US Elections 2016: Final countdown

Clinton slams FBI chief over e-mail probe

Mrs Clinton at a rally yesterday in Daytona Beach, Florida, where supporters rallied around her, booing as she mentioned the letter sent by FBI director James Comey to Congress last Friday. The day before, the Justice Department strongly discouraged
Mrs Clinton at a rally yesterday in Daytona Beach, Florida, where supporters rallied around her, booing as she mentioned the letter sent by FBI director James Comey to Congress last Friday. The day before, the Justice Department strongly discouraged the step and told him he would be breaking with longstanding policy, said three law enforcement officials.PHOTO: REUTERS

Reports say he defied A-G by sending letter to Congress about newly discovered evidence

NEW YORK • United States presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her aides have intensified criticism of Mr James Comey as word emerged the director of the FBI defied Attorney-General Loretta Lynch by informing lawmakers of newly discovered e-mails that may relate to its investigation of the Democratic presidential nominee.

Last Thursday, the day before Mr Comey sent a letter to Congress announcing that new evidence had been discovered, the Justice Department strongly discouraged the step and told him that he would be breaking with longstanding policy, three law enforcement officials said.

Senior Justice Department officials did not move to stop him from sending the letter, officials said, but they did everything short of it, pointing to policies against talking about current criminal investigations or being seen as meddling in elections.

TROUBLING MOVE

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.

MRS HILLARY CLINTON

 

The new information was discovered in an unrelated investigation into disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner.

Mrs Clinton's aggressive strategy this time contrasts with her bunker mentality in previous episodes of the controversy over her e-mail practices at the State Department. Her campaign is taking a calculated risk in publicly criticising Mr Comey and pressing him to quickly release more details.

Should new information contradict past statements or call into question the judgment of Mrs Clinton or any of her advisers who migrated from the Obama administration to her campaign, it could be damaging.

Her rival Donald Trump told an audience in Phoenix that the "only reason" Mr Comey must have felt the need to tell lawmakers of the newly discovered e-mails is that "very, very serious things must be happening and must have been found".

Within 24 hours of being blindsided by Mr Comey's revelation to Congress, Mrs Clinton's campaign sent a memo to dozens of its surrogates.

It detailed talking points and suggested wording for casting doubt on Mr Comey's move and the Republicans' spin, and spreading the idea that the e-mails may simply be duplicates of those already reviewed or have nothing to do with the nominee.

Mrs Clinton's supporters rallied behind her at an event in Daytona Beach, Florida, booing as she mentioned the letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director.

"If you're like me, you probably have a few questions about it," she said. "It is 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's deeply troubling."

With such a short window between now and Election Day, Mrs Clinton and her top aides have concluded that there will be no big revelations and that there is no other course than a full pushback.

One Democratic strategist said that by Saturday evening, he and other surrogates were considerably less worried about the impact of Mr Comey's letter, in large part because Mrs Clinton's response had boosted their confidence.

 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the strategist said that while Democrats are still unsure about what Mr Comey is up to and whether there is anything new or damaging in the e-mails, the impact for Mrs Clinton may be minimal. Still, it could complicate the Democrats' ability to win back control of the Senate.

He said there remains residual anger among Democrats about Mrs Clinton's use of the private e-mail server while she was secretary of state, and her slow handling of the controversy in the first place. The shift in approach now has helped offset that anger, he added.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll showed Republicans' growing unity behind Mr Trump has helped pull him to just one percentage point below Mrs Clinton. A majority also say they are unmoved by the FBI's announcement. Mrs Clinton had a slim lead of 46 per cent to Mr Trump's 45 per cent.

BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'Clinton slams FBI chief over e-mail probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe