Obama indirectly criticizes Comey, saying “we don’t operate on innuendo.”
President Obama publicly comments for the first time about FBI Director James Comey’s letter on October 28, 2016 that effectively announced the reopening of the Clinton email investigation just 11 days prior to the 2016 US presidential election.
Obama doesn’t directly mention Comey. But he says, “I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo and we don’t operate on incomplete information and we don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”
Obama says, “I’ve made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don’t look like I am meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes for making these assessments.”
But then he makes comments that clearly are supportive of Clinton, by downplaying the implications of reopening the investigation. “Obviously, it’s become a political controversy. The fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton, having been in the arena for 30 years, oftentimes gets knocked around and people say crazy stuff about her and when she makes a mistake, an honest mistake, it ends up getting blown up as if it’s some crazy thing. I trust her. I know her.”
Obama also notes, “When this was investigated thoroughly last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable.” (CNN, 11/2/2016) (CNN, 11/2/2016)
Contrary to Obama’s claims that he has made an effort not to meddle, in October 2015 he made comments supporting Clinton in her email controversy that were criticized. Then he did so again in April 2016.
The New York Times’ editorial board heavily criticizes “James Comey’s Big Mistake.”
That is the title of the op-ed published four days after FBI Director Comey announced the at least partial reopening of the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. The editorial states, “Now, thanks to Mr. Comey’s breathtakingly rash and irresponsible decision, the Justice Department and FBI are scrambling to process hundreds of thousands of emails to determine whether there is anything relevant in them before [the US presidential election on November 8, 2016] — all as the country stands by in suspense. This is not how federal investigations are conducted. In claiming to stand outside politics, Mr. Comey has instead created the hottest political football of the 2016 election.
“And he clearly failed to consider the impact of the innuendo he unleashed just days before the election, seemingly more concerned with protecting himself from recrimination by critics in Congress and the FBI. … The Clinton campaign and its supporters are apoplectic. But top federal law enforcement officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations have been just as swift and fierce in their condemnation of Mr. Comey.
“In an election that has featured the obliteration of one long-accepted political or social norm after another, it is sadly fitting that one of the final and perhaps most consequential acts was to undermine the American people’s trust in the nation’s top law enforcement agencies.” (The New York Times, 10/31/2016)
Former Attorney General Eric Holder says that Comey made “a serious mistake.”
Eric Holder, US attorney general from 2009 to 2015, writes an editorial in the Washington Post with the title: “James Comey is a good man, but he made a serious mistake.”
He writes, “I am deeply concerned about FBI Director James B. Comey’s decision to write a vague letter to Congress about emails potentially connected to a matter of public, and political, interest. That decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. … Director Comey broke with these fundamental principles. I fear he has unintentionally and negatively affected public trust in both the Justice Department and the FBI. And he has allowed — again without improper motive — misinformation to be spread by partisans with less pure intentions.“
Holder continues, “This controversy has its roots in the director’s July  decision to hold a news conference announcing his recommendation that the Justice Department bring no charges against Hillary Clinton.” He says, given that Attorney General Loretta Lynch recused herself from the case, instead of having Comey “publicly share his professional recommendation, as well as his personal opinions” about the case in a “a stunning breach of protocol,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates could have announced the final decision of the department, without Comey’s extensive public commentary.
Holder concludes, “I served with Jim Comey and I know him well. This is a very difficult piece for me to write. He is a man of integrity and honor. I respect him. But good men make mistakes. In this instance, he has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications.” (The Washington Post, 10/31/2016)
A former assistant FBI director criticizes the Clintons, the Clinton Foundation, and the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.
Former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom says in an interview, “The Clintons, that’s a crime family, basically. It’s like organized crime. I mean, the Clinton Foundation is a cesspool.”
He also criticizes the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. “The problem here is this investigation was never a real investigation. That’s the problem. They never had a grand jury empaneled, and the reason they never had a grand jury empaneled, I’m sure, is [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch would not go along with that. … The agents are furious with what’s going on, I know that for a fact.”
He also says that he is supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump for president, and calls Clinton a “pathological liar.”
Kallstrom is best known for leading the investigation into the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in the late 1990s. (The Hill, 10/30/2016)
Since July 2016, he has occasionally appeared on Fox News and claimed to be in contact with an increasing number of FBI agents upset with the FBI’s Clinton email investigation.
Former Democrat and Republican number two Justice Department officials criticize Comey’s announcement.
Jamie Gorelick was deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton and is supporting Hillary Clinton for president. Larry Thompson held the same position under President George W. Bush and is has criticized Republican nominee Donald Trump. Deputy attorney general is the second highest position in the Justice Department. Together, they write an editorial in the Washington Post with the title: “James Comey is damaging our democracy.”
They are upset at FBI Director Comey for violating the Justice Department tradition not to make any moves that could have a political effect in the 60 day period before an election, with his October 28, 2016 announcement. (The FBI is part of the department.)
