DOJ inspector general cannot identify FBI leaks regarding Clinton server in lead-up to 2016 election

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A yearslong investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general revealed that numerous FBI employees had “substantial” media contacts prior to the 2016 presidential election, but it could not determine who leaked sensitive information to reporters.

The 10-page report issued Thursday by Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that while FBI policies strictly limit the employees who are authorized to speak to the media, those rules “appeared to be widely ignored” in 2016.

The new findings expand upon the investigative work included in a June 2018 report entitled the “Review of Allegations Regarding Various Actions by the Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Advance of the 2016 Election (2016 pre-election report).” 

The IG report reads in part: “Among the issues we reviewed in that report were allegations that FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information regarding the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The FBI has a strict policy that limits the number of employees who are authorized to speak with the media, and requires approval for any others.

“We identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters,” it continues. 

The IG stated that it “determined this information from reviewing FBI records and through forensic examination of FBI electronic devices,” including text message communications and phone records that did not reflect the “substance” of communication. However, the IG did not seek a court order to compel service providers to produce personal email communications.

“The large number of FBI employees who were in contact with journalists during this time period impacted our ability to identify the sources of leaks. For example, during the periods we reviewed, we identified dozens of FBI employees that had contact with members of the media.”

The report said its ability to identify the leakers was also hampered by that the fact that in some instances, more than 100 employees had access to the sensitive information that was leaked.

The report detailed three senior officials who had numerous unauthorized contact with media between January and November 2916, including unauthorized social engagements, such as drinks and dinners, which violated FBI policy. In addition, the IG referred six employees at FBI headquarters to the FBI for it to determine whether their media contacts warrant disciplinary or other corrective action.

The IG report also found no evidence FBI personnel leaked any sensitive information to Rudy Giuliani about the Hillary Clinton email server investigation. 

Giuliani claimed days before the 2016 election that Trump had some “pretty big surprises” he was prepared to reveal. Two days after that statement then-FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau was reopening its Clinton email probe. 

The IG’s office confirmed they spoke directly with Giuliani, saying in the report: “As a result of the content and timing of these public statements by Giuliani suggesting that current or former FBI personnel may have provided non-public investigative information to him, the OIG contacted Giuliani, who agreed to appear for a voluntary interview.”

Giuliani told the IG: “[Director] Comey’s statements were a shock to me. I had no foreknowledge of any of them.” 

The report continues, “He also said he had not been in contact with any active FBI agents in October 2016, and stated that he had only spoken with former agents who did not have any direct or indirect knowledge of FBI investigations in October 2016, and that the extent of his conversations with former agents was “gossip” about Comey’s decision-making in 2016.”

Since the 2016 pre-election report, the IG states that the FBI has taken steps to improve the FBI’s procedures and “cultural attitude” and “disciplinary penalties” regarding unauthorized contacts with the media. 

Fox News’ Kelly Laco contributed to this report.

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