Democrats are ramping up pressure on the FBI to release more details about the agency’s review of new emails “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server.
The Democratic presidential nominee’s aides are calling the three-paragraph letter FBI Director James Comey sent to lawmakers on Friday telling them the bureau would be assessing these new emails “disturbing” and “unprecedented.”
Meanwhile, Republicans and members of GOP nominee Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are seizing on the new information, attempting to cast Clinton as corrupt and praising the FBI for the development mere days before the election.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook on Sunday defended the Democratic nominee, saying the campaign is “concerned and disturbed” that Comey’s letter contained little information about the content of the emails and whether they were significant.
“We need all the information,” Mook said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“That’s what we’re asking,” he continued. “Just get all of it out there and the voters can judge for themselves.”
Mook acknowledged that the FBI director has been under “tremendous pressure” from Trump and GOP leaders since announcing in July that he would not recommend criminal charges related to Clinton’s use of the server when she was secretary of State.
He also praised Comey’s “long and distinguished record,” adding that’s why people were “particularly puzzled” about the lack of information in the letter the FBI director sent Friday to Congress.
Mook warned that rumors and conspiracy theories would develop if the agency didn’t make clear what these emails contained as the election nears.
“We don’t know anything, and this close to an election, this unprecedented announcement of new information when it’s been reported … that the FBI may have not even seen it, that Director Comey sent this unprecedented letter shortly before the election when he doesn’t even know what the information is,” Mook said.
“That’s disturbing, and we’re just asking him [to] get everything out there that he knows.”
The campaign also put out a video on Sunday afternoon featuring press secretary Brian Fallon walking through certain points of the email scandal.
“It’s entirely possible that they are all duplicates of emails the FBI already looked at months ago,” he says at one point.
The pushback video came as The Washington Post reported that FBI agents knew earlier this month about the new emails — but did not brief Comey until late last week.
The emails were reportedly discovered during a separate investigation into former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) over allegedly sending sexually explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl. Weiner is the estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Mook said Abedin fully cooperated with the FBI investigation into the email server that concluded this summer, when Comey announced he would not recommend criminal charges.
If the emails in question do belong to Abedin, the campaign would “assume” they’d be redundant because the longtime Clinton aide has already turned over all her emails, Mook said.
Even as speculation and rumors run rampant, Mook said he doesn’t think the email review will cost the Clinton the election, citing early voting numbers on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta on Sunday echoed Mook’s calls for the FBI to release more details.
“We’re calling on Mr. Comey to come forward and explain what’s at issue here,” Podesta said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“To throw this in the middle of the campaign, 11 days [before the election], just seemed to break with precedent and be inappropriate at this stage.”
Comey has faced backlash for making the announcement to Congress despite advice from top Department of Justice officials to not, and the Washington Post’s Sunday afternoon report on when he was informed about the discovery of the emails will prompt further questions.
Podesta said Sunday the comments seemed premature, with less than two weeks before Election Day.
“Is that something you toss on the table, or do you take the time to do what other prosecutors have done in the past?” Podesta asked.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Clinton’s running mate, called the letter from Comey unprecedented.
“I just have no way of understanding these actions. They’re a completely unprecedented move,” Kaine said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.
“When you haven’t even seen the material yourself 11 days before an election, why would you talk about an ongoing investigation?” Kaine asked.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) had similar sentiments.
“I think this was a terrible error in judgment by the director, to release this kind of ambiguous letter. These may be pertinent; they may be significant. They may not be significant; they may not be pertinent,” Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC’s “This Week.”
“That kind of an ambiguity bomb this close to an election was a terrible lapse in judgment,” Schiff added.
Top Republicans had a different take on the announcement of the new email review.
Rep. David Nunes called (Calif.) called the FBI’s decision a “substantial development.”
“I just don’t see Director Comey opening this case back up 11 days before the election unless it is quite serious,” Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) called the decision for Comey not to recommend charges against Clinton in the first place a “mistake.”
“But let me just say, with regard to Mr. Comey making a mistake: I think that he is very conscious of the controversy that has existed in the FBI and in the Justice Department” because of that, the House Judiciary Committee chairman said.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, said he was “glad” the Clinton campaign was calling for more information on the issue to be released.
But he questioned why Clinton wouldn’t ask Abedin to release her emails and commended the FBI for following through on its word to tell Congress if there was new pertinent information sufficient to reopen the investigation.
Pence said he believes Clinton was traveling with Abedin when the story broke.
“I mean, why didn’t she just turn to Huma and say ‘put these emails out’? Why wouldn’t she make those emails available to members of Congress?” he asked during an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
Pence declined to speculate about why Comey did not bring charges against Clinton in July, noting he has a “great deal of respect” for the FBI director. But he said the decision was “incomprehensible to millions of Americans.”
“I’ve always found him to be a straight shooter, but that was just troubling to come out and conclude what would have been a violation of law for any other American,” Pence said, “and to say that she was simply extremely careless I think was troubling.”
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, on Sunday sought to frame Clinton as corrupt, saying it was “unprecedented and unnecessary” to have a private server in the first place.
She also said the way the Clinton campaign is handling the situation is a “risky” strategy.
“She set off this chain of events and she can’t escape that. She’s playing the victim now. They’re doing an all-out assault on FBI Director James Comey; I mean really shooting the messenger, plus a full body slam all day yesterday,” Conway said Sunday on NBC’s “Today.”
But Comey can’t play the victim either, Conway said. If the FBI director had done a thorough investigation in the first place, this would never have happened, she said.
“I think it’s incredibly ironic that this stems from another investigation, it has nothing to do with the Republican Party or the Trump campaign, into Anthony Weiner’s sexting,” she said. “So this is on them.”
Conway also appeared to cast doubt on whether it would be possible for more details about the review to be released before the presidential election.
“I know that the general nature of these types of investigations is that they take a long time,” she said. “So I think the Clinton campaign is pressuring Comey to do something that may not be possible, simply given the short time.”
Small details have slowly been emerging regarding the email review.
On Saturday, Yahoo News reported the FBI did not have a search warrant to review the newly obtained emails. One of the government officials quoted by Yahoo News said the FBI director “had no idea what was in the content of the emails” when he wrote the letter to lawmakers.
The new email review has sparked a political firestorm with less than two weeks left to go before the general election.
Recent polls are showing a tighter race between the major party nominees as Clinton and her campaign struggles to contain the new controversy.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/303498-dems-ramp-up-pressure-on-comey-to-release-clinton-email