House GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end

House Republicans on Friday announced that their investigation into FBI and Justice Department (DOJ) decisionmaking during the 2016 presidential election has concluded, marking the end of a winding probe launched last fall.

The joint probe — led by the House Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees — sought to investigate what Republicans allege was bias against President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Tlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Trump rips 'Mainstream Media': 'They truly are the Enemy of the People' MORE by the top brass at the two agencies during the heated presidential race.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) made the announcement just days before Democrats are poised to take hold of the committee gavels in the House. He did so by notifying the top leaders of the FBI and DOJ — acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and FBI Director Christopher Wray — that the probe has concluded, and by releasing a set of key findings and observations from the investigation.

ADVERTISEMENT

“With the 115th Congress coming to a close, the investigation into decisions made by DOJ and FBI and related interviews conducted by the House Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have, at least for the time being, been concluded,” Goodlatte wrote in a letter to Whitaker and Wray.

Goodlatte also released a press release praising the committees’ accomplishments with the probe, including the firings of “multiple high-ranking Justice Department employees.”

In particular, he homed in on the firing of former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who came under immense scrutiny for sending disparaging text messages about Trump during the election. GOP lawmakers seized on the text messages he exchanged with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page — with whom he was having an affair at the time — as evidence of bias against Trump, which he was later fired for in August.

Goodlatte also pointed to the March firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeThe wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report Rosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Graham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks MORE, which came after a DOJ watchdog concluded that the No. 2 FBI official had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked “candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions."

“Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and others were fired or resigned during the Committees’ investigation, after the investigation and the [inspector general] Report exposed their bias during their investigations,” Goodlatte wrote.

One of Goodlatte’s main takeaways from the probe matched the accusations Republicans have leveled throughout the investigation: The FBI and Justice Department treated Trump unfairly.

“Our 2016 presidential candidates were not treated equally,” Goodlatte wrote, claiming the “DOJ and FBI’s investigation of Secretary Clinton was over before it began.”

He stated that former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Here's why Biden, Bernie and Beto are peaking The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings MORE received far more favorable treatment during the probe into her email use than Trump did during the start of the counterintelligence probe into Russian interference.

Strzok had served as the No. 2 on the Clinton probe, and on the beginnings of the special counsel investigation. He was promptly removed from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's team after his text messages surfaced.

“The investigators in both investigations were biased against President Trump. Peter Strzok and Lisa Page exchanged more than 40,000 text messages, including messages such as, ‘Trump is a loathsome human,’ ” Goodlatte wrote. 

The Judiciary chairman, who is retiring, pointed to the DOJ inspector general’s report released earlier this year that hammered top FBI officials including Strzok, McCabe and former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Democrats face dilemma after Mueller probe ends Barr faces political storm over Mueller report MORE.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz hammered Comey for poor judgment during the election, but found no evidence to show his key decisions in the investigation into Clinton's emails were improperly influenced by political bias.

Horowitz’s report was also highly critical of Strzok’s conduct, stating that his text messages to Page cast a "cloud" on the investigation, but he noted that Strzok was not the sole decisionmaker in any of the investigations they examined. Thus, Horowitz found no evidence of inappropriate influence impacting decisions made in the Clinton probe prior to Comey's announcement that he was closing the case.

Still, despite his criticism, Goodlatte said he still believes “in the mission of the FBI and continue to have great faith in the vast majority of the men and women, who are professional and work day in and day out at the Bureau to combat crime and protect our country.”

Comey as well as former Attorney General Loretta Lynch were among the two final witnesses to interview before the committees’ investigators this month, following more than a dozen others who testified behind closed doors.

Democrats — and even some witnesses — accused House Republicans of holding the private interviews and then selectively leaking to fit their narrative, all in an attempt to undermine Mueller’s probe.

The expected incoming Judiciary chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), has publicly stated that he has no plans to continue the investigation — a decision Goodlatte called “unfortunate.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Top Senate Judiciary Dem asks Barr to hand over full Mueller report by April 1 MORE (R-S.C.), who is set to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress, has pledged to continue investigating some of the threads the GOP lawmakers helped unravel. 

Goodlatte on Friday urged Whitaker and Wray to review transcripts of interviews the committees conducted as part of the investigations and redact any classified information so they may be made available to the public. He added that the transcripts had been sent over earlier this month and had not been reviewed in a timely manner, saying the “delay” was “very troubling.”

Scrubbing transcripts, however, is a timely process that usually can take months to black out any classified or sensitive data.

The transcript of the committees’ interview with Comey is the only one to have been redacted and published, and the timeline for the release of the other transcripts remains unclear.

Updated at 7:21 p.m.