Thousands more migrant children may have been split from their families than the Trump administration previously reported, in part because officials were stepping up family separations long before the border policy that prompted international outrage last spring, a government watchdog said Thursday.
It’s unclear just how many family separations occurred at the U.S.-Mexico border; immigration officials are allowed under longstanding policy to separate families under certain circumstances. Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with caring for migrant children, did not adequately track them until after a judge ruled that children must be reunited with their families, according to the report by the agency’s inspector general.
Ann Maxwell, assistant inspector general for evaluations, said the number of children removed from their parents was certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents. Those documents chronicled separations that took place as parents were criminally prosecuted for illegally entering the country under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.
“It’s certainly more,” Maxwell said. “But precisely how much more is unknown.”
Maxwell said investigators didn’t have specific numbers, but that Health and Human Services staff had estimated the tally to be in the thousands.
Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who sued on behalf of a mother separated from her son, said the separation policy “was a cruel disaster from the start. This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents.”
Most of the tens of thousands of children who come into government custody cross the border alone. But the report found that in late 2016, 0.3 percent of children turned over to Health and Human Services had crossed with a parent and were separated. By the summer of 2017, that percentage had grown to 3.6 percent, officials said. The watchdog did not give exact numbers, but the total number of migrant children who passed through the agency’s care during the 2017 budget year was 40,810. The separated children had already been released to sponsors, who are generally parents or other close relatives.
The inspector general did not say why the children had been separated before the zero-tolerance policy. Immigration officials are allowed to take a child from a parent in certain cases — serious criminal charges against a parent, concerns over the health and welfare of a child or medical concerns. That policy has long been in place.
Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security, said the report reinforced what officials have long said. “For more than a decade it was and continues to be standard for apprehended minors to be separated when the adult is not the parent or legal guardian, the child’s safety is at risk” or there’s a record of a “serious criminal activity by the adult,” she said.
In some cases, however, Homeland Security officials said a parent had a criminal history but did not offer details on the crimes, the watchdog reported.
The number of families coming across the border has grown even as overall illegal border crossings have decreased dramatically compared with historic trends. Over the past three months, families made up the majority of Border Patrol arrests.
The Administration for Children and Families, the division under Health and Human Services that manages the care of unaccompanied minors, said it generally agreed with the findings and noted the report did not find that the agency lost track of children under its care. It also noted new policies were in place to help track newly separated children. And the court never instructed officials to determine the number of children separated before the June 26 ruling.
Last spring, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said anyone caught crossing the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted. Families were brought into custody by U.S. Border patrol officials, then their parents taken to criminal court. If the parents were gone longer than 72 hours — the length of time Border Patrol is allowed to hold children — the children were transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services.
The practice prompted an outcry, with church groups and lawmakers calling the separations inhumane. Trump ordered an end to the separations on June 20. At the time, a federal judge who was already hearing the case of a mother separated from her son ruled that children must be reunited with their parents. Since the court order, 118 children have been separated.
Despite “considerable” effort by Health and Human Services to locate all the children placed in its care, the report said officials were still finding new cases as long as five months after the judge’s order requiring reunifications.
“There is even less visibility for separated children who fall outside the court case,” investigators concluded.
They said it’s not clear the system put in place to track separated children is good enough. And the lack of detail from immigration authorities continues to be an issue.
The border remains a crucible for the Trump administration, with a partial government shutdown that has dragged on nearly a month over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall that congressional Democrats are unwilling to provide.
The inspector general’s office was also looking into other aspects of the separations, including the health and mental well-being of the children who had been separated. It expects to have other reports on the topic.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he would hold the government accountable in the matter. “The Trump administration, with its unique blend of incompetence, cruelty, and disregard for basic decency, misled the American public on one of its most heinous policies to date,” he said in a statement.
President Donald Trump is claiming exoneration in the Russia matter from a Justice Department report that actually offers him none. He’s also branding fired FBI chief James Comey a criminal, though the report in question makes no such accusation.
