A much-anticipated inspector general’s report about the F.B.I.’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton released on Thursday found that the former director James B. Comey was “insubordinate,” but it did not challenge the decision not to charge Mrs. Clinton and did not conclude that bias influenced that choice.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, criticized several aspects of the federal investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Among them were a decision by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to meet former President Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac; the move by Mr. Comey to publicly say the bureau was recommending no charges while also condemning Mrs. Clinton’s conduct in detail; and Mr. Comey’s disclosure that the F.B.I. had reopened the investigation after finding new evidence to examine, and his re-closing of it days before the 2016 presidential election.
[Read our coverage on the report.]
Mr. Horowitz is also investigating the department’s handling of the Russia investigation, which President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have sought to portray as scandalous. While several of the same officials were involved in both inquiries, the new report focused only on the Clinton investigation.
Here are the highlights that our reporters are compiling as they read the report. This will continue to update.
Mr. Comey was insubordinate but had no political bias in his decision making in the inquiry, the report found.
Mr. Comey made a “conscious decision” not to tell the Justice Department about holding a news conference in July 2016, according to the report. During the event, Mr. Comey announced that the F.B.I. would not recommend criminal charges in the Clinton investigation.
The report found that it was “extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to do so, and we found none of his reasons to be a persuasive basis for deviating from well-established department policies in a way intentionally designed to avoid supervision by department leadership over his actions.”
The report makes apparent that Mr. Comey hurt the F.B.I.
Mr. Comey has said the decisions he made in 2016 were meant to protect the F.B.I. and shield it from politics. But the inspector general said that Mr. Comey’s “decisions negatively impacted the perception of the F.B.I. and the department as fair administrators of justice.”
— Adam Goldman
The report supports a key rationale behind the decision not to charge Mrs. Clinton.
F.B.I. officials recommended no charges against Mrs. Clinton or her aides under a statute that criminalizes “gross negligence” in handling classified information. That decision turned on an interpretation of the statute that sets a high standard for what a defendant’s state of mind had to be: The conduct must be “so gross as to almost suggest deliberate intention,” be “criminally reckless” or fall “just a little short of willful.”
While the inspector general report does not take a fresh look at the officials’ judgment that the evidence in the Clinton case clearly fell short of that standard, it backs their key interpretation of the law, saying it “was consistent with the department’s historical approach in prior cases under different leadership, including in the 2008 decision not to prosecute former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for mishandling classified documents.”
The report adds support for the bottom-line outcome of the email investigation.
Mr. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly insinuated that the process was rigged and that a fair investigation would have resulted in charging Mrs. Clinton with a crime — an idea underlying calls for the appointment of a second special counsel to reinvestigate her. But the report’s endorsement of how investigators interpreted the law undermines that view.
— Charlie Savage
Another politicized F.B.I. text emerged, as did three more texters.
The text was sent by Peter Strzok, a senior F.B.I. official who worked on both the Clinton email server and Russia investigations. Responding to a question by Lisa Page, an F.B.I. lawyer, that Mr. Trump is “not ever going to be come president, right? Right?!” Mr. Strzok responded: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”
The report also says that three other unnamed F.B.I. officials working on the investigation expressed political views, saying their conduct “has brought discredit to themselves,” undermined confidence in the email investigation and damaged the reputation of the bureau.
Republicans could use this fact as new ammunition to portray the F.B.I.’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s links to Russia as unfair.
The inspector general said it found no evidence that the F.B.I. officials’ political views had influenced the outcome of the email server case, although the report said it could not be sure whether one decision made by Mr. Strzok — to prioritize the Russia investigation over swiftly following up on the discovery in late September 2016 of possible evidence in the email case — was “free from bias.”
Nevertheless, the report said the officials had damaged the bureau’s “reputation for neutral fact-finding and political independence.” That conclusion seems likely to become fodder for fresh accusations of bias by Mr. Trump and his allies who have sought to discredit the Russia investigation by portraying its early stages as scandalous.
— Charlie Savage
Mr. Comey used personal email to conduct F.B.I. business.
In a finding drenched with irony, the inspector general report said investigators discovered that three top officials on the inquiry into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of sensitive government information — Mr. Comey, Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page — “used their personal email accounts to conduct F.B.I. business.” Mr. Comey in particular used it on “numerous instances” for unclassified business.
Democrats could use this fact as new ammunition to portray the F.B.I. investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server as unfair.
Some supporters of Mrs. Clinton have long fumed that the F.B.I.’s decision to open a criminal inquiry into her use of private email for official business as secretary of state in the first place was unjustified because it is routine for officials to do so — or at least was at the time. The investigation was focused on a handful of emails later deemed to contain classified information.
The fact that Mr. Comey and others also sometimes used their personal email accounts for official business underscores their argument. “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” said Brian Fallon, the former Clinton campaign spokesman.
— Charlie Savage