FBI director defends decision to announce Clinton e-mail probe

Mrs Hillary Clinton at the Women for Women International Luncheon in New York on Tuesday. She blamed her defeat in last year's White House race on Mr James Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying they had "scared off" voters.
Mrs Hillary Clinton at the Women for Women International Luncheon in New York on Tuesday. She blamed her defeat in last year's White House race on Mr James Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying they had "scared off" voters.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • US Federal Bureau of Investigation Director (FBI) James Comey yesterday defended his decision to announce last year that the agency had reopened an investigation into former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a personal e-mail server while she was secretary of state.

He said that not doing so would have been "an act of concealment".

It was the FBI chief's most impassioned defence of his decision to date. Testifying before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr Comey said it made him "mildly nauseous" to think that the FBI may have had some impact on the US presidential election on Nov 8.

His comments came a day after Mrs Clinton laid the blame for her defeat in last year's White House race squarely at the feet of Mr Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying they had "scared off" voters.

Her remarks at a New York charity luncheon on Tuesday were the most extensive and direct about her loss since the shock result last year.

"I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey's letter on Oct 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me, but got scared off," said Mrs Clinton.

"If the election had been on Oct 27, I'd be your president."

Mrs Clinton also said she took "absolute personal responsibility" for a series of campaign blunders that contributed to her loss.

In January, the United States intelligence community said it had concluded that Russia interfered in the election and Mr Putin himself ordered a campaign to undermine the US democratic process and harm Mrs Clinton's electability in order to help Mr Trump win.

Mrs Clinton cited the release on Oct 7 of an old video tape in which Mr Trump is heard crudely discussing groping women, and how "within an hour or two" of the tape's release, the Russian theft of e-mails belonging to Mrs Clinton's staffers was posted on WikiLeaks.

Mr Trump responded to Mrs Clinton's comments hours later on Twitter, saying she had gotten off easy because the FBI chose not to charge her over the e-mail case.

Political analysts have said Mrs Clinton fell short partly because she failed to mobilise the coalition of non-whites, young voters, single women and college-educated whites who had propelled Mr Barack Obama to victory in 2008 and 2012. She was also faulted for not spending enough campaign time in traditionally Democratic strongholds Michigan and Wisconsin.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2017, with the headline 'FBI director defends decision to announce Clinton e-mail probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe