Is Michael Horowitz a Democrat or Republican?

michael horowitz

Getty Michael Horowitz

Is Inspector General Michael Horowitz a Democrat or Republican? What’s his political party? Some are wondering the answer to those questions in light of the major role that Horowitz is playing by investigating the FBI and Department of Justice’s handling of probes into Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The long-awaited report by the Department of Justice’s IG into the Clinton email investigation, released on June 14, 2018, was critical of former FBI Director James Comey for his handling of it, saying he operated out of protocol, but did not conclude that there was political bias by Comey or others at the FBI in decisionmaking, while raising concerns about anti-Trump text messages sent by some FBI employees.

It’s not definitively clear to which party Michael Horowitz belongs today, and there are elements of his biography that point in different directions, although he worked for Democrats in college. He was nominated to his IG position by President Barack Obama and went through confirmation hearings, assuming the post in 2012. However, former President George W. Bush also appointed Horowitz to the federal Sentencing Commission. He was working at the firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in Maryland at the time of his nomination. His wife, Alexandra, was a field producer at CNN when they married in 2000. Alexandra Horowitz donated $2,300 in 2008 to President Obama’s campaign, according to federal records.

In college, Michael Horowitz worked for several Democrats (and one Republican turned Independent), including Congressman Barney Frank, as an intern and volunteer. He clerked for a Ronald Reagan nominated judge. He has been appointed to positions over the years from people on both sides of the political debate, including Janet Reno, affiliated with Democrats, and John Ashcroft, affiliated with Republicans. He wrote in 2011 during the nomination process for IG, “Since leaving law school in 1987, I have not played a role in any political campaigns. As a college student, I volunteered on an unpaid basis for a few political campaigns (and I may have also volunteered in a campaign in law school, but I do not recall any). I do not have a list of those campaigns. The ones I can recall are John Anderson for President, Alan Cranston for President, Herbert Reisman for Rockland County Legislature, and Barney Frank for Congress. I have never had a formal position in any campaign.”

Anderson was a Republican who ran as an Independent. Cranston was a Democrat. Frank is a Democrat. Reisman was a Democrat. However, it’s unclear to what degree Horowitz’ personal political affiliations have evolved over the years since college, as many people’s do. He’s 55-years-old today. The New York Times also notes, “In 1991, Mr. Horowitz joined the federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan, where he briefly overlapped with” James Comey.

According to The New York Times, Horowitz “chose for his office a portrait of the disgraced Attorney General Harry M. Daugherty, who was nearly impeached, forced to resign in 1924 and later tried twice on charges of defrauding the government.”

michael horowitz

Michael Horowitz, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice.

You can see a transcript from Horowitz’ confirmation hearing here, as well as letters submitted in support of his nomination to be Inspector General. One Democratic Senator, Chris Coons, noted in the hearing that the committee had received letters in support of Horowitz’ selection from “29 different legal professionals who have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and a particularly strong one from Michael Chertoff, whom you worked with when he was Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division under President Bush, who wrote that you are an outstanding attorney and public servant who’s served in both Democrat and Republican administrations and demonstrated your absolute impartiality and independence, and your integrity is beyond reproach.”

Asked to list his public offices held, political activities and affiliations in a form for his nomination as IG, Horowitz listed:

  • Volunteer summer intern, 1982, Rockland County DA Office. Appointed by hiring chief for DA Kenneth Gribetz.
  • Volunteer intern, Congressman James Shannon. 1982. (He was a Democrat)
  • Paid summer intern, Rockland County Legislature, summer 1983. Appointed by Herbert Reisman, Chairman of the Legislative. (He was a Democrat)
  • Brandeis University internship for school credit and then Volunteer intern for the Office of Congressman Barney Frank, fall 1982, spring 1983, and spring 1984. Appointed by Administrative Assistant Dorothy Reichard. (Frank is a Democrat)
  • According to that transcript, Horowitz was once a law clerk for Federal District Court Judge John G. Davies. He was nominated to the court by Ronald Reagan, Republican.
  • Assistant US Attorney, US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, May 1991-January 1999. Appointed by US Attorney Otto Obermaier.
  • Deputy Assistant Attorney General, US Department of Justice Criminal Division, 1999. Appointed by Assistant AG James Robinson.
  • Chief of staff USDOJ Criminal Division, 2000-2002, appointed by Assistant AG James Robinson and reappointed by Assistant AG Michael Chertoff.
    Commissioner to the Child Online Protection Act Commission, 1999-2000. Appointed by Democratic AG Janet Reno.
  • Commissioner to the US Sentencing Commission, 2001, Appointed by Republican AG John Ashcroft.
    Member of the advisory group to the US Sentencing Commission, 2002-2003, Appointed by Judge Diana Murphy.
  • Comissioner, US Sentencing Commission, 2003-2009, Appointed by Republican President George W. Bush.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said, according to the transcript, to Horowitz: “…in private practice you indicated that you had worked with the (Barack Obama administration) Attorney General’s current chief of staff —and I ask these questions because of Fast and Furious—and that you had contacts with him about your nomination. There are serious questions about exactly what this chief of staff knew and what he may have told the Attorney General about Fast and Furious. You wrote a letter in support of Lanny Brewer (sic) to be head of the Criminal Division. Briefly, how long have you known him?”

Horowitz said he had known him since 1999. According to Lanny Breuer’s bio, “From 1997-1999, Mr. Breuer served as Special Counsel to President William Jefferson Clinton, representing the White House in investigations by the Independent Counsel, Department of Justice, and Congress, and defending President Clinton in impeachment proceedings.” The bio says  “From 2009-2013, Mr. Breuer served as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Asked to list associations, Horowitz did not list any political ones, listing instead legal organizations and organizations such as the Washington National Opera and U.S. Holocaust Museum. His listed writings were mostly on arcane legal topics rather than being very political. His listed speeches tended toward law enforcement organizations.

“I am confident that my investigative, audit, and management expertise in the public and the private sector will enable me to undertake these challenges successfully. I will, if confirmed, exercise my duties with the same independence that I believe I’ve demonstrated throughout my career,” Horowitz said, according to the transcript.

He described a career prosecuting public corruption in New York against police and immigration officials as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York who headed the public corruption unit. His alma mater was Brandeis University and Harvard.


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