Fallout from the internal report by the department’s inspector general capped a week of diplomacy with North Korea, trade spats on several fronts and growing attention to an immigration policy that is splitting children from parents after their arrests at the border. Trump dropped misrepresentations into the mix at every turn.
TRUMP: “I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you’ll see that. … I think that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited.” — remarks to reporters Friday.
THE FACTS: The report neither exonerated nor implicated Trump. It did not make any findings about collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice. It did not discredit, or give credence to, special counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation into Russian interference in the election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russians. The report was about the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices.
TRUMP on Comey: “Certainly he, they just seem like criminal acts to me. What he did was criminal. … Should he be locked up? Let somebody make a determination.” — to Fox News on Friday.
THE FACTS: The report does not substantiate Trump’s lock-him-up rhetoric. Comey was roundly faulted by the inspector general for violating FBI practices and for insubordination in making public statements about the Clinton investigation at the height of the presidential campaign. The report also revealed communications among some FBI employees who plainly wanted Trump to lose. But it does not support Trump’s complaint that political bias influenced the conduct of the email investigation into his Democratic rival.
Nor does it allege any criminal behavior by Comey, who has been accused by Clinton supporters of taking actions that hurt her election chances.
Trump, on family separations at the border: “The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children.” And: “I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.” — remarks to reporters Friday.
THE FACTS: It’s not their law. There is no law mandating the separation of children and parents at the border.
The separations are a consequence of a Trump administration policy to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. That means more adults are jailed, pending trial, so their children are removed from them. Before the policy, many people who were accused of illegal entry and did not have a criminal record were merely referred for civil deportation proceedings, which generally did not break up families.
The policy was announced April 6 and went into effect in May. From April 19 to May 31, 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults, according to Homeland Security statistics obtained by The Associated Press. The figures are for people who tried to enter the U.S. between official border crossings.
Trump’s repeated, but nonspecific references to a Democratic law appear to involve one enacted in 2008. It passed unanimously in Congress and was signed by Republican President George W. Bush. It was focused on freeing and otherwise helping children who come to the border without a parent or guardian. It does not call for family separation.
TRUMP: “The economy is the best it’s ever been with employment being at an all-time high.” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Thanks largely to population growth, the number of people with jobs is, in fact, at a record high of 155.5 million. But a more relevant measure — the proportion of Americans with jobs — isn’t even close to a record.
Last month, 60.4 percent of Americans 16 and older had jobs. That is up from the recession and its aftermath, when many Americans stopped looking for work. It bottomed out at 58.2 percent in July 2011. Both figures are far below the record high of 64.7 percent, which was briefly reached in 2000. At the beginning of the 2008-2009 recession, 62.7 percent of Americans had jobs.
Economists estimate that at least half of the decline reflects ongoing retirements by the huge baby boom generation. For Americans in their prime working years — age 25 through 54 — roughly 79 percent have jobs. That’s up substantially from the post-recession low of 74.8 percent in November 2010. But it’s below the record of 81.9 percent in April 2000.
TRUMP: “Oil prices are too high, OPEC is at it again. Not good!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: He oversimplifies the reasons for increased prices.
OPEC is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Members of the cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, and other big producers including Russia have contributed to reversing the plunge in crude oil prices that started in 2014. They have shown discipline in limiting production since the start of last year, helping push up the benchmark price of international crude.
Prices, however, were already rising on growing demand and expectations that a sharp pullback in new investment by oil companies would reduce the oil supply.
Some estimates put the post-crash reduction in investment by major oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP at more than $1 trillion — almost akin to eliminating the fourth-largest oil producer in the world.
Meanwhile, output from Venezuela, a major oil exporter to the U.S., has plunged as the South American country goes through a political and economic crisis.
Then there is Iran, OPEC’s third-biggest producer. Iran boosted production after the U.S. lifted sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program in 2016. But analysts expect output to fall when Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal takes full effect later this year.
