On Friday, FBI Director James Comey delivered a letter to Congressional committee chairs updating them on the existence of a fresh batch of emails that could potentially be pertinent to the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified information with the use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. The revelation is potentially catastrophic to the Clinton campaign just days before the election. Why did James Comey wait to reveal new emails relevant to Clinton? The decision is being criticized by many people on both sides of the aisle.
According to Comey's letter to Congress, he was briefed on the existence of additional emails just one day before the letter was sent. The letter didn't explain the nature of the newly discovered emails, to or from whom they were sent, or how important they could be to the investigation. Instead, the Clinton campaign argues, the letter only raised additional suspicion about Clinton around an issue that had appeared to be settled. The result was a shocking chorus of agreement from both the right and left that Comey needs to provide more detail, particularly so close to an election.
The Wall Street Journal reported the new emails were found by the FBI on a laptop that was shared by Clinton aide Huma Abedin, and her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner, in a totally unrelated investigation into whether Weiner was engaging in sexual contact with minors. Romper was unable to reach Weiner for comment.
The Wall Street Journal reported that there are about 650,000 emails on the laptop and preliminary metadata indicates some of those emails were sent or received from Clinton's private email server. What remains unclear, pending further investigation, is whether those emails are all duplicates of communications already investigated for classified information, or whether there are new emails to be examined that could implicate Clinton. The problem is that none of this will be determined before the election, according to ABC News.
"Let’s just get all the information out there so that the rumors and the hypotheticals can be put to rest. And again, we’re hearing a lot of criticism now from former Justice Department officials, from former Clinton administration, former Bush administration, pointing out this is unprecedented," Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook told Meet the Press over the weekend, according to PolitiFact. "There are Justice Department policies against doing something like this so close to an election."
Jeanine Pirro, an unapologetic conservative legal expert and Fox News host had a rare moment of agreement with the Clinton campaign, saying Comey's letter "disgraces and politicizes," the FBI, on her show. The FBI has not responded to Romper's request for comment regarding Comey's motivation for publishing the letter so close to the election.
"You know I support Donald Trump and want him to win, but whether it's Hillary Clinton or anyone else, Comey's actions violate not only longstanding Justice Department policy … but the most fundamental rules of fairness and impartiality," Pirro said., according to Fox News.
Comey is under fire from all sides.
Comey has responded with a letter on the matter to FBI employees, according to the Washington Post, that reads in part:
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.
Comey faced a difficult decision. He could have waited until after the election to disclose the existence of new emails, but if it turned out there was something significant there, he could have been blamed for trying to suppress information to help Clinton get elected, according to ABC News. So he chose to send the letter. Only time will tell if he will be able to weather the fallout.