GOP lawmakers await IG rebuke of FBI, DOJ over Clinton email probe

Republicans in the Congress say they expect a report from the Justice Department's internal watchdog due to be released on Thursday to clearly show that former FBI Director James Comey and other top officials mishandled the probe of Hillary Clinton's private email server from her time as Secretary of State, as both parties were poised to grab favorable evidence from the report, said to be several hundred pages in length.

While it was not listed on his schedule issued by the White House, President Donald Trump was expected to be briefed on the report Thursday morning, with lawmakers getting their first look at the findings soon after from Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

"We believe it will talk about some of the misdeeds within the FBI and DOJ, as it related to the Hillary Clinton investigation," said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who told reporters he expected a very public rebuke of Comey's decision to hold a news conference in July 2016 to announce that Clinton would face no charges related to her emails, and possible violations of how classified information was handled by her and top aides at the State Department.

"Violating protocols at the head of the FBI is a problem, it's an ethical problem," Meadows told reporters on Wednesday.

Comey would seem to be the logical target on basic procedural grounds, as he has fully admitted that his news conference about the Clinton email investigation went against Justice Department policies - and that his announcements just before the 2016 elections about possible additional evidence were outside standard procedures as well.

But in testimony before Congress before he was fired by President Trump, Comey defended the moves, saying he felt the Justice Department - and especially Attorney General Loretta Lynch - were seen as too political to announce the findings of the Clinton email investigation.

"Her meeting with President Clinton on that airplane was the capper for me," Comey said of Attorney General Lynch in testimony before Senators last year, as he said that tarmac meeting made him decide that he had to step forward.

"That offered us the best chance of the American people believing in the system," Comey argued.

For months, Republicans have charged that Comey and other top-ranking FBI officials ignored evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton and her top aides, as GOP lawmakers looked for more than just procedural errors by Comey to be highlighted by the IG report.

Asked about his confidence in Inspector General Horowitz, Meadows had high praise - but made clear he might not accept every conclusion, especially if it differed with his reading of the investigation.

"Michael is an honest broker," Meadows told reporters.

"The OIG report will undoubtedly discuss numerous missteps," said Joyce Alene, a federal prosecutor during the Obama Administration.

"But, it was the Trump campaign that benefited from all of them," added Alene on Twitter, who is now a law professor at the University of Alabama.

Democrats argue the election year publicity surrounding the Clinton email investigation - when compared to the FBI silence about an existing counterintelligence probe into Russian ties to the Trump Campaign - certainly shows that Comey was not even handed, as Clinton supporters still bridle at the thought that Comey somehow favored their candidate in 2016.

The IG report is due to be released Thursday; that will be followed by two days of hearings on the findings next week - Monday in the Senate, and Tuesday in the House.

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