TRUMP: “Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%.” — tweet June 10. Two days earlier: “Canada charges the U.S. a 270% tariff on Dairy Products! They didn’t tell you that, did they? Not fair to our farmers!”
THE FACTS: He’s not telling the whole story. While Canadian dairy tariffs average nearly 249 percent, the troubles that U.S. dairy farmers face can’t all be blamed on Canada.
Canadian trade policies have had only a “tiny impact” on America’s struggling dairy farmers, says Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis.
Despite Canadian barriers, the United States last year ran a $474 million trade surplus in dairy with Canada, and exported $636 million in dairy products to Canada while importing $162 million, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Dairy is barely a blip — 0.1 percent — in U.S.-Canada trade, which amounted to $680 billion last year. As a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, “99 percent of the trade between Canada and the U.S. is tariff-free,” said Bruce Heyman, former U.S. ambassador to Canada. Overall, the U.S. ran a nearly $3 billion surplus in trade with Canada last year.
TRUMP: “Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea…” —tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: His claim that there is no nuclear threat is an exaggeration. The five-hour nuclear summit gave the two leaders an opportunity to express optimism. But it didn’t nail down how and when North Korea might denuclearize.
North Korea is still believed to have a significant nuclear arsenal that could potentially threaten the U.S. Independent experts say the North could have enough fissile material for anywhere between about a dozen and 60 nuclear bombs. Last year, it tested long-range missiles that could range the U.S. mainland although it remains unclear if it has mastered the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead that could re-enter the atmosphere and hit its target.
TRUMP: Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President (Barack) Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight!” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Trump is wrong to say there was an assumption before he took office that the United States would go to war. Obama had used sanctions to no avail to try to halt North Korea’s nuclear program. But it wasn’t until after Trump took office that North Korea’s testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile and rhetoric between the two leaders heightened talk of war.
TRUMP: “Chairman Kim and I just signed a joint statement in which he reaffirms his unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We also agreed to vigorous negotiations to implement the agreement as soon as possible, and he wants to do that. This isn’t the past. This isn’t another administration that never got it started and, therefore, never got it done.” — remarks Tuesday at news conference with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong in suggesting his administration is the first to start on denuclearization with North Korea. The Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations both did so.
Clinton reached an aid-for-disarmament deal in 1994 that halted North Korea’s plutonium production for eight years, freezing what was then a very small nuclear arsenal. Bush took a tougher stance toward North Korea, and the 1994 nuclear deal collapsed because of suspicions that the North was running a secret uranium enrichment program. Bush, too, ultimately pursued negotiations. That led to a temporary disabling of some nuclear facilities, but talks fell apart because of differences over verification.
TRUMP: “He actually mentioned the fact that they proceeded down a path in the past and ultimately as you know nothing got done. In one case, they took billions of dollars during the Clinton regime. … Took billions of dollars and nothing happened.” He said of Clinton: “He spent $3 billion and got nothing.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: His numbers are incorrect. The Clinton administration, which he calls a “regime,” and the Bush administration combined provided some $1.3 billion in assistance from 1995 to 2008, says the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of Congress. Slightly more than half was for food aid and 40 percent for energy assistance.
He’s also wrong in saying “nothing happened” in return. North Korea stopped producing plutonium for eight years under the 1994 agreement. Just how much was achieved, though, is in question, because of the suspicions that emerged later that North Korea had been secretly seeking to enrich uranium.
TRUMP, on Kim’s agreement to work to repatriate the remains of prisoners of the Korean War and those missing in action from the conflict: “He gave us the remains of our great heroes.” — remarks to reporters Friday.
THE FACTS: That’s false. No remains have been returned since the summit, as of Friday. The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.
TRUMP: “He’s giving us back the remains of probably 7,500 soldiers.” — to Fox News on Friday.
