Updated at 4 p.m. ET
The Justice Department's watchdog has launched a sweeping review of conduct by the FBI director and other department officials before the presidential election, following calls from Congress and members of the public.
Top advisers to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have blamed FBI Director James Comey, in part, for her loss in November. Now, federal investigators say they will examine whether public statements by Comey in July, October and November 2016 ran afoul of policies that caution officials not to influence the outcome of an election and to avoid making derogatory comments about people who haven't been formally charged with wrongdoing.
Comey has previously told friends and employees that he had few good choices in the investigation into Clinton's handling of classified information on her private email server.
In a statement Thursday, Comey said, "I am grateful to the Department of Justice's IG for taking on this review. He is professional and independent and the FBI will cooperate fully with him and his office. I hope very much he is able to share his conclusions and observations with the public because everyone will benefit from thoughtful evaluation and transparency regarding this matter."
Inspector General Michael Horowitz said he would not "substitute" his judgment on the declination to prosecute Clinton for that of prosecutors and the FBI. And he said the review could expand based on what his investigators encounter along the way.
Among the issues the IG will scrutinize:
- Allegations that Justice Department and FBI staffers improperly leaked details about investigations before the election.
- Claims that some "underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations."
- Allegations that the deputy director of the FBI and the chief congressional liaison at the Justice Department should have recused themselves from the Clinton investigation.
- How the FBI release of information about an old investigation of Bill Clinton's last-minute presidential pardons happened only days before the election and how an FBI Twitter account came to publicize the documents.
Former Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon called the inspector general's announcement "highly encouraging and to be expected given Director Comey's drastic deviation from Justice Department protocol."
Fallon said the probe is "utterly necessary in order to take the first step to restore the FBI's reputation as a nonpartisan institution."