By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus demanded FBI Director James Comey release more details about the letter he sent to Congress just 11 days before Election Day – an unprecedented action – renewing the email scandal that has plagued Secretary Hillary Clinton’s entire campaign. Otherwise, they charge, it raises questions about Director Comey’s political motivations, handing Donald Trump’s campaign the ammunition they were looking for to depress voter turnout.
“For months, Donald Trump and his henchmen have led chants of ‘Lock her up.’ Now they are trying to turn this letter into something it is not, because the only way he can win is to hijack the election,” stated Congressman Luis Gutierrez (Illinois), and suggested that FBI Director Comey was similarly bullied into making this unprecedented statement, with the effect of breathing new fire into the Trump’s imploding campaign.
But, Gutierrez asserted, “The more we learn, the more we know it is overblown. Initially we told that the investigation has been reopened. That’s debunked. The emails don’t come from Clinton’s server at all. It may be that most or all are duplicates of others that have already been turned over.”
But he said, it raises questions about Comey’s own motivations. If only to give an update on an investigation, he noted, “You don’t hear Comey giving updates” on Russia’s role in the hack of the Democratic National Committee and whether the Trump campaign had any involvement.
“Why go so far as to send this highly questionable, unusual letter? [With so little information] it doesn’t make sense…He sent it, knowing it would be leaked, and he sent to 8 Republican chairmen who were sworn to defeat Clinton.
“Trump may bully the FBI but we cannot let him bully us out of this election,” he said.
Congresswoman Lujan Grisham of New Mexico called it, “another political ploy that has nothing to do with fairness or even professionalism.”
The action casts a shadow over Comey’s leadership, Grisham charged. “It is very difficult for them to rebut the presumption that this was politically motivated, which really should shake us to our core about the DoJ and FBI. This is absolutely unprecedented. You don’t engage this way, so close to an election and without any facts.
“Given that there has been a lot of pressure to the FBI to do something, find something, it is not difficult to figure it out. It allows one side to paint a scenario.” The conclusion that must be drawn, she said, “is that it is aimed at voter suppression, to depress turnout because Clinton is the most qualified candidate ever to run. She has incredible, proven track record for getting things done that this country needs to get done. It appears that that kind of distraction that might suppress remaining voters to stay home. We need Comey and FBI to explain.”
To illustrate how unusual Comey’s action is, she said, “it is not the practice of the FBI or Justice Department to release any kind of information related to ongoing or potential investigation, of which this is neither. And members of Congress should not engage or interfere. Because if you don’t hold to that practice it minimizes the independence and objectivity of the office. That highly unprofessional, out-of-practice effort, particularly engaging 8 Republican members of Congress, told us this is political.
“This has nothing to do with private server, Secretary Clinton’s emails. This is about somebody who has worked with Clinton, and part of an entirely separate investigation.”
Congressman Joaquin Castro (Texas) highlighted the unprecedented timing of releasing such a potentially inflammatory statement just 11 days before an election.
“This would be strange before a City Council election, much less a Presidential election…Director Comey showed extremely poor judgment in deciding to release the letter he did yesterday. He is irresponsible if he does not provide further information as to why looking at these emails. There has been no indication the emails are from or to Secretary Clinton or that she is involved in any way.”
The Hillary for America campaign documented the reaction:
Comey Under Fire After Sending Unprecedented Letter
FBI Director James Comey is under widespread criticism for breaking department precedent by commenting on an ongoing investigation, and doing so just days before a presidential election. Indeed, the Washington Post reported this morning senior Justice Department officials made perfectly clear to Comey that he would be in violation of long-standing DOJ policy.
Moreover, according to CNN, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates both objected to Comey sending this inappropriate letter to Congress. Nevertheless, Director Comey independently decided to move forward, rattling the presidential election with a note that was heavy on innuendo and extremely light on actual information or needed details.
The result? Broad bipartisan condemnation and demands for the swift disclosure of more information:
Washington Post: Justice officials warned FBI that Comey’s decision to update Congress was not consistent with department policy: “Senior Justice Department officials warned the FBI that Director James B. Comey’s decision to notify Congress about renewing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was not consistent with long-standing practices of the department, according to officials familiar with the discussions. Comey told Justice Department officials that he intended to inform lawmakers of newly discovered emails. These officials told him the department’s position “that we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” said one Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the high-level conversations.”
CNN: Comey notified Congress of email probe despite DOJ concerns: “Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates objected to FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress about his bureau’s review of emails related to Hillary Clinton’s personal server, law enforcement officials familiar with the discussion said. Comey decided to disregard their objections and sent the letter Friday anyway, shaking the presidential race 11 days before the election and nearly four months after the FBI chief said he wouldn’t recommend criminal charges over the Democratic nominee’s use of the server.
New York Times: Justice Dept. Strongly Discouraged Comey on Move in Clinton Email Case: “Mr. Comey’s letter opened him up to criticism not only from Democrats but also from current and former officials at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, including Republicans. ‘There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election,’ said George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under the first President George Bush. ‘Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences.’”
Politico: Comey’s disclosure shocks former prosecutors: “James Comey’s surprise announcement that investigators are examining new evidence in the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server put the FBI director back under a harsh spotlight, reigniting criticism of his unusual decision to discuss the high-profile case in front of the media and two congressional committees.”
