The US Justice Department said on Thursday that it will probe a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) decision to announce an inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails shortly before the November presidential election.
The department’s Office of Inspector General said the investigation will focus in part on decisions leading up to public statements by FBI Director James Comey regarding the Clinton investigation and whether they may have been based on “improper considerations”, Reuters reports.
The review comes in response to “requests from numerous chairmen and ranking members of congressional oversight committees, various organizations and members of the public”, Inspector General Michael Horowitz was quoted as saying in a statement.
Clinton has cited Comey’s actions as a factor that contributed to her defeat in the presidential election.
Comey publicly announced the status of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails two times in 2016.
The controversy involved Clinton’s use of a private email server for official correspondence when she was secretary of state under President Barack Obama, including for messages that were later determined to contain classified information.
In July, Comey held a press conference and testified before Congress to explain why the FBI had decided not to refer Clinton for prosecution, explaining that she was “extremely careless” but should not be charged with gross negligence or any other federal crime.
In October, less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election, Comey sent members of Congress a letter saying the FBI was resuming the investigation because of new emails found on the computer of disgraced former Representative Anthony Weiner, the husband of one of Clinton’s top aides.
Although the FBI ultimately decided not to refer Clinton’s case for prosecution, Democrats said Comey’s announcement damaged her with voters right before the election, and he faced complaints that his moves were politically motivated.
Law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, by custom do not disclose information about investigations that do not end in criminal charges.
If the review finds evidence of misconduct, any officials involved would be referred for disciplinary action, the DoJ watchdog said on Thursday.
President-elect Donald Trump, who will be sworn in Jan. 20, will not have the power to dismiss the probe.
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