The White House offered its first reaction to the release of the Department of Justice Inspector General’s investigation Thursday into actions by the DOJ and FBI in advance of the 2016 election, saying it solidifies some of the president’s harsh criticism against current and former top law enforcement officials.
“The president was briefed on the I.G. Report earlier today,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a press briefing Thursday. “And it reaffirmed the president’s suspicions about [former FBI Director James] Comey’s conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was in the White House complex for more than two hours earlier Thursday before heading to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers on the inspector general’s findings along with FBI Director Chris Wray.
Sanders said reporters should tune into Wray’s press conference planned later in the day for further questions regarding the IG’s findings.
More than a week ago, President Trump tweeted raising suspicions about “numerous delays” in the release of the IG report, saying he hoped the “report is not being changed and made weaker!”
What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey. Numerous delays. Hope Report is not being changed and made weaker! There are so many horrible things to tell, the public has the right to know. Transparency!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
The president has previously pointed to text message exchanges between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and FBI agent Peter Strzok that included insults directed at Trump as evidence that both the investigation into his campaign’s potential ties to Russia and the outcome of the Hillary Clinton email investigation were tainted.
A new exchange released in Thursday’s IG report showed Strzok in an August 2016 text to Page said “We’ll stop it” regarding a question on whether Trump could be elected president. The IG said text implied “a willingness [by Strzok] to take official action to impact a presidential candidate’s electoral prospects,” even if there was no evidence found that any such action was taken by either Strzok or Page.
In a January interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump went as far to accuse Strzok of “treason” regarding his political texts.
Sanders on Thursday was asked whether the president believes Strzok should still be employed at the FBI.
“I haven’t asked him but my guess would be no,” Sanders said.
On Capitol Hill, members of Congress also reacted to the investigation. Deomcratic Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Intelligence committee, said the report is an example where the system worked.
“There were concerns raised, the inspector general did a thorough and respectful review, pointed out mistakes that were made, so that the White House and its allies that continue to make ad hominem attacks on the integrity of virtually everybody who works at the Department of Justice and the FBI I hope would go on to a bit of a pause,” Warner said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, also said that even though some political bias may have been shown in the text messages it did not impact the results of the investigation into Clinton’s emails.
“Director Comey and others made serious errors of judgment and while these errors in judgment were not driven by political considerations they were nevertheless serious mistakes. Those mistakes unquestionably have the effect of helping the Trump campaign, that was not by design but that was the effect,” Schiff said.
Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Jerrold Nadler of New York said the report shows the FBI helped Trump get elected and that the agency should not have spoken publicly about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email.
Cummings and Nadler said in a statement that the report is also ironic because Republicans in Congress are using the same kind of attacks to target special counsel Robert Mueller. Another Democrat, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, tweeted that the report is not proof of a conspiracy and that Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election should be allowed to proceed without interference.
This is not proof of a ‘Deep State’ or evidence of a conspiracy against the President. Most importantly, this does nothing to undermine the important investigation that Special Counsel Mueller is conducting into Russian interference with our election.
— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) June 14, 2018
Cummings and Nadler are the top Democrats on the House Oversight and House Judiciary committees, respectively.
Some Republicans said the report emphasized that the FBI was biased or spent too much energy talking to reporters.
As a former federal prosecutor, I am astonished and disappointed by the tremendous level of bias and animus revealed in the IG report. My preliminary review leads me to believe that President Trump deserved better than he got from the FBI and DOJ.
— John Ratcliffe (@RepRatcliffe) June 14, 2018
The #IGReport makes it overwhelmingly clear that the FBI top brass was obsessed with the media.
Maybe if they didn’t have more than a dozen individuals contacting a single reporter, they would have actually run a real investigation. pic.twitter.com/p6Uth626SA
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) June 14, 2018