The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has concluded that James Comey defied authority at times during his tenure as FBI director, according to sources familiar with a draft report on the matter.
One source told ABC News that the draft report explicitly used the word “insubordinate” to describe Comey’s behavior. Another source agreed with that characterization but could not confirm the use of the term.
In the draft report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz also rebuked former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her handling of the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton‘s personal email server, the sources said.
The draft of Horowitz’s wide-ranging report specifically called out Comey for ignoring objections from the Justice Department when he disclosed in a letter to Congress just days before the 2016 presidential election that FBI agents had reopened the Clinton probe, according to sources. Clinton has said that letter doomed her campaign.
Horowitz’s draft report cited Comey for failing to consult with Lynch and other senior Justice Department officials before making his announcement on national TV.
By then, Lynch had taken the unusual step of publicly declaring she would accept the FBI’s recommendations in the case, after an impromptu meeting with former president Bill Clinton sparked questions about her impartiality.
The inspector general’s office seemed to similarly view Lynch’s announcement as strange, with the draft report criticizing her for how she handled the impromptu tarmac meeting and its aftermath, according to sources familiar with the findings.
Nevertheless, ABC News has confirmed that Horowitz’s draft report went on to criticize senior FBI officials, including Comey and fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, for their response to the late discovery of a laptop containing evidence that may have related to the Clinton investigation.
That discovery prompted the FBI’s letter to Congress announcing the reopening of the Hillary Clinton email probe. Hundreds of thousands of emails had been found on the laptop of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, whose wife, Huma Abedin, was a top aide to the secretary of state.
It took weeks for the FBI to start analyzing the laptop’s contents, and Horowitz’s draft report criticized senior FBI officials for how long the laptop languished inside the bureau, sources told ABC News.