WASHINGTON A U.S. government watchdog said on Thursday it would examine whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation followed proper procedures in its probe of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
The inspector general’s announcement comes amid outcry from Democrats who say Clinton’s loss to President-elect Donald Trump was in part due to Comey’s bringing Clinton’s emails back into the public spotlight less than two weeks before the 2016 election.
The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said its probe would focus in part on decisions leading up to public communications by FBI Director James Comey regarding the Clinton investigation, and whether underlying investigative decisions may have been based on “improper considerations.”
Although the FBI ultimately decided not to refer Clinton’s case for prosecution, Comey aroused suspicion that may have diminished trust in Clinton among voters.
The controversy involved Clinton’s use of a private email server for official correspondence when she was secretary of state under President Barack Obama, including for messages that were later determined to contain classified information.
Comey publicly announced the status of the agency’s investigation into Clinton’s emails two times in 2016.
In July, Comey held a press conference and testified before Congress to explain why the FBI had decided not to refer Clinton for prosecution, explaining that she was “extremely careless” but should not be charged with gross negligence or any other federal crime.
In October, less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election, Comey said the FBI was continuing the investigation because of new emails found on the computer of disgraced former Representative Anthony Weiner, the husband of one of Clinton’s top aides.
On Nov. 6, Comey said the investigation into Weiner’s computer produced no new evidence that would incriminate Clinton.
Brian Fallon, Clinton’s spokesman, told MSNBC on Thursday that Comey’s actions “cried out for an independent review.”
It is the usual practice of prosecutors and law enforcement, including the FBI, not to disclose information about investigations that do not end in criminal charges.
(Reporting by Timothy Ahmann; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)