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Let the games begin: Beltway buckles up for IG report on Clinton probe

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It’s not exactly Fitzmas, and it isn’t even Michael Horowitz’ most anticipated report. However, tomorrow’s release of the Inspector General’s review of the Department of Justice’s conduct in the Hillary Clinton investigation has Congress and the Washington political world on edge. Horowitz is expected to have plenty of criticism for the conduct of top officials in the DoJ and the FBI, up to and including former director James Comey.

The Hill prepares its “conservatives pounce” narrative:

Conservatives on Capitol Hill are anxiously awaiting the imminent release of a report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general scrutinizing the law enforcement agency’s handling of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

A spate of recent press reports suggesting that the document will be critical of top DOJ brass has raised expectations among some of President Trump’s most ardent defenders that it will provide fuel for an ongoing broadside against the department.

Congress will likely not see the document until shortly before it is made public on Thursday, with its official conclusions remaining the subject of intense speculation until then.

To be fair, though, it does appear that Republicans have taken the most interest in the report. And when I say “Republicans,” I mean that from the top down. Guess who’ll get a sneak peak a few hours before it goes public?

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein is expected to brief President Trump on Thursday about the inspector general report on law enforcement’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe before it is released to the public, people familiar with the matter said.

Capitol Hill staffers were told Tuesday that scheduling and logistical conflicts would make it necessary for the Justice Department to shift its planned Thursday morning briefing to the afternoon, according to people familiar with the congressional plans. The scheduling change was apparently made to accommodate the White House, though staffers were not told the precise reason, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about schedules that were potentially still in flux.

The president “is really anxious to see the report,” said a person familiar with the planned Thursday briefing for Trump, which is expected to take place around the same time that lawmakers are informed of the inspector general’s findings. White House lawyer Emmet Flood is also expected to be present for the briefing, but Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, is not, the person said.

I’ll bet Trump’s “anxious” to read Horowitz’ conclusions about what happened in the Clinton probe. That carries no risk at all to him, which means he can score as many points on his opponents as he likes. Trump might be even more anxious to read Horowitz’ conclusions about the Russia investigation, the subject of Horowitz’ current efforts, but those won’t be ready for months at the earliest. He may not choose to share Horowitz’ observations quite as freely from the later report, but if you’re not already following the Trump Twitter feed, make sure you do before tomorrow morning.

In fact, Trump has become impatient for tomorrow’s big reveal, griping publicly on Twitter that Horowitz was taking too long:

What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey. 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!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018

Horowitz’ report is not likely to make either side entirely happy. He has a reputation for fairness and discipline, which is why his criminal referral for Andrew McCabe stung the FBI so badly, but he’s not likely to get caught up in crusades, either. The McCabe referral made it clear that high rank will not be a defense, but previous investigations — Fast and Furious, for one — shows Horowitz tends toward narrower focuses rather than broad condemnations. If he finds misjudgments and unethical actions, he’ll call them out, but don’t expect to find sweeping condemnations of systemic corruption unless he finds specific and convincing evidence of it. The report is more likely to cite specific actions and allow the readers to reach their own broader conclusions.

All of the anticipation for tomorrow’s report misses one key point: this is old news, really. Hillary’s career is already over, and so is James Comey’s and Loretta Lynch’s, at least as far as public office. Horowitz’ report on the Russia probe is more pertinent, and that may come out just in time to determine whether Trump’s political career should or should not come to an end. That’ll be the real Horowitzmas.

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