TRUMP: “I asked for it today. And we got it. … So, for the thousands and thousands, I guess way over 6,000 that we know of in terms of the remains, they’ll be brought back.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Also wrong. About 5,300 U.S. troops are still unaccounted for from North Korea.
Trump is also glossing over the surely impossible odds of locating the remains of all Americans missing from the war, more than six decades later. Several thousand are still missing in South Korea despite its close alliance and history of cooperation with the U.S.
North Korea and the United States remain technically at war because the 1950-53 fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. But between 1996 and 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 joint recovery operations and recovered 229 sets of American remains.
TRUMP: “I remember a nuclear event took place, 8.8 on the Richter scale, and they announced — I heard it on the radio, they announced that a massive, you know, an earthquake took place somewhere in Asia. And then they said it was in North Korea, and then they found out it was a nuclear test, I said, I never heard of a Richter scale in the high eights.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: North Korea had no earthquake last year approaching that level of severity. This isn’t the first time he has misrepresented the episode.
North Korea tested what it called a hydrogen bomb in September, causing an underground blast so big it registered as a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Other nuclear tests last year were associated with smaller seismic events.
An 8.8 quake would be 316 times bigger — and release 5,623 times more energy — than a 6.3.
In the past 15 years there have been three earthquakes that were an 8.8 or higher: the 9.1 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 that killed nearly 16,000 people, a 9.1 earthquake and tsunami off northern Sumatra in 2004 that killed about 250,000 people and an 8.8 earthquake off Chile in 2010 that killed 524.
Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber, Colleen Long, Matthew Pennington, Seth Borenstein and Paul Wiseman in Washington, David Koenig in Dallas and Elliot Spagat in San Francisco contributed to this report.
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In a stinging report, the Justice Department watchdog said Thursday that former FBI Director James Comey was “insubordinate” in his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the 2016 presidential election. But it also concluded there was no evidence that Comey was motivated by political bias.
President Donald Trump has looked to the hotly anticipated report to provide a fresh line of attack against Comey and the FBI as he claims that a politically tainted bureau tried to undermine his campaign and — through the later Russia investigation — his presidency.
Clinton and her supporters, on the other hand, have complained that Comey’s later announcement, shortly before the election, that the investigation was being reopened badly hurt her chances to defeat her Republican rival.
But the nuanced findings provide no conclusions to support either Republicans or Democrats who want to claim total vindication.
The inspector general’s report concluded that Comey, who announced in the summer of 2016 that Clinton would not be charged with any crime in the email probe, departed from normal Justice Department protocol numerous times.
But it also says, “We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, we determined that they were based on the prosecutors’ assessment of the facts, the law and past department practice.”
Trump is certain to try to use the report to validate his firing of Comey last year, an act that is central to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice.
But the report will likely deny the president a favored talking point that the FBI favored Clinton over him and that its leaders were driven by politics. It does not second-guess the FBI’s conclusion that Clinton should not have been prosecuted, despite repeated assertions by Trump and his supporters that anyone less politically connected than she would have been charged.
The conclusions were contained in a 500-page report that document in painstaking detail one of the most consequential investigations in modern FBI history and reveal how the bureau, which for decades has endeavored to stand apart from politics, came to be entangled in the 2016 presidential election.
The report alleges a long series of misjudgments that Democrats will likely use to support their belief that Clinton was wronged by the FBI.
The watchdog faults Comey for his unusual July 5, 2016, news conference at which he disclosed his recommendation against bringing charges. Charging announcements are normally made by the Justice Department, not the FBI. Cases that end without charges are rarely discussed publicly.
In this instance, Comey said that the FBI found Clinton and her aides to be “extremely careless” in handling classified material but “no reasonable prosecutor” could have brought a case against her. At a congressional hearing last May, he said he was concerned that the Justice Department itself could not “credibly” announce the conclusion of its investigation, in part because then-attorney general, Loretta Lynch, had met aboard her plane with former President Bill Clinton.
