Republicans on Capitol Hill said Thursday they believe the searing reprimand of former FBI director James Comey by a Justice Department inspector general is only the start of a series of blows to the reputations of key law enforcement figures.
“This is the first of what I expect will be several more ugly and damning rebukes of senior DOJ and FBI officials regarding their actions and biases toward the Trump campaign of 2016,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a report Thursday saying Comey – whom President Trump fired in 2017 — violated bureau policies by drafting, leaking and retaining memos of his conversations with Trump.
The Justice Department declined to prosecute Comey over the violations. But Republican lawmakers who have pushed for scrutiny of the FBI and DOJ’s actions in investigating Trump have been pointing to ongoing investigations that could implicate other top officials.
After the Comey report was released, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said: “This is the first of what we can expect to be more disclosures holding former FBI and DOJ officials accountable for their improper conduct against President Trump and his campaign. I look forward to those findings.”
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, another prominent Freedom Caucus member and the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said, “I am grateful that the Inspector General brought these issues to light and look forward to his and [U.S. Attorney John] Durham's findings related to abuses of the FISA process."
Horowitz has acknowledged that his office was already reviewing potential surveillance abuses by the FBI during the Russia investigation. Earlier this year, Attorney General Bill Barr also assigned Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, to examine alleged improper government surveillance on the Trump campaign in 2016.
For his part, Comey on Thursday responded to the report by insisting that he is not a “liar and a leaker” and saying an apology from his critics “would be nice.”
Republicans argued the report only raised more questions.
“This further cements the need for us to get to the root of how the Russia investigation began,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. “It's time to restore Americans' confidence that federal law enforcement is committed to justice and free from political gamesmanship.”
The Justice Department’s internal review of the Russia investigation was focusing on transcripts of recordings made by at least one government source who met with former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos overseas in 2016, specifically looking at why certain “exculpatory” material from them was not presented in subsequent applications for surveillance warrants, Fox News has reported.
The transcripts were classified, according to sources, but Barr likely would have access to those documents after Trump’s move in May to approve declassification of documents related to the surveillance of his campaign during the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, former FBI official Andrew McCabe – who then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired last year after an inspector general report found McCabe misled investigators about his role in leaks to the media — has been awaiting a decision by federal prosecutors over whether the DOJ will charge him.
A source close to the process told Fox News earlier this week that McCabe has had a “target on his back” because of the Justice Department inspector general's findings against him over actions during the Hillary Clinton email investigation, as well as his role in the surveillance warrants against Trump campaign associates during the Russia investigation.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.