Their editorial concludes, “As it stands, we now have real-time, raw-take transparency taken to its illogical limit, a kind of reality TV of federal criminal investigation. Perhaps worst of all, it is happening on the eve of a presidential election. It is antithetical to the interests of justice, putting a thumb on the scale of this election and damaging our democracy.” (The Washington Post, 10/29/2016)
Clinton’s campaign intensifies its criticism of Comey’s decision to announce the reopening of the Clinton email investigation.
On October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress revealing that the Clinton email investigation was being at least partially reopened, due to newly discovered emails. This was immediately leaked to the general public.
One day later, Clinton comments, “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election. In fact, it’s not just strange. It’s unprecedented. And it is deeply troubling.”
Her campaign chair John Podesta says, “Twenty-four hours after that letter was sent, we have no explanation why. No-one can separate what is true or is not because Comey has not been forthcoming with the facts.” He suggests that “by providing selective information, [Comey] has allowed partisans to distort and exaggerate to inflict maximum political damage.” He declines to say whether Comey should be retained as FBI director if Clinton wins.
Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook says that Comey “owes the public the full story or else he shouldn’t have cracked open this door in the first place.”
By contrast, Republican National Committee (RNC) spokesperson Michael Short says, “The Clinton campaign was happy to praise Director Comey when it was politically convenient, but now that the FBI has found thousands of new emails pertinent to their investigation, they’re attacking him and mischaracterizing his letter to Congress.” (Bloomberg News, 10/29/2016)
Clinton encourages Comey to release all the information the FBI has that led him to reopen the Clinton email investigation.
Clinton reacts to FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the Clinton email investigation has been at least partially reopened due to the discovery of more emails in the possession of her aide Huma Abedin. Clinton says, “We are calling on the FBI to release all the information that it has. Let’s get it out.” (The New York Times, 10/28/2016) She adds, “We don’t know the facts, which is why we are calling on the FBI to release all the information that it has.” (Politico, 10/29/2016)
She also says, “We are 11 days out from perhaps the most important national election of our lifetimes. Voting is already underway in our country. So the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately. We’ve heard these rumors. We don’t know what to believe. That is why it is incumbent on the FBI to tell us what they are talking about. Because right now your guess is as good mine, and I don’t think that is good enough.” (Politico, 10/28/2016)
The call for more information is bipartisan. For instance, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence also urges the FBI to “immediately release all the emails pertinent to their investigation.” (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)
Carl Bernstein says the FBI’s announcement must mean there is a “real bombshell” in the newly discovered evidence.
Reporter Carl Bernstein, best known for his reporting on the Watergate scandal, comments on the FBI’s surprise announcement that the FBI’s Clinton email investigation is being reopened. “We don’t know what this means yet except that it’s a real bombshell. And it is unthinkable that the director of the FBI [James Comey] would take this action lightly, that he would put this letter forth to the Congress of the United States saying there is more information out there about classified emails and call it to the attention of congress unless it was something requiring serious investigation.”
He also says, “Right now we’re all talking in a vacuum but I want to add here that in the last, oh, 36, 48 hours, there has been an undercurrent of kind of speculative discussion among some national security people that something might surface in the next few days about emails, and I think the expectation in this chatter — and I took it as just chatter but informed chatter, to some extent — was that it would relate to another round of WikiLeaks emails, which our Justice Department people seem to be saying is not the case, but there has been some noise in the national security community the last day or two of this kind of possibility of some kind of revelation.” (Real Clear Politics, 10/28/2016)
Former FBI officials argue that Comey wouldn’t have reopened the Clinton email investigation so soon before the presidential election unless there was substantial new evidence.
After FBI Director James Comey reopens the FBI’s Clinton email investigation on October 28, 2016, there is much public debate why he would this given that there are only 11 days before the US presidential election. Politico reports that some FBI officials claim that it is “inconceivable to them that Comey would announce such a development because of some incremental or cumulative information in such a high-wattage case.”
One unnamed former FBI official says, “It never happens. Once you vacate a high-profile case, unless there’s some very significant omission, they won’t [reopen] it. … Comey’s not that way. He’s a very practical man. It must be something that goes to the substance. It can’t be cumulative. He’s not a grandstander… It’s not his style.”
Another unnamed “former high-ranking FBI official” says, “The only reason he’d do it is if he had something very pertinent. Certainly, 11 days before an election it could well affect the outcome. It just doesn’t make much sense without something very substantive.” (Politico, 10/28/2016)
Republicans applaud Comey’s announcement regarding the FBI’s discovery of new information relevant to the Clinton email investigation.
Prominent Republican politicians react to FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the Clinton email investigation has been at least partially reopened due to the discovery of more emails in the possession of her aide Huma Abedin.
Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus says, “The FBI’s decision to reopen their criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s secret email server just 11 days before the election shows how serious this discovery must be. … This stunning development raises serious questions about what records may not have been turned over and why, and whether they show intent to violate the law.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) says, “Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame. She was entrusted with some of our nation’s most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information.” He argues that she should no longer be allowed to receive classified briefings. (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)