The decision made by the FBI director to alert Congress that the agency was reviewing new emails related to its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server was contrary to the recommendation of the attorney general, according to two reports published on Saturday.
The New Yorker and Washington Post reported Attorney General Loretta Lynch had expressed to FBI Director James Comey her view that the law enforcement agency should follow the longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations — especially with less than two weeks to go until Election Day.
Comey felt compelled to do otherwise, as a letter from the director to FBI employees showed.
“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,” Comey said, noting his testimony in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.”
Speaking to The New Yorker, current and former federal legal officials characterised the action as a striking break with DOJ policies — one that officials feel could potentially affect the outcome of the presidential and congressional elections in less than two weeks.
“You don’t do this,” one former senior DOJ official exclaimed to The New Yorker. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice … it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”
But speaking to CNN, officials acknowledged that Lynch, who had a difference of opinion with Comey, could do little given the bad optics and fallout over her summer meeting with former President Bill Clinton on an aeroplane in Arizona.
CNN reported that no DOJ officials signed off on Comey’s decision, but he didn’t seek their approval, according to an official, who added that Comey’s decision to send the letter broke with another longstanding Justice Department and FBI policy not to comment publicly about politically sensitive investigations with less than 60 days to go until an election.
The shocking Friday revelation from Comey led to a wave of panic on the left and a chorus of cheers on the right. But both sides wanted extended information released to either quench those fears or back up their assertions.
It was perhaps the most politically consequential letter Comey could have issued. With under two weeks to go until Election Day, calls for additional information came flying in.
In his letter to congressional leaders, Comey said the team in charge of looking into Clinton’s use of a private email server briefed him Thursday on new emails it found “in connection with an unrelated case.”
“The FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant,” Comey wrote, adding, “I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work.”
Reports later indicated the additional emails uncovered were in connection with an investigation into the sexting scandal surrounding former Rep. Anthony Weiner — the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
The calls for an immediate release of the new information were capped by a press conference convened by Clinton on Friday evening, during which she insisted the FBI director must release “pertinent” information “immediately.”
“The American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately,” Clinton told reporters before taking questions.
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