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Watchdog finds no proof of FBI leaks on Clinton email probe

Several FBI employees were found to have ignored agency policy by speaking to reporters before the 2016 election, but the Justice Department’s inspector general couldn’t determine whether anyone in the bureau leaked information about the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. Department of Justice’s internal watchdog reported Thursday that it was unable to determine whether FBI personnel leaked investigation secrets reported by the media ahead of the 2016 presidential election. 

The leaked information at the heart of the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General probe involved the planned reopening of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s use of private email servers in the run-up to the election.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz sought to find the source of alleged disclosures about the email probe made to Rudy Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney and outspoken adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race against Clinton.

Giuliani, who is also a former New York mayor, mentioned during multiple media interviews leading up to the election that sources in the FBI told him to expect developments related to the famed Clinton email investigation. 

Soon after Giuliani’s interview statements, and just days before Americans would head to the polls in 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey announced a revival of the investigation due to the discovery of additional emails on former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Weiner is married to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, though the two have been separated since he pleaded guilty to a sex offense in 2017.

Giuliani later claimed in an interview with the inspector general's office that he had not been in contact with any active FBI agents.

Thursday's report says that while several FBI employees violated agency rules that strictly guide and limit media contacts, the watchdog could not find an exact source of the information leaks. 

The office says it will let the FBI decide whether six employees' contacts with members of the press “warrant disciplinary or other corrective action.”

"The available evidence, however, did not enable the OIG to determine whether these media contacts resulted in the disclosure of non-public information as described in the 2016 pre-election report," the report states.

Horowitz’s office found that dozens of FBI employees spoke to journalists who wrote articles prior to the 2016 election disclosing confidential information about ongoing criminal investigations.

"We identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters," the report states, describing "a cultural attitude within the FBI that was too permissive of unauthorized media contacts."

The report determined that three senior FBI officials had unethical interactions with reporters ahead of the 2016 election.

“In each case, we determined that the senior official’s contact with the media violated FBI policies and DOJ ethics rules,” the OIG said in a press release.

The three were called out by the watchdog for breaking agency rules by directly taking press inquiries and accepting gifts, like meals and sports tickets, from reporters.

Follow Erika Williams on Twitter

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