President Donald Trump on Friday suggested a Justice Department inspector general report that faulted the FBI for its actions during the 2016 campaign shows James B. Comey is not credible as the president tries to sow doubts about the agency’s Russia probe.
The department released the IG’s final report on the FBI’s handling of a probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State, which contained an anecdote from one senior agent involved in that case texting another about the prospect of then-businessman and reality television star Trump becoming president: “We’ll stop it.”
The report found no evidence that agent or others within the bureau acted out of political bias during the 2016 election cycle, but that is not stopping the president and his aides from using it to their ends — including to ding Comey, the former FBI director Trump fired and who already has spoken to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Trump tweeted Friday morning that the IG’s findings are “a total disaster for Comey, his minions and sadly, the FBI.” The president, who admitted in a television interview that the Russia probe was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey. He has since denied that.
Watch: Corker Chastises Fellow Republicans for Blocking His Tariff Amendment
Trump ripped the agents who exchanged the texts and reiterated his contentions that “Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI” and that he “did a great service to the people in firing him.”
The IG Report is a total disaster for Comey, his minions and sadly, the FBI. Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI. I did a great service to the people in firing him. Good Instincts. Christopher Wray will bring it proudly back!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2018
FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the Clinton & Russia investigations, texted to his lover Lisa Page, in the IG Report, that “we’ll stop” candidate Trump from becoming President. Doesn’t get any lower than that!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2018
“The president was briefed on the IG report earlier today and it reaffirmed the president’s suspicions about Comey’s conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.
The president’s tweet and ongoing attacks on Comey’s credibility matter, even if they are — as legal experts say — unlikely to influence Mueller’s thinking about whether to bring charges against Trump or some of his closest aides and family members. That’s because the attempts to paint Comey as biased and not credible appear aimed at influencing public opinion, which matters greatly since impeachment is a political matter.
The Trump team knows the president continues to poll well in GOP strongholds and even some of the blue-collar areas he won to the shock of the Clinton campaign. If constituents in those places have doubts about Comey, their representatives might not support impeachment proceedings and could be reluctant to buck their voters by voting to impeach the 45th chief executive.
House Democrats on Thursday also used the report and its findings about Comey to push their own narrative, one that runs counter to the Trump’s contention that the then-FBI boss was out to get him and stop him from becoming president.
“The stark conclusion we draw after reviewing this report is that the FBI's actions helped Donald Trump become president,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a joint statement,
“Director Comey had a double-standard: He spoke publicly about the Clinton investigation while keeping secret from the American people the investigation of Donald Trump and Russia,” the duo said. “The FBI should not have spoken publicly about the case after recommending against criminal charges. They should not have revealed that they had reopened the case just days before the election.”