FBI, Justice Department to be investigated over Clinton email probe

Washington, Jan 13 (IANS) The US Justice Department’s internal watchdog has launched a probe into the department and the FBI’s handling of the investigation into former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael E. Horowitz announced in a statement on Thursday that his investigation will also explore whether Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department employees improperly leaked information prior to the election.

He said the decision to initiate the probe was prompted by requests from numerous members of Congress and public inquiries, CNN reported.

Horowitz’s office said the probe will examine several allegations, including that the Justice Department or FBI policies were not followed when FBI Director James Comey publicly stated last July that his bureau would not pursue criminal charges against Clinton; and that the timing of the FBI’s release of certain Freedom of Information Act requests right before the election was improper.

Comey had written two letters on the email matter within 11 days of the election, creating a wave of damaging news stories about the controversy late in the campaign.

In the end, the new emails that the FBI reviewed — which came up during an unrelated enquiry into Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin — proved irrelevant, The New York Times said.

The White House said Thursday it was not involved in the decision to investigate.

“Decisions that are made by inspectors general across the administration are independent, and this administration has assiduously protected the independence of inspectors general,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at a briefing.

Clinton and aides on her Democratic presidential campaign have blamed Comey’s pre-election revelation as a key factor in her narrow loss to Republican nominee Donald Trump, Politico reported.

Comey said he welcomes Horowitz’s probe.

“I am grateful to the Department’s IG for taking on this review. He is professional and independent and the FBI will cooperate fully with him and his office,” Comey said in a statement.

“I hope very much he is able to share his conclusions and observations with the public because everyone will benefit from thoughtful evaluation and transparency regarding this matter.”

Clinton allies, who have accused Comey of repeatedly ignoring Justice Department policies about comments on investigations, hailed the news.

“My reaction is that it’s entirely appropriate and very necessary but also not surprising,” former Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon told MSNBC News.