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Republicans say the IG report shows evidence of political bias in FBI’s Clinton investigation

Republicans have seized on text messages as an indicator of such bias.

Former FBI Director James Comey
Former FBI Director James Comey.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said the inspector general report released on Thursday proved exactly what President Trump has said all along: Not only was the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails mishandled by then-FBI Director James Comey, it was also plagued by blatant political bias.

“This report confirms investigative decisions made by the FBI during the pendency of the investigation were unprecedented and deviated from traditional investigative procedures,” said Gowdy in a statement, adding that it “conclusively shows an alarming and destructive level of animus displayed by top officials at the FBI.”

This isn’t exactly what the IG report concluded. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop reports, while one of its main takeaways did indicate that Comey departed “dramatically“ from FBI norms in his handling of the Clinton case, it also stated that the actions he took in response to the case were not the result of “political bias.”

Other Republicans, including Reps. Mark Meadows (NC) and Jim Jordan (OH), echoed Gowdy’s sentiments, and seemed especially troubled by one section of the report, which detailed text messages from FBI agent Peter Strzok to fellow agency official Lisa Page about his opposition toward Trump’s candidacy.

Lawmakers are now citing these messages as evidence of political bias that could have affected the way the investigation was handled.

The report did acknowledge that the IG was unsure whether Strzok’s “decisions to prioritize the Russia investigation” over a Clinton email lead discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop were “free from bias.” But it found no evidence that “improper considerations” affected the investigative conclusions made in the Clinton case.

Republicans have seized on the Strzok messages

In one particularly contentious text exchange outlined in the report, Strzok and Page appear to slam Trump’s candidacy, and Republicans have seized on the conversation as evidence of outright bias that colors the entire investigation.

PAGE: (Trump’s) not ever going to become president, right? Right?!

STRZOK: No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.

“Peter Strzok’s manifest bias trending toward animus casts a pall on this investigation,” Gowdy said. “Bias is so pernicious and malignant as to both taint the process, the result, and the ability to have confidence in either.”

Meadows went one step further — both questioning the messages and suggesting that they had been kept from congressional investigators — in a tweet responding to the IG report.

“Why is Peter Strzok still employed?” he added.

Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also cast doubt on the idea that the handling of this investigation was not ultimately affected by political bias. “Absent an outright confession, they’re not going to be able to draw that conclusion,” he told CNN. “That will be up to the American public to draw their own conclusion.”

Democrats, meanwhile, had a very different read on the report — arguing that it further bolstered the case that the FBI email investigation hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances in 2016.

“The stark conclusion we draw after reviewing this report is that the FBI’s actions helped Donald Trump become President,” said Reps. Jerry Nadler (NY) and Elijah Cummings (MD) in a statement. “Director Comey had a double-standard: he spoke publicly about the Clinton investigation while keeping secret from the American people the investigation of Donald Trump and Russia.”