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What you need to know before reading the IG report on the Clinton investigation

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2011, file photo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta. (AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool, File)

A long-awaited 500-page report dissecting the FBI’s election year investigation of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state will be released on Thursday afternoon.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz has spent almost 18 months reviewing alleged irregularities in the probe, which ultimately resulted in no criminal charges being filed.

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The FBI has faced bipartisan criticism for its handling of the case for a number of reasons, many of which are expected to explored in the report.

Some things to watch for, and some names you will likely be hearing a lot in the days ahead:

James Comey

Then-FBI Director James Comey’s decisions and actions throughout the second half of 2016 are expected to face heavy scrutiny in the report. Questions have specifically been raised about his public disclosure of details of the Clinton case in July 2016 and his revelation to members of Congress in late October 2016 that the probe was being reopened.

After Comey decided not to recommend charges for Clinton, he delivered a lengthy public statement excoriating her for “extremely careless” handling of classified information but concluding no reasonable prosecutor would charge her. He later testified extensively before Congress about the investigation.

Less than two weeks before the election, Comey sent a letter to lawmakers revealing that additional emails were found on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, a former congressman under investigation for sexting with an underage girl and the husband of one of Clinton’s top aides. The case was briefly reopened while investigators combed through those emails, but Comey announced the case was closed again days before Election Day.

“I want to see the inspector general report on how FBI policies were or were not deviated from,” said former FBI special agent and spokesman John Iannarelli. “There’s a longstanding policy that we don’t talk to the media about the status of investigations or whether or not there is evidence of a crime.”

Comey has defended his decisions as efforts to provide transparency, protect the FBI’s reputation, and fulfill his obligations to Congress. Clinton and others have accused him of tilting an extremely close election in Trump’s favor.

“That is tampering with the electoral process, which is very troublesome to me,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said Wednesday.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cited Comey’s unfair treatment of Clinton in recommending his firing last year. President Trump has since offered several other justifications for Comey’s ouster.

Loretta Lynch

Comey has said Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s brief meeting with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac at an Arizona airport was a major factor in his decision to speak out about the investigation. Days after the meeting, Lynch announced she would accept the recommendation of investigators on whether to file charges, essentially placing the decision in Comey’s hands, but she did not recuse herself from the case.

Lynch has since admitted speaking to Clinton was a mistake, though she maintains they did not discuss his wife’s case. Her interaction with Clinton and choices she made afterward are among the issues Horowitz reviewed.

“Loretta Lynch said that that meeting cast a cloud on the Clinton email investigation,” said Tom Fitton, president of conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, in an interview Wednesday. “I suspect the inspector general is going to agree.”

Andrew McCabe

From what is known so far, the stakes may be highest for former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. Horowitz has already referred allegations that he lied to investigators to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution. McCabe has denied violating the law.

McCabe was already fired from the FBI in April, days before retirement, after Horowitz completed a preliminary report detailing his alleged efforts to mislead officials investigating a leak about the FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation that he had directed. He recently sued the FBI and DOJ over access to documents related to his dismissal.

“DOJ just issued the McCabe report - which is a total disaster,” President Trump tweeted when that report was released. “He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey - McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes!”

The report revealed McCabe apparently misled Comey about the leak, something Trump acknowledged in another tweet days later, accusing Comey of throwing McCabe “under the bus.”

In addition to that unauthorized disclosure to reporters, the inspector general also reviewed McCabe’s decision not to recuse himself from the email investigation due to his wife’s ties to Clinton allies in the Democratic Party. President Trump has often cited donations made to McCabe’s wife’s Virginia state Senate campaign by the political action committee of Clinton friend and then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

McCabe’s inaction for several weeks after the emails were found on Weiner’s laptop will also likely be criticized.

Peter Strzok

One of the first major revelations to trickle out of Horowitz’s investigation last year was the discovery of text messages exchanged by top counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and a Dept. of Justice lawyer with whom he was having an affair. Texts made public by the DOJ and members of Congress revealed scathing criticism of Trump during and after the campaign.

The two also mocked and insulted other members of both parties at times, but Strzok’s involvement in key moments like the interview of Clinton, the drafting of Comey’s statement, and the initial stages of the counterintelligence probe of Trump’s campaign have made his credibility and possible biases a significant issue.

Strzok had been working with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he was reassigned last summer after his anti-Trump texts were uncovered.

The FBI

The FBI’s treatment of Clinton and Comey’s public statements about the case have long drawn condemnations from members of both parties. The decision not to prosecute Clinton also drove President Trump’s initial claims that the FBI was rigged against him, a theme he has since amplified.

Those expected to be criticized in the report were among the top officials in the FBI and the DOJ at the time. Several have already been fired or resigned, but the details of the report will provide fresh ammunition for critics attempting to discredit the bureau.

House Republicans said Wednesday they did not want to prejudge the report, but they made very clear what they expect it to say.

“I’m hoping to see some truth, I’m hoping to see some verification of some of the things we absolutely believe have happened there, that there’s been some really biased operating procedures going on by those at the top of leadership in the FBI and DOJ,” said Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., claimed there is already “a tremendous amount” of evidence of misconduct.

“Time and again, we’ve seen people who have acted improperly who faced some consequences but now we have to find out if there were investigations that were improperly frustrated or begun at the FBI,” he said.

If the report reveals criminal activity within the FBI, Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., said lawmakers will press the DOJ to prosecute the current or former officials involved.

“We need to know whether laws were broken or not,” he said. “If laws were broken, I expect the Justice Dept. to go after the people who broke those laws.”

Unless significant additional wrongdoing is revealed in the report, Iannarelli said that seems unlikely.

“Based on everything we’ve seen so far, it does not appear there was anything criminal,” he said.

Donald Trump

Trump, who will be briefed on the report before it is made public, has said it may be a sort of “birthday present” for him, but he has also laid the groundwork to allege that it is too soft on FBI officials he believes were working against him.

“What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey,” Trump tweeted last week. “Numerous delays. Hope Report is not being changed and made weaker! There are so many horrible things to tell, the public has the right to know. Transparency!”

As he did when the initial McCabe report was released earlier this year, Trump is expected to take to Twitter at some point to highlight the most damning revelations from the document.

“So, the Democrats make up a phony crime, Collusion with the Russians, pay a fortune to make the crime sound real, illegally leak (Comey) classified information so that a Special Councel will be appointed, and then Collude to make this pile of garbage take on life in Fake News!” he tweeted Thursday morning in advance of the report’s release.

Iannarelli is hoping the report can put some allegations of bias to rest.

“It would be good to be able to assure the public that, while mistakes were made, they were not made for the purpose of supporting any particular candidate,” he said.

Hillary Clinton

Comey has said the decision not to recommend charges for Clinton was an easy one and the entire investigative team agreed with it. When he announced his investigation, Horowitz said he would not question prosecutorial decisions, but his report will almost certainly fuel more calls from Republicans for the Clinton probe to be reopened.

“I think the big question for the Justice Department, given the mishandling of the Clinton email investigation, is, are they going to re-open it?” Fitton said.

He also suggested there will be areas of the probe left unaddressed by the report that Congress should now investigate.

“Just because she lost the election, it shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail-free card or a free accountability card for Hillary Clinton, who is still a public figure and very political,” he said.

Robert Mueller

The inspector general’s current investigation has nothing to do with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian election interference and possible ties to Trump’s campaign, but many of the same officials who handled Clinton’s case made the initial investigative decisions in that probe as well.

As a result, the president and other critics who have called the basis of Mueller’s investigation into question may discover more evidence to support their case in the pages of the report.

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