Obama criticises FBI director: ‘We don’t operate on incomplete information’

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Obama defends Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and criticises the FBI announcement of new emails linked to her private server, saying there was no room for innuendo in the investigative process.
A framed picture of US President Barack Obama is seen on the wall as US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greets patrons at a restaurnat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Oct 30, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - President Barack Obama sharply criticised the decision by his FBI director to alert Congress on Friday about the discovery of new emails related to the Hillary Clinton server case, implying that it violated investigative guidelines and trafficked in innuendo.

"We don't operate on incomplete information," Obama said in an interview with NowThis News. "We don't operate on leaks. 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," Obama said. The president did not mention FBI Director James B. Comey, but it was clear Obama was referring to him.

Declaring that 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," Obama nonetheless expressed confidence in Clinton. "I trust her," he said. "I know her. And I wouldn't be supporting her if I didn't have absolute confidence in her integrity and her interest in making sure that young people have a better future."

White House officials later downplayed Obama's remarks about the FBI and insisted he had not meant to criticise Comey. "The president went out of his way to say he wouldn't comment on any particular investigations," Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, told reporters on Air Force One while Obama was en route to North Carolina to campaign for Clinton.

For the last several days, the FBI has been analysing emails belonging to Huma Abedin, a top adviser to Clinton. Agents discovered the emails last month in an unrelated investigation into Abedin's estranged husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony D. Weiner.

In a letter to Congress, Comey said those emails might be pertinent to the investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server. Authorities concluded that case in July with no charges. But the letter, sent over the objection of the Justice Department, led to controversy because it deviated from long-standing guidelines. It is increasingly unlikely that agents will finish their work on the emails by Election Day, FBI officials said. They said there was a chance they could offer updates before next Tuesday.

"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 told NowThisNews in an interview broadcast on Wednesday (Nov 2).

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