June 18, 2018
Investigating the Investigators
Senior Fellow, Brennan Center for Justice and Distinguished Visitor from Practice, Georgetown University Law Center
The FBI Director Christopher Wray and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz are on the hot seat. This week Senate and House panels plan to grill these officials about FBI’s decision-making in the probe into presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server.
I noted in a recent USA Today opinion that lawmakers conducting responsible oversight over Department of Justice should take care to avoid adding to the chaos and confusion created by the President’s ludicrous claim that he’s “totally exonerated” in the Russia probe by the IG report.The substantive allegations that Special Counsel Mueller is reviewing regarding collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice were not the subject of the IG report, and it is inappropriate to conflate these matters.
Here are three appropriate lines of oversight questions for the lawmakers to ask Wray and Horowitz:
The IG Report does not examine the Mueller inquiry.
- The IG Report reflects your investigation of FBI and DOJ conduct in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. As part of this investigation, did you review in any way the methods or decisions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller?
- Remarkably, the President says the findings show “no collusion” in the Russia matters and his lead outside attorney responded to report by calling for Mueller to suspend his inquiry. Does the IG Report make any findings that support the President’s claim?
- To date, Mueller’s inquiry to date has resulted in 5 guilty pleas, the indictment of 18 additional individuals or entities, and 1 prison sentence. The individuals who have pled guilty to serious crimes include the President’s former deputy campaign manager and the President’s former top national security advisor. In light of the President’s attempt to conflate the Russia investigation with your recent separate review of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server, please confirm for the record whether you have any reason to believe that any of your report findings call into question the serious criminal indictments to date by Special Counsel Mueller in the Russia inquiry.
The IG Report found that neither the prosecution declination decision in the Clinton e-mail server inquiry nor specific investigative decisions leading up to it were affected by political bias, and the Report does not substantiate the President’s broad assertions about DOJ and FBI corruption.
- You concluded in the IG Report that the prosecutors’ declination decision in the e-mail server inquiry was based on facts and the law, and not political bias. Please explain why you reached this conclusion.
- Do you stand by the Report’s conclusion that political bias did not affect the specific investigative decisions you reviewed that preceded the declination determination?
- The IG Report also concluded that while FBI Director Comey violated department protocol in his handling of the Clinton email investigation, he was not motivated to do so by political bias. Please explain why you reached that conclusion.
The IG Report’s critique of Comey questioned his judgment but did not challenge his truthfulness.
- During the investigation that your office conducted, did you ask former FBI Director Comey questions about the decisions he made and the reasoning behind them?
- Do you have any reason to believe that former FBI Director Comey was dishonest in his responses to your questions?
- Is there anything that former FBI Director Comey said during the course of your investigation that would cause you to question his credibility (as opposed to his judgment)?
And when both hearings are over, it is important to remember that the FBI conduct into the private server hurt presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and helped Trump.