Los Angeles Times: “The emails were not to or from Clinton, and contained information that appeared to be more of what agents had already uncovered, the official said, but in an abundance of caution, they felt they needed to further scrutinize them.
Washington Post Editorial: The damage Comey’s bad timing could do: “Mr. Podesta said he is ‘confident’ full disclosure ‘will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.’ If so, the question will be how badly damaged was Ms. Clinton’s candidacy by the 11th-hour re-eruption of a controversy that never should have generated so much suspicion or accusation in the first place.”
New York Times Editorial: “But Mr. Comey’s failure to provide any specifics about a new, potentially important development, less than two weeks before Election Day, is confounding. As Mr. Comey put it in July: “The American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest.” They deserve details even more urgently today.”
Bloomberg: FBI Shocker on Clinton Fuels Criticism of Comey’s Tactics: “FBI Director James Comey is facing extraordinary pressure to explain himself after dropping a bombshell on the campaign of Hillary Clinton just 11 days before the presidential election… Former prosecutors and lawmakers from both parties expressed shock and dismay at Comey’s highly unusual decision, which flouted decades of legal custom that call for avoiding taking actions that could affect the outcome of an election.”
Washington Post: FBI Director James B. Comey under fire for his controversial decision on the Clinton email inquiry: “Nick Ackerman, a former federal prosecutor in New York and an assistant special Watergate prosecutor, said Comey ‘had no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI has ever reviewed.’”
Huffington Post: News Outlets Dial Back Reports Of FBI ‘Reopening’ Clinton Email Case: “The story took several other turns on Friday afternoon that complicated the early, screaming headlines, and then ensured the story would remain a topic of discussion in the days ahead. Multiple outlets subsequently reported that the new emails weren’t sent by Clinton and didn’t come from her private server.”
CNN Legal Analyst, Paul Callan: Time for FBI director Comey to go: “Comey’s public announcement in July that the FBI had concluded its investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in the conduct of official State Department business and would not recommend the lodging of criminal charges was historically unprecedented in a high-profile political case.”
Washington Post Op-Ed by Former DOJ Spokesman Matt Miller: James Comey fails to follow Justice Department rules yet again: “With each step, Comey moved further away from department guidelines and precedents, culminating in Friday’s letter to Congress. This letter not only violated Justice rules on commenting on ongoing investigations but also flew in the face of years of precedent about how to handle sensitive cases as Election Day nears…. The director of the FBI has great power at his disposal…. With that independence comes a responsibility to adhere to the rules that protect the rights of those whom the FBI investigates. Comey has failed that standard repeatedly in his handling of the Clinton investigation.”
New York Times: F.B.I. Chief James Comey Is in Political Crossfire Again Over Emails: “The reaction was swift and damning, with Mrs. Clinton’s supporters and even some Republicans blasting Mr. Comey. Indeed, Mr. Comey, who was attacked this summer by Democrats and Republicans for both his decision not to bring charges against Mrs. Clinton and for the way he handled it, found himself in an even stronger crossfire on Friday.”
Los Angeles Times’ Michael McGough: FBI director should have known what his Clinton emails letter would unleash: “Having raised new doubts about Clinton so close to an election, Comey has an obligation —a moral obligation if not a legal one — to do everything he can to expedite the “additional work” required to determine whether this new information does, in fact, cast doubt on his earlier conclusion that Clinton wasn’t criminally culpable.”
Aurora Sentinel Editorial: FBI’s Comey needs to come clean on details, motivation — or resign: “If there’s damning or critical information about Clinton staff handling of email that creates the clear and immediate threat to national security that would warrant such a ploy, Americans deserve to have Clinton explain them, and Clinton must get that opportunity. Otherwise, Comey needs to apologize for his infelicity and possibly politically motivated stunt, and immediately step aside.”
Newsweek: Hillary Clinton’s Emails: The Real Reason The FBI Is Reviewing More Of Them: “Unfortunately, by trying to have things both ways – revealing the change in circumstances while remaining vague about what the agents know – Comey has created that misleading impression that could change the outcome of a presidential election, an act that, if uncorrected, will undoubtedly go down as one of the darkest moments in the bureau’s history.”
New Yorker: James Comey Broke With Loretta Lynch And Justice Department Tradition: “Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.”
Charlotte Observer Editorial: Comey drops Hillary Clinton email bombshell; so tell us more: “But it is extraordinary for such volatile information to emerge so close to Election Day and that’s especially true given how few specifics are known. Because Comey was so vague, voters can’t know what to think. The new emails could be anything from meaningless to evidence of criminal activity by Clinton to most anything in between.”
ThinkProgress: The ‘new’ Clinton emails might all be duplicates: “So, to be clear, the FBI Director delivered a gut punch to the Clinton campaign, despite the fact that 1) he doesn’t know what he has; 2) it may be something that he already had; and, 3) whatever it is that he has, it reportedly didn’t come from Secretary Clinton, and was not sent to her.”
Huffington Post: Heat Rises For FBI Director James Comey As Both Campaigns Demand Email Answers: “Both camps demanded that FBI Director James Comey disclose more details about the emails and the bureau’s investigation, which he made known in a letter to Congress just 11 days before the election…. Many challenged the FBI director’s motives, increasing the pressure on him to comply with calls from both campaigns for more information.”
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