FBI Drops An October Bomb In Final Stretch of Presidential Race

FBI Director James Comey
FBI Director James Comey

By Allan Lengel

The path to the White House was looking pretty clear for Hillary Clinton, who has been ahead in the polls.

But on Friday, FBI Director James Comey dropped a bomb. The fall out may not be known for days until new polls come out, or perhaps until Nov. 8 when the votes are tallied.

Comey fired off a letter to Congress saying that the discovery of new emails required agents to determine if they were relevant to the Clinton email scandal involving the handling of classified information. The media reported that the emails were discovered while investigating ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner regarding provocative texts he sent an underage teen in North Carolina.

During that investigation, at least one device used by Weiner and his estranged wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, was discovered, ABC News reported. 

Comey came under attack from the Clinton camp and some former federal prosecutors who felt the letter to Congress was inappropriate, and the timing, 11 days before the election, was unfortunate and questionable.

“First, Director Comey acted totally inappropriately.  He had no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI has ever reviewed,” said attorney Nick Akerman, who was an Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor.  “It is not the function of the FBI Director to be making public pronouncements about an investigation, never mind about an investigation based on evidence that he acknowledges may not be significant.  The job of the FBI is simply to investigate and to provide the results of its investigation to the prosecutorial arm of the US Department of Justice.  His job is not to give a running commentary about any investigation or his opinion about any investigation.  This is particularly egregious since Secretary Clinton has no way to respond to what amounts to nebulous and speculative innuendo.”

In a memo to FBI employees, Comey explained his actions.

To all:

This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation.  Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case.  Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.

Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.  At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.

Clinton issued a statement demanding that the FBI provide more information to the public about the emails in question.

Ditto for Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and John Conyers, ranking members of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary, sent the following letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey:

Dear Attorney General Lynch and Director Comey:

 Today, Director Comey sent a letter to eight Congressional Committees after the FBI learned of the existence of emails that may be pertinent to its investigation of former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s personal email server.

Although Director Comey’s letter was clear that none of the new material identified by the FBI may be “significant,” the letter provided such limited and vague information that it allowed rampant speculation, numerous leaks, and wild accusations just 11 days before the presidential election.

During Director Comey’s testimony before Congress on July 7, he made clear that the FBI was not treating Secretary Clinton differently from anyone else investigated by the FBI.  He explained that it would have been a double-standard to recommend prosecution based on the evidence the FBI had obtained.

In fairness to everyone involved, we are writing to request that the FBI and Department of Justice issue a more complete accounting of the details behind this letter, based on information from your career investigators and prosecutors, in order to debunk these conspiracy theories and correct the public record.


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