WASHINGTON — Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz defended his office’s report on the FBI probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during a House committee hearing Tuesday.
Republican committee members asked Horowitz how former FBI co-workers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page – whose extramarital affair was spiced up with frequent bashing of then-candidate Donald Trump – somehow both ended up on the Clinton e-mail investigation, the FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The IG report, released last week, reported on frequent communications between the two. Republicans were especially interested in an Aug. 8, 2016 exchange in which Page wrote, Trump is “not ever going to be President, right? Right!”
Strzok replied, “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.” Some Trump supporters maintain that Strzok’s response suggests a willingness to use his role as a federal law enforcer to influence the 2016 election.
The IG report found the “messages cast a cloud over the FBI’s handling” of the email investigation – but there is no proof that political bias influenced federal prosecutors’ decision not to prosecute Clinton.
Horowitz told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that law enforcement officials are free to participate in politics, as long as “they understand that when they go to work, those views stay behind.”
In the case of Strzok and Page, however, the couple’s inability to temper their political beliefs and the fact that they frequently aired their viewpoints on FBI cellphones makes federal law enforcement look bad.
Three other FBI officials also sent overtly anti-Trump messages. Two of them went to work for Mueller.
Asked if any FBI staff expressed blatantly anti-Clinton statements, Horowitz answered that his office found none, although his team probed only those who worked on the Clinton investigation.
Horowitz also said he could not be sure that bias had no role in Strzok’s month-long delay in examining the laptop of Anthony Weiner, who was married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, even as the FBI agent chose to prioritize a new probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The laptop delay was critical as many Clinton supporters believe her election loss was sealed when then FBI Chief James Comey decided to inform Congress that he was reopening the email probe within days of the November 2016 election.