"He Is Operating Independently Of The Justice Department. And He Knows It," One Official Says
FBI Director James Comey knowingly violated Department of Justice policy and defied Attorney General Loretta Lynch when he sentÂ a letter to Congress on Friday saying that his agency is reviewing new evidence related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server.Â
Senior DOJ officials, including Lynch, reportedly warned Comey that the letter would violate longstanding department policies against commenting on ongoing investigations and against taking steps that can be viewed as influencing an election.Â
â€œDirector Comey understood our position. He heard it from Justice leadership,â€ one DOJ official told The Washington Post, on condition of anonymity. â€œIt was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill. He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it.â€
Democrats and former Justice Department officials have blasted Comey for the letter, which came 11 days before the election and made headlines in major newspapers across the country, including in swing states:Â
The Clinton email news leads almost every single one of the big swing state papers this morning ... pic.twitter.com/t3rEOwHNmMâ€” Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) October 29, 2016
Shortly after sending the letter, Comey wrote in a memo to his staff that while the FBI doesn't normally inform Congress about ongoing investigations, he felt obligated to do so since he repeatedly testified that the investigation into Clinton's use of the private server was complete, adding that it "would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record."
"At the same time, however, given that we donâ€™t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I donâ€™t want to create a misleading impression," Comey wrote. "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."Â
The new evidence consists of emails thatÂ were not sent by Clinton but were found on devices seized from former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife, top Clinton campaign aide Huma Abedin. The FBI discovered the emails while investigating the disgraced Weiner, whom Abedin is divorcing, for allegedly sexting with an underage girl.
On Saturday, Clinton's campaign slammed Comey for issuing a letter that was "short on facts, long on innuendo." Â
"There's no evidence of wrongdoing. No charge of wrongdoing. No indication this is even about Hillary," campaign chairman John Podesta said.Â