President Barack Obama has criticized FBI Director James Comey’s decision to notify Congress of the agency’s renewed probe into Hillary Clinton‘s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
Breaking his silence on the matter in an interview with NowThis News that aired Wednesday, Obama suggested — without mentioning Comey by name — that the FBI director had breached investigative protocol with his bombshell announcement on Friday.
“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,” Obama said. “We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”
“When this was investigated thoroughly the last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was that she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable,” he continued.
Obama said he had “made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don’t look like I’m meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes for making these assessments,” but added that he had faith in Clinton’s integrity.
The president’s comments come after his press secretary, Josh Earnest, said Monday that the White House would neither “defend nor criticize” Comey’s decision.
“The president doesn’t believe that he’s secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party,” Earnest said of Comey. “He’s in a tough spot, and he’s the one who will be in a position to defend his actions in the face of significant criticism from a variety of legal experts, including individuals who served in senior Department of Justice positions in administrations led by presidents in both parties.”
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Comey is indeed under fire for sending a letter to Congress announcing that the FBI is taking additional “investigative steps” into the Clinton case after uncovering emails that could be related to the probe on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Republican attorney and former White House ethics lawyer Richard W. Painter has filed a complaint against Comey and the FBI, alleging that they violated the Hatch Act, which ensures “that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion.”
At a Clinton campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, President Obama said the Democratic nominee “is consistently treated differently than just about any other candidate I see out there.” He urged voters to look beyond the “systematic attacks” critics on the right have made against Clinton, saying that while she’s “made mistakes … she is a fundamentally good and decent person who knows what she’s doing and will be an outstanding president.”