FBI Director Comey says he’s “mildly nauseous” over accusations that he swayed election
FBI Director James Comey testified Wednesday that he’s “mildly nauseous” at the idea that his decision to announce the reopening of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server could have swayed the U.S. presidential election.
But even so, Comey said before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “in hindsight, I would make the same decision.”
The FBI had been investigating the potential mishandling of classified emails through a private server Clinton used while serving as secretary of state. The FBI closed the initial probe in July, concluding that Clinton had been “extremely careless.”
When the FBI discovered thousands of new emails from the Democratic candidate on the hard drive of Anthony Weiner, the former congressman and husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, the FBI director said he faced a choice to either “speak or conceal.”
Weiner had been under investigation in an unrelated case, but the FBI found Abedin had been forwarding thousands of emails to the laptop, Comey said, and many were from a BlackBerry email account that the FBI had not been able to previously probe.
“There were thousands of new emails,” Comey said, contradicting reports that nearly all the discovered emails were merely duplicates. Comey said that many of those emails had classified information but that his agents reported to him that the new information did not change their original conclusions about Clinton’s benign intent in setting up the private email server.
Comey said he had only two options: “really bad” and “catastrophic.” In the end, “really bad” meant issuing the letter announcing that the case had been reopened on Oct. 28, 10 days before Americans went to the polls. Comey testified that he felt he couldn’t “consider for a second whose political fortunes might be affected.”
Concealing, Comey said, would be devastating for the future of the FBI and undermine public confidence in the bureau.
“We gotta walk into the world of really bad,” Comey said he told his staff when he decided to announce the reopening the investigation. “This was terrible,” he said, but he then asked the Senators: “Tell me what you would do? Would you speak or conceal?”
No senators answered his question but Clinton herself seemed to preemptively answer it on Tuesday. Speaking at a charity luncheon, Clinton said that if the election had been held on October 27th — the day before Comey sent the letter — ”I would be your president.”
Clinton even called out the FBI director by name, saying that she was “on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off.”
Democrats have also been furious that Comey made such a politically sensitive announcement while not publicly disclosing that the bureau was investigating Donald Trump’s campaign and its connections with Russian efforts to interfere in the presidential election.
Comey publicly confirmed that investigation in March of 2017, infuriating Democrats who argue that he treated the Clinton and Trump differently in the midst of a heated presidential campaign and put his hand on the scale for Trump.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the highest ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, chastised Comey for his “dramatically different” handling of the two investigations. But Comey argued that he had treated the investigations “consistently,” because the bureau does not comment on ongoing investigations.
The bureau did not publicly discuss the Clinton investigation until it had been concluded and the Trump investigation is being treated similarly, Comey argued. The director received special permission from the Justice Department to confirm the Trump-Russia investigation but said that will be the last time they publicly speak about it until they finish.
This is a developing story.