The Justice Department watchdog’s past high-profile probes of FBI cases involving Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and others show a pattern of kid-glove treatment and pulling punches for some powerful people.
That lenient pattern seemed certain to spell disappointment for those hoping for a full condemnation of FBI surveillance abuses from Inspector General Michael Horowitz's latest report on the bureau's Trump-Russia investigation.
In a three-article package (related sidebars are here and here), Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations in September enlisted Justice Department investigative veterans in a warts-and-all look at a man routinely portrayed within the Washington Beltway as a “straight shooter.” This record includes Horowitz's notable tendency to cut important people slack within the institution he has long served.
Sperry found that:
- Horowitz let ex-FBI Director Comey slide in an apparent lie. Horowitz’s old colleague Comey claimed, despite records strongly suggesting otherwise, that he was not told for weeks about an obvious hot potato: the discovery of new emails in the Hillary Clinton investigation.
- Horowitz also accepted Comey’s word that his leaking was not classified. A Comey memo of a conversation with President Trump was deemed merely sensitive – even though it concerned the FBI's counterintelligence investigation of the president’s national security adviser.
- Horowitz took Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch’s word for it on the infamous Phoenix tarmac meeting. He didn’t interview members of the ex-President and Attorney General’s security details about what the powerful pair discussed just before Lynch’s DoJ was to rule on Hillary’s emails.
- Horowitz took Andrew McCabe at his word too. The ex-FBI No. 2 testified that during the Clinton email probe, he knew nothing about a big cash infusion into his wife’s state senate run arranged by a longtime Clinton ally, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe – despite evidence McCabe met with the governor.
- Horowitz didn’t demand Page and Strzok’s private emails. Anti-Trump FBI lovers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page worked and communicated while away from government-authorized devices in an apparent Hillary Clinton-like violation of department rules.
- Horowitz and his wife have supported Democrats. He worked on liberal Barney Frank’s campaign while in college and in 2010 donated to Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, an ex-colleague now running for President who has slammed President Trump for his coziness with Vladimir Putin. Alexandra Kauffman Horowitz is a former Democratic activist and former Washington producer for CNN.
Assessing Horowitz’s work, Chris Swecker, a 24-year investigative veteran of the FBI, said, “I see a pattern of him pulling up short and trying to be a bit of a statesman instead of making the hard calls.” Tom Fitton, president of the watchdog group Judicial Watch, said the IG has exposed some critical facts, but his reports are “cover-ups at the same time.”