30, October 2016
The FBI director acted against the wishes of the top US justice official when he sent a letter to Congress, notifying lawmakers about the review of newly-discovered emails “pertinent” to the probe of presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server, a new report says.
Citing a government official who requested anonymity, Washington-based news outlet The Hill reported Saturday that James Comey ignored the advice of Attorney General (AG) Loretta Lynch when he wrote to US congressional leaders on Friday about reopening an investigation into the Democratic nominee’s email communications.
“The Justice Department’s stance was to abstain from taking any actions that could impact the presidential race,” said the unnamed official. “The AG’s position is consistent with the department’s position not to take investigative steps that would influence an election so close to an election and not to comment on ongoing investigations. Director Comey decided to operate independently of that guidance by sending that letter to The Hill.”
The official further emphasized that while Lynch and Comey did not discuss the matter directly, “the position of the department was made clear to the FBI.”
‘Keeping Congress in dark misleading to Americans’
Comey, however, wrote a note to his staff prior to sending the letter to Congress saying, “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.”
In the letter to the leaders of congressional oversight committees, the FBI chief wrote, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.”
He further added, “The FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work.” While Democrats blasted Comey for not being forthcoming in his letter, leaving Clinton exposed to innuendo around the lingering probe from her detractors, the Republicans abruptly capitalized on the opportunity to renew criticism of Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Comey’s move ‘appalling’
Veteran Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California censured Comey’s move as “appalling” in a statement, adding, “Without knowing how many emails are involved, who wrote them, when they were written or their subject matter, it’s impossible to make any informed judgment on this development.”
“However, one thing is clear,” she emphasized. “Director Comey’s announcement played right into the political campaign of Donald Trump, who is already using the letter for political purposes; and all of this just 11 days before the election.”
This is while the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke about Comey’s letter to Congress at his rally in Manchester, New Hamshire, calling his Democratic rival corrupt and a criminal.
“Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before,” he said. “We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.” Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee stated that the FBI’s move shortly before the Election Day “shows how serious this discovery must be” and “raises serious questions about what records may have been turned over and why.”
Moreover, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced in a statement that he is renewing his call for the director of national intelligence to suspend classified briefings for Clinton “until this matter is fully resolved.” Trump, meanwhile, also ripped the Justice Department on Saturday over reports that it had warned the FBI against publicly acknowledging new emails potentially related to Clinton’s email probe so close to the presidential poll.
He further argued during a rally in Colorado that Justice Department officials were “fighting” to stop the FBI chief from sending the letter to lawmakers. “The Department of Justice is trying so hard to protect Hillary,” Trump said to boos from the audience. “This is what we mean when we call it a rigged system.”
Trump further cited a reported survey earlier in the week that found that 97 percent of political donations from employees at the Justice Department by the end of September went to Clinton, saying it was evidence that authorities at the department were biased in favor of his rival.