Also criticized was Comey’s decision, against the recommendation of the Justice Department, to reveal to Congress that the FBI was reopening the investigation following the discovery of new emails.
The FBI obtained a warrant nine days before the presidential election to review those emails, found on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, and ultimately determined that there was nothing in them that changed its original conclusion.
The inspector general also faulted the FBI for failing to act with more urgency in reviewing emails from Weiner’s laptop.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is expected to criticize the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, stepping into a political minefield while examining how a determinedly nonpartisan law enforcement agency came to be entangled in the 2016 presidential race.
The inspector general’s report is set for release Thursday afternoon. It’s likely to be painstakingly detailed, the culmination of an 18-month review into one of the most consequential FBI investigations in recent history.
President Donald Trump will look to the inspector general report to provide a fresh line of attack against two former top FBI officials, Director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, as he claims that a politically tainted bureau tried to undermine his campaign and, through the Russia investigation, his presidency. Trump will almost certainly use the report to validate his firing of Comey last year.
But the report could do more to back Democratic claims that the FBI contributed to Clinton’s defeat, most notably by reopening in the final days of the race its investigation into whether she mishandled classified information. That development unfolded as Trump’s own campaign — unbeknownst at the time to the American public — also came under FBI investigation for possible coordination with Russia.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz, a former federal prosecutor appointed by President Barack Obama, prepared the report. Supporters from both parties regard him as apolitical. His most significant report before this one was the 2012 study of the botched Obama-era gun operation known as Fast and Furious.
The Clinton report will examine key actions by FBI leaders. Those include Comey’s decision to publicly announce in July 2016 his recommendation against criminal charges for Clinton, and his disclosure to Congress days before the election that the investigation was being revived because of newly discovered emails.
People familiar with the report’s findings say the inspector general has reached unflattering conclusions for many FBI officials. They were not authorized to discuss the report by name ahead of its release and requested anonymity. An earlier inspector general report criticized McCabe and led to his firing on allegations that he misled internal investigators about his role in a news media disclosure. He denies those charges.
Trump, seeking to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, has eagerly awaited the report in hopes that it would skewer the judgment of Comey and make clear that his termination — central to the question of whether the president sought to obstruct justice — was justified. The White House initially pointed to Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation as the rationale for the firing, though Trump complicated that claim days later when he said he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he dismissed him.
Though Trump has repeatedly lambasted the FBI as politically biased against him, the inspector general’s report — no matter how critical — is unlikely to endorse that conclusion, especially since some of the actions being examined broke from protocol in ways that may have harmed Clinton.
Comey’s news conference disclosing the investigation’s conclusion was unusual since charging announcements are normally made by the Justice Department, not the FBI. Cases that end without charges are rarely discussed publicly.
In this instance, Comey said that though the FBI found Clinton and her aides to be “extremely careless” in handling classified material, “no reasonable prosecutor” could have brought a case against her. At a congressional hearing last May, he said he was concerned that the Justice Department could not “credibly” announce the conclusion of its investigation, in part because the attorney general at the time, Loretta Lynch, had met aboard her plane with former President Bill Clinton.
Lynch described the meeting as a chance encounter unrelated to the case, but Clinton’s critics seized on it to question her objectivity.
Also investigated was Comey’s decision, against the recommendation of the Justice Department, to reveal to Congress that the FBI was reopening the investigation following the discovery of new emails. The FBI obtained a warrant nine days before the presidential election to review those emails, found on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, and ultimately determined that there was nothing in them that changed its original conclusion.
Again, Clinton aides, Democrats and former Justice Department officials from both parties criticized Comey, saying he should not have publicly discussed an investigative action especially before he knew whether the emails were significant. People familiar with the report say it criticizes the FBI for not moving quickly enough to review the new emails.
Comey has said he felt compelled to alert Congress to the new emails, after having previously testified that the investigation was done.
