WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey was unapologetic Wednesday about his decision to go public with the reopening of an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email 11 days before the election, and denied that political considerations affected his decision.
On Oct. 28, Comey announced that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, focusing on emails the agency had learned were on the computer of Anthony Weiner, who at the time was married to Clinton top aide Huma Abedin.
Democrats said the announcement was a key factor in Clinton’s loss to President Donald Trump.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey said that not announcing the fact that the FBI had found new emails that could have affected the earlier investigation’s conclusion would have been concealment.
“And so I stared at speak and conceal,” Comey said. “To speak would be really bad…Concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the FBI” because it would damage the credibility of the justice system in the eyes of the American people.
The FBI thought that the newly discovered emails could contain the missing emails in the first three months of Clinton’s mandate, he said.
“I have asked myself a million times, should I have done this, should I have done that,” said Comey, facing a barrage of questions from senators. “I think I would not have done anything differently.”
But Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said Comey’s choice was a mistake. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she found it hard to believe that Comey did not made the announcement without political calculations in mind.
Senators also questioned Comey on Russia’s capacity to carry out cyberattacks and whether Trump administration or campaign officials have ties to Russia that should be investigated.
Comey said that Russia is still actively trying to affect U.S. politics, but declined to comment on ties to Trump’s staff.
Some senators pushed for a special prosecutor to head on Russian hacking of the U.S. political system and possible Trump administration involvement.
Sen. Richard Blumethal, D-Conn., emphasized in an interview after the hearing that not having a special prosecutor would create a conflict of interest for Comey’s investigation, which would report to a deputy attorney general appointed by Trump.