the IG has said that he found no evidence of politicization at the July 2016 news conference or when he announced in October of that year that he was looking again at the e-mail matter.

I am one American who is reluctant to say categorically that Comey’s second announcement on the cusp of Election Day was decisive in determining the outcome. However, it appears to look as though there might have been some tangible impact. Clinton’s momentum stopped dead. Journalists covering the campaign reportedly said in the moment that Comey’s letter to Congress effectively ended Clinton’s chances of winning.

In the period since that amazing, tumultuous episode, Trump has sought to turn Comey into a villain. Trump fired Comey over the “Russia thing,” and has vilified the former FBI director, calling him a liar, a showboat and everything short of being the son of Satan himself.

Of course, the president has turned his big guns on special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s looking into the Russian meddling in our electoral process.

A detailed IG report by all rights should add clarity to a complicated investigation. I fear that Michael Horowitz’s report has made it cloudier than ever.

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