Comey said he faced the tough choice of speaking out or concealing the information. “And I could be wrong, but we honestly made a decision between those two choices that even in hindsight — and this has been one of the world’s most painful experiences — I would make the same decision.”
During the inspector general’s probe, officials discovered anti-Trump text messages between an FBI lawyer and an agent on the Clinton case who was later assigned to Mueller’s team. That agent, Peter Strzok, was removed from the team once the texts were brought to Mueller’s attention.
The investigation also looked at whether McCabe should have recused himself from the Clinton case since his wife received campaign contributions from the political action committee of then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton ally, in her failed state Senate run.
The FBI has said that McCabe received ethics approvals and did not oversee the Clinton investigation at the time of the contributions. Trump has repeatedly cited the contributions in denouncing McCabe.
An upcoming report from the Justice Department’s internal watchdog is expected to criticize senior FBI leaders for not moving quickly enough to review a trove of Hillary Clinton emails discovered late in the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the findings.
The FBI’s timing has been a sore point for Clinton supporters, who say then-director James Comey’s announcement of the new review less than two weeks before the Nov. 8, 2016, election contributed to her loss. The agency’s findings affirming its decision not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton were disclosed two days before the vote — too late, her supporters say, to undo the damage.
Some FBI officials knew in September 2016 of the emails on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop but the bureau did not obtain a warrant to review them until the following month. Clinton allies say the candidate’s name could have been cleared much faster if the FBI acted on the emails as soon as they knew of their existence.
An inspector general report examining a broad range of FBI actions during the Clinton email investigation will criticize officials, including Comey, for not moving fast enough to examine the email trove and for a weekslong delay in getting a warrant, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.
A lawyer for Comey and spokespeople for the inspector general and the FBI all declined to comment Monday.
The report will likely revive scrutiny of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton case and the extent to which it helped shape the outcome of the presidential election. Its conclusions may cut against President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that the FBI was working against him during the campaign and instead revive allegations that the bureau broke from protocol in ways that ultimately harmed Clinton.
The nonpolitical watchdog has been repeatedly pulled into the partisan arena amid demands to investigate FBI actions in the early stages of its probe of possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
On Sunday, the Justice Department asked the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to expand his existing investigation to look into whether Trump associates were improperly monitored during the campaign for political reasons.
The report dealing with the Clinton emails arises from a wide-ranging investigation launched in January 2017. It has been examining actions including Comey’s decision to announce his recommendation against criminal charges at an FBI headquarters news conference and his decision months later to alert Congress that the probe had been reopened because of the discovery of email messages on Weiner’s laptop.
The report is also expected to criticize two FBI officials who exchanged derogatory text messages about Trump during the course of the Clinton investigation.
A draft of the report has been completed, and officials whose actions are scrutinized in it have been permitted with their lawyers to review it and respond to the findings. The final version is expected out next month.
A separate inspector general report from last month faulted former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for misleading investigators about his role in a 2016 news media disclosure about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
McCabe, who has denied wrongdoing, was fired because of those findings, and the inspector general has referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington for possible criminal prosecution.
Weiner is the former husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. His laptop was being analyzed by FBI investigators as part of a separate sexting investigation involving a teenage girl. Weiner, a former Democratic congressman from New York, is serving a 21-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to sending obscene material to a 15-year-old girl.
In his book released last month, “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey writes that he learned in early October — probably from McCabe — that Weiner’s laptop might hold a connection to the Clinton email investigation. He said he did not recall the conversation clearly and that it seemed like a “passing comment and the notion that Anthony Weiner’s computer might connect to … Hillary Clinton made no sense to me.”
Comey said it wasn’t until the morning of Oct. 27 when FBI officials asked his permission to seek a warrant for the Clinton emails, having determined that “hundreds of thousands of emails” from Clinton’s personal email domain existed on the computer and that there was no way Weiner would consent to a search of his entire laptop given the legal trouble he was in.
