In a surprise announcement, the Inspector General of the Justice Department on Thursday laid out plans to review allegations of misconduct surrounding the handling of the investigation into the emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, looking at everything from the actions of top officials to questions about the release of certain documents before the 2016 elections.
The office of Inspector General Michael Horowitz made clear that this was not an effort to revisit the ultimate FBI decision on whether or not to charge Clinton with any crimes over her handling of classified emails.
"The review will not substitute the OIG’s judgment for the judgments made by the FBI or the Department regarding the substantive merits of investigative or prosecutive decisions," read a statement.
Here is what the Justice Department's watchdog will examine:
1. Were FBI and Justice Department procedures followed?"
This first issues centers on several major moments for FBI Director James Comey - on July 5, when the FBI released its decision not to charge Hillary Clinton; on October 28, when he roiled the campaign for President by raising the possibility that more Clinton emails had been found on a laptop owned by top aide Huma Abedin; and, November 6, when Comey announced that those emails had produced no substantive information for the Clinton email investigation.
2. Should a top FBI official have recused himself?
This second avenue of inquiry surrounds Andrew McCabe, the Deputy Director of the FBI, and his wife. Jill McCabe had run for state Senate in Virginia back in early 2015. In July of that year, the investigation began about Clinton's private email server from her time as Secretary of State. At the time, Mr. McCabe was the number three official at FBI, but in February of 2016, he was promoted to Deputy Director, and thus was officially in an oversight role of the Clinton email investigation. In the fall of 2015, a group affiliated with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had given Jill McCabe $450,000 for her campaign for state Senate; she lost in November of 2015. Republicans say her husband should have recused himself from the Clinton probe. Democrats say there's nothing there.
3. Did a top Justice Department official wrongly give a heads up?
This part of the Inspector General review likely centers on Peter Kadzik, who was the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, and a friend of top Clinton aide John Podesta. In the Podesta emails that were leaked by Wikileaks before the elections, there is one email that shows Kadzik giving a 'heads up' to Podesta about a Congressional hearing that is happening that day in May of 2015, which Kadzik said might include questions about the Clinton emails from her time as Secretary of State. The IG wants to know if this was an improper disclosure of non-public information.
4. Were there other leaks or disclosures of non-public info?
This part of the review looks more like a general review of possible leaks by the FBI and Justice Department and/or more disclosures of non-public information dealing with the Clinton email investigation.
5. The odd release of FOIA information a week before the election.
The final part of this announced Inspector General review centers on two different releases of information under the Freedom of Information Act, by the FBI. The October 30 release was about the Clinton Foundation, and included records from a 2001 investigation of a pardon given by former President Clinton.
The next day, the same FBI Records Vault Twitter account suddenly announced the release of materials on Donald Trump's father, praising him as a 'philanthropist.'
While the FBI claimed that this was a routine release, the Twitter account for the FBI Records Vault had not been active since October 8, 2015 - when suddenly on October 30, it tweeted out 20 different FOIA document releases. Democrats argued it looked like an effort by the FBI to pile on Clinton.
That's a rundown on what the Justice Department Inspector General will look at.
We'll see whether this brings any new insights into the Clinton email probe.
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