With less than two weeks before election day, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James Comey announced the bureau was reopening the case involving Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey said Friday the FBI had found additional emails pertinent to the case. The emails were discovered when the bureau was investigating another case.
“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony,” Comey wrote.
His actions have led to questions over his motive for the timing of the announcement so close to Nov. 8. Democrats have called his behavior “partisan action,” an allegation that doesn’t necessarily sound very far-fetched, given Comey was a self-avowed Republican.
But in July, Comey said he was no longer a Republican. “I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life, not registered any longer,” he reportedly told Congress. The 55-year-old has donated money to the campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.
However, he didn’t clarify if he was still a Republican, just not registered as one, or if he had changed his political affiliation.
He earned praise from Republicans who previously criticized him for his decision not to recommend charges against Clinton for her use of a private server. Clinton’s rival in the race to the Oval Office, Republican nominee Donald Trump, compared the controversy to Watergate at a rally in New Hampshire, adding: “Perhaps, finally, justice will be done.”
However, the announcement has ruffled several Democrats. Senate minority leader Harry Reid warned Comey he may have broken the law.
In a scathing letter to the FBI chief, Reid reportedly wrote: “Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another.”
“My office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan action, you may have broken the law,” Reid wrote.
Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen called for Comey’s resignation Sunday night. He called Comey’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee “plainly premature, careless and unprecedented in its potential impact upon a presidential election without a speck of information regarding the emails in question, their validity, substance or relevance.”
Comey previously served as deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration before he was appointed the seventh director of the FBI by an overwhelming majority. During the vote on July 29, 2013, Comey won 93-1 with Senator Rand Paul being the sole dissenting voice. Comey succeeded Robert Mueller III who held the post for 12 years.
Comey’s 10-year term as FBI chief expires 2023, meaning he would remain chief well after the upcoming presidential election and the next one too.