By Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former FBI Director James Comey deviated from the bureau's norms in handling a probe into former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but there is no evidence his actions before the 2016 election were motivated by political bias, a Justice Department watchdog report concludes, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.
"While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey's part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice," Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the report's conclusions, which were obtained by Bloomberg.
The report by Horowitz on the FBI's handling of a probe into Clinton's emails, is due to be released publicly at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT). It arose from a review he launched about a week before President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
The inquiry has focussed on whether Comey's public statements about the FBI probe of Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state were based on "improper considerations."
In July 2016, Comey held an unusual news conference to explain why the FBI would not be recommending criminal charges against Democrat Clinton over her use of the private server, instead of a State Department server, for some official business.
He chastised Clinton for being "extremely careless" but said there was insufficient evidence to charge her with a federal crime. That upset Republicans who said Comey's statement could have helped Clinton's election campaign.
But in October 2016, less than two weeks before Election Day, Comey sent members of Congress a letter disclosing that the probe was being reopened after new emails were found on the computer of the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Clinton has since said that Comey's letter contributed to her unexpected defeat by Trump. Two days before the Nov. 8 election, Comey said the FBI had found no additional evidence in the new emails.
The Inspector General also examined whether FBI employees leaked information about investigations of the Clinton Foundation charitable organisation and emails in a bid to help Trump's campaign.
Law enforcement officials previously told Reuters the information was leaked to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an adviser to the Trump campaign. He now represents Trump in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
The report will also discuss Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI staffers whom Republicans accused of bias against Trump after thousands of text messages sent via their work-issued mobile phones were made public.
While some of their messages were anti-Trump, others took aim at lawmakers such as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, whom Clinton defeated for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Page and Strzok were involved in both the Clinton and Russia probes. Mueller removed Strzok from his team after Horowitz disclosed the texts to him.
Members of several key U.S. House and Senate committees are expected to be briefed on the report in the early afternoon before its public release, according to documents seen by Reuters.
Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017 while leading an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, an allegation the president has denied.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; Editing by John Walcott and Alistair Bell)