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.
The inspector general announced last week that his office would release its report on Clinton’s use of a private email server June 14 — which is also Trump’s birthday.
The report was originally expected in May, and last week, Trump questioned on Twitter whether publication had been delayed because the findings were “being changed and made weaker.” The inspector general wrote in his letter to lawmakers announcing the June 14 date that his office was following the “ordinary processes” for completing reports.
Inspector general spokesman John Lavinsky said in a statement that the office occasionally gives pre-release briefings to Congress and the media, adding that, “for the Justice Department to brief the White House in the same manner and at the same time as the OIG briefs Congress and the press is consistent with this process.”
OIG refers to the Office of Inspector General.
Lavinsky noted that Justice Department officials had similarly briefed the Obama White House in 2012 upon completion of its report on the gunrunning scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious. He added that “no changes are made to the OIG’s report on account of these briefings.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
Trump is widely expected to use the inspector general findings to launch fresh political attacks against not only Clinton but also the law enforcement officials behind Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, which Trump has repeatedly referred to as a “witch hunt.” People familiar with the changed timing of the Hill briefing are concerned that Trump’s briefing will give him a chance to take to Twitter to give his impressions of the report — as well as the law enforcement officials criticized in it — before it becomes public.
The report is expected to criticize former FBI director James B. Comey and other senior law enforcement officials for their handling of decisions they made that affected the course of the probe, as well as how they conducted themselves during the investigation. The inspector general has issued a report lambasting former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe for making unauthorized disclosures to the media and then misleading investigators about his actions. The inspector general’s investigation also unearthed an exchange of pro-Clinton, anti-Trump texts between the former top FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Both were on Mueller’s Russia investigation team but either left or were relieved of those duties after their correspondence was discovered.
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