NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–October 29, 2016. Saturday, HFA Campaign Chair John Podesta and Campaign Manager Robby Mook held a conference call to respond to the extraordinary step FBI Director James Comey took yesterday by sending a letter to Capitol Hill in violation of long-standing department policies.
It is not surprising that Congressman Chaffetz would take the opportunity to distort the facts to mount an attack on Hillary Clinton. This is someone who has promised to launch years of new Hillary Clinton investigations when she is president. Even conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, and said earlier this week that Chaffetz says undermined his own legitimacy and he was – that he was “obsessed with finding something, anything to hang around Hillary Clinton’s neck.” So while some initially ran with the notion that an investigation was being reopened, those were Chaffetz’s words, not Comey’s, and outlets have already walked back this claim.
But this is exactly the problem that Director Comey has created with sending off his letter just 11 days out from the presidential election. By providing selective information, he has allowed partisans to distort and exaggerate in order to inflict maximum political damage, and no one can separate what is true from what is not because Comey is not been forthcoming with the facts. What little Comey has told us makes it hard to understand why this step has been warranted at all. For instance, he says, quote, “The FBI cannot assess whether or not this material may even be significant,” unquote.
And the reporting that has surfaced in the hour since this letter surfaced create even more confusion why Comey would have raised this on the eve of the election. NBC has reported from law enforcement sources that the emails in question were never withheld by Hillary Clinton or the Clinton campaign. NBC reported that the emails in question did not come from Clinton’s server at all. That has now been corroborated by a slew of other news outlets, and according to the Los Angeles Times, Clinton did not even personally or receive any of the emails in question.
Reports indicate that many of these emails are likely duplicates of ones that have already been turned over and reviewed by the bureau and its investigation last July. It is in fact entirely possible all the emails in question are just that, duplicates. So that is what we have learned from reporting in the wake of Director Comey’s message to congressional leaders. So just to recap and to put this in perspective, there is no evidence of wrong doing, no charge of wrong doing, no indication that this is even about Hillary. In fact, there are reports that the emails they want to look at are duplicates of things they already have and aren’t even from or to Hillary.
Even Director Comey said, “This may not be significant.” If that is all true, it is hard to see how this amounts to anything, and we are not going to be distracted, and Hillary is not going to be distracted in the final days of this election over nothing. But we should not be forced to get this information from second and third hand sources, from leaks, from law enforcement and FBI sources, Director Comey was the one who decided to take this unprecedented step. We now learned against the advice of senior Justice Department officials, who told him it was against long-standing department policy from Democratic and Republican administrations. Director Comey was the one who wrote a letter that was light on facts, heavy on innuendo, knowing full well what Republicans in Congress would do with it. It’s now up to him, who owes the public answers to the questions that are now on the table, and we’re calling on him to come forward and give those answers to the American public. So with that, let me turn it over to our campaign manager, Robby Mook.
CAMPAIGN MANAGER ROBBY MOOK: Well, thank you John, and this is a very concerning situation. As John explained, the more information that comes out, the more overblown this entire situation seems to be. That, in turn, has raised more questions about Director Comey from his colleagues in law enforcement circles to take this extraordinary step 11 days out from the presidential election. Just this morning, there is a startling report in the Washington Post saying that senior Justice Department officials warned Director Comey not to do this and that it was inconsistent with the practices of the department. He was apparently told that “we do not comment on an ongoing investigation, and we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” according to one Justice official who spoke to the Post. As a result of this, Comey has come under considerable pressure from not just Democrats but also Republicans and legal experts alike.
The Washington Post amplifies this point. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Akerman says, “Director Comey acted totally inappropriately. He has no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI had ever reviewed. It is not the function of the FBI director to be making public pronouncements about an investigation, never mind about an investigation based on evidence that he acknowledges may not be significant.”
Also former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg said he respects Comey, however, quote, “I don’t understand this idea of dropping this bombshell, which could be a big dud. Doing it in the last week or 10 days of a presidential election without more information, I don’t think that he, I don’t think he should because how does it inform voters? It just invites speculation.” And in addition, former Justice Department spokesperson, Matt Miller, said, “The Justice Department’s long-time, long-standing practice is ‘don’t do anything seen as trying to influence an election.’ That’s usually interpreted as 60 days, let alone 11. It’s completely unfair to Secretary Clinton, and it’s really unfair to the voters. There’s no reason he had to send this letter.”
And finally, according to reports, Attorney General Loretta Lynch “expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s long-standing practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election,” but he said he felt compelled to do otherwise. So as John said, “It’s now incumbent on Director Comey to immediately provide the American people with more information than what is contained in his letter.” He owes the public the whole story, or else he shouldn’t have cracked open this door in the first place. Both campaigns and leaders in both parties of Congress are in full agreement on this fact.
And the last thing I’d say before I turn it back to Brian is that based on the anecdotes I’m hearing from our team on the ground, this situation has created an urgency, an intensity among our volunteers and activists that was already high because we are so close to the election but that our volunteers are rallying behind Hillary. They know what a fighter she is. I think they were heartened that she came out and addressed this so forthrightly, that she is calling for the full story to be told. And they’re as upset and concerned as we are here, and they are turning out, not only to have her back but to rally our supporters to turn out and vote as early voting goes into full swing. And we’re not just seeing this in our offices on the ground, but also in our, in our online, in the online space as well. And the, I think this is, we already had momentum and wind behind our back going into yesterday. I think this has only increased the momentum that we’re feeling among our activists on the ground.