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Justice Department Inspector General Testifies Before Senators


More now on that report from the Justice Department's internal watchdog, the report released last week about the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Today the inspector general Michael Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray were answering questions from lawmakers about that report.

NPR's Ryan Lucas was following along. Hey there, Ryan.


KELLY: Headlines from today's hearing?

LUCAS: Well, as expected, Republicans and Democrats really basically retreated to their corners on this. Both sides are happy to beat up former FBI Director James Comey, but they came at him from different angles. So Democrats say the report shows that Comey's decision to speak publicly about the Clinton investigation and not about the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia was a double standard.


LUCAS: They also say that every decision that Comey made regarding the Clinton probe hurt Clinton and helped Trump. Republicans, on the other hand, are focusing on text messages that the inspector general discovered that were sent by senior FBI officials that displayed anti-Trump sentiments. Republican lawmakers say that these texts point to political bias within the FBI, that they cast a cloud over not just the Clinton investigation but the Russia investigation as well.

KELLY: All right, so Republicans and Democrats in their corners. What about the inspector general? Is it clear what he thinks about these text messages and whether they showed political bias against Trump?

LUCAS: Well, the inspector general says he found no evidence of political bias in the decision not to charge Clinton with wrongdoing. But he says the text messages are evidence of strong political opinions among those who worked on the investigation. And he says that those messages sow doubt about the FBI's handling of the Clinton probe. But again, the IG didn't find any evidence that those views impacted prosecutorial decisions.

KELLY: You mentioned the Russia investigation. Let me follow up 'cause we keep pointing out that there are a couple of investigations underway. They are separate. But how much of this battle playing out about the Clinton email investigation is really about the other, the Russia probe that's still underway?

LUCAS: A lot of this fight is about the future and shaping the landscape, so to speak, around special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The president, for example, said last week after this report came out that it totally exonerated him of collusion. Now, Democrats asked the inspector general about that today. Here's an exchange between Senator Patrick Leahy and the inspector general Horowitz.


PATRICK LEAHY: But there's nothing in the report that says it exonerates the president from any question of collusion with the Russians. It says nothing one way or the other. Is that correct?

MICHAEL HOROWITZ: We did not look into collusion questions.

LUCAS: That's true. The report does not look into questions of collusion or the Russia investigation. The Republican chairman of the committee, Chuck Grassley, came at this from the opposite side. He pushed lines really that we've kind of heard from the president. He said the Justice Department has a serious credibility problem, and that the FBI used kid gloves for Clinton and what he said were bare-knuckle tactics on the Trump-Russia investigation.

KELLY: Here's my question, Ryan. Now that we have the inspector general report, it's completed. It's out. We can argue about what it means and what it tells us. But can we finally stop talking about Hillary Clinton's emails and move on?

LUCAS: (Laughter) As long as it is politically expedient for either side to lean on the Clinton investigation, they will. As for what happens next, FBI Director Christopher Wray at this hearing said that he has set up a dedicated unit to focus on leaks, and they are investigating a number of leaks right now. The inspector general, meanwhile, he confirmed that his office is looking into Comey's handling of the personal memos that he wrote detailing his interactions with the president.

The inspector general was also asked if his invest - if his office is investigating possible leaks to Rudy Giuliani about the Clinton probe. He would only say that our investigative work is ongoing. And of course we're also waiting for the inspector general's review of certain actions early on in the Russia investigation.

KELLY: More to come. NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.