Charles S. Clark | June 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

Justice Department Watchdog Sets Stage With Congress for Politically Fraught Report

Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz testifies on Capitol Hill in July 2017. Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz testifies on Capitol Hill in July 2017. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

After more than a year of preparations and increasingly partisan pressures, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has given lawmakers a schedule for releasing his long-anticipated report on his agency’s controversial handling of 2016 election probes.

In a June 7 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Horowitz announced June 14 as the release date for the “OIG’s review of Allegations Regarding Various Actions by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Advance of the 2016 Election.”

Senate and House lawmakers immediately announced a revised schedule for hearings postponed as Horowitz’s team went through what the watchdog described as the “ordinary processes for the review and classification of such reports” by people the report addresses. What is expected to be a text of 500 pages or more (with a classified version and appendices that go only to lawmakers) will focus on the FBI’s probe of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s private emails. Portions that have been leaked signal a harsh scrutiny of since-fired FBI Director James Comey and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing will be Monday, June 18, at 10:00 a.m., and the joint hearing by the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform panels will be held Tuesday, June 19 at 10:00 a.m. Both the House and Senate panels have been conducting their own probes of related issues.

President Trump has repeatedly expressed impatience with how long Horowitz has taken to finalize the report, which Trump, according to his tweets, expects to discredit Comey and bolster his case for having fired him. “What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey?” the president tweeted on June 5. “There are so many horrible things to tell, the public has the right to know. Transparency!”

On Friday, Trump added a tweet saying the release on June 14 “might be a nice birthday present for me.”

Many Democrats, however, expect the report to confirm their views that Comey’s decisions to publicly criticize Hillary Clinton—without indicting her—and to tell Congress he was reopening his probe of her emails just days before the election, unfairly helped Trump.

Horowitz, “has a reputation for being a straight shooter,” Matthew Miller, a Justice spokesman during the Obama administration, told Government Executive on Friday.  “I have no idea what his political affiliation is, and he was a prosecutor before he became an IG.”

Miller added: “People have a good understanding about what Trump is trying to argue, inaccurately, that this means the investigation of him [on the Russia collusion matter] is corruptly implicated. But it has nothing to do with that. If it shows that Comey acted inappropriately and interfered in the election, it was in a way that helped Trump.”

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