Some of the emails on the laptop had been forwarded by Abedin to Weiner to be printed out while others had been stored there after being backed up from personal electronic devices.
The FBI subsequently obtained a warrant, and though Comey said he was told there was no chance the email review would be done before the election, he announced on Nov. 6 that, “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.”
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he won’t immediately appoint a new special counsel to investigate a number of Republican grievances involving the FBI and Justice Department, despite mounting pressure from members of his own party.
Sessions, in a letter to three Republican committee leaders, reiterated that he had directed a senior federal prosecutor, Utah’s U.S. attorney John W. Huber, to evaluate “certain issues,” including whether such an appointment is necessary. Huber’s review is ongoing, and Sessions said he gets regular updates.
The letter is likely to unnerve Republican lawmakers, who have called for multiple special counsels to study allegations of misconduct in some of the FBI’s highest profile, most politically charged investigations. Most recently, they’ve demanded a special counsel to take a broad look at whether Justice Department or FBI employees were biased during their now-closed probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and as they began investigating Trump campaign ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In a statement released Thursday night, House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy said they were “encouraged” that Huber was tapped to investigate the issues.
“While we continue to believe the appointment of a second special counsel is necessary, this is a step in the right direction,” they said.
Democrats say the allegations are an effort to distract from and undermine the separate work of special counsel Robert Mueller as his team’s Russia investigation intensifies.
Sessions’ letter comes a day after the Justice Department’s inspector general announced that, at Sessions’ urging, it would review whether law enforcement officials abused their surveillance powers in seeking permission to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Sessions’ referral of the allegations to the inspector general enraged President Donald Trump, who said Sessions should have ordered is own investigation. But in his letter to lawmakers, Sessions reminded that the inspector general’s office can and often does refer matters for prosecution.
And he said the Justice Department has proven capable of handling “high-profile, resource-intensive matters” without the rare appointment of a special counsel.
Huber, an Obama administration holdover re-nominated to serve as Utah’s top federal prosecutor, will conduct a “full, complete and objective evaluation” of Republican concerns and submit recommendations, Sessions said.
Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lost or misplaced more than $8 million in property in 2007, losing track of items including computer and video equipment, government auditors say.
Agency officials said Wednesday they have corrected the lapses that led to that amount of waste.
The report was released this week by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of the CDC. In 2007, the auditors checked on 200 randomly sampled items and found 15 were lost or not inventoried, including a $1.8 million hard disk drive and a $978,000 video conferencing system.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden wrote the inspector general that the CDC agrees with the report’s conclusions and has now instituted better controls. He wrote that 99 percent of the agency’s property was accounted for in 2009. And the agency says all of its property this year is accounted for.
The agency still hasn’t explained what happened to the 15 pieces of missing equipment from 2007, auditors said. But a CDC spokeswoman on Wednesday said all but four of the items — including the two most expensive ones — have since been accounted for.
“It’s just a good thing they haven’t lost any diseases,” Schatz said.
The Atlanta-based CDC often gets high marks for how well it does at its core mission of promoting health and investigating outbreaks of illness. But it has less incentive to keep track of its computer equipment or take care of other concerns that would seem important to a private business, Schatz said.
“There are a lot of agencies that do their job well, but they don’t manage the ‘little things’ very well. The Defense Department is notorious for losing all kinds of equipment, but they do a pretty good job defending the country,” Schatz said.
This is the CDC’s second audit. A 1995 audit found the agency was unable to account for more than $5.5 million in property, including computers, microscopes and even vehicles.
In 2007, two House Republicans — Joe Barton of Texas and Greg Walden of Oregon — asked the inspector general to take a new look at how CDC inventories and tracks its property, following allegations that as much as $22 million in CDC equipment had been lost or stolen.
The audit focused on the $350 million in equipment CDC had in fiscal year 2007. The report was delayed until now partly because of personnel changes within the inspector general’s office, auditors said.
Office of Inspector General report: http://www.oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region4/40701054.asp