The Cable

Obama on FBI Director Comey: ‘We Don’t Operate on Innuendo’

President Obama breaks his silence on the FBI director’s controversial and 11th-hour decision to revive the Clinton email investigation.


President Barack Obama finally broke his silence on FBI Director James Comey’s controversial announcement to Congress that he is revisiting the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

In an interview with NowThis, an online news and media start-up, on Wednesday, Obama said, “I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo, we don’t operate on incomplete information, we don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.” Obama added that he was “very deliberate” in making sure that it does not appear that he is meddling in what are meant to be independent investigations.

Comey notified Congress that the FBI was going to review new material that appeared to be pertinent to the investigation “to determine whether they contain classified information.” The FBI found thousands of emails on a laptop that Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin shared with her estranged husband and former congressman, Anthony Weiner, who is under FBI investigation for possibly sending sexual text messages to a minor.

In his letter to Congress on Oct. 28, Comey said: The “FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.” Comey’s letter on Clinton’s email investigation drew immediate criticism from Democrats and plenty of former officials from both parties in the Justice Department. On Oct. 29, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta called Comey’s letter “bewildering, short on facts—and unfair to voters.”

The whole issue of FBI investigations and the presidential race has since been muddied even further, after various news outlets reported that the bureau is investigating possible links between the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump and Russia. The FBI has come under additional fire after it made public Tuesday information about past investigations on Trump’s father, Fred Trump, on Oct. 30 and on Bill Clinton’s time in the White House.

The FBI released these records on its records vault Twitter account, which until the release of Fred Trump’s file had been dormant for more than a year.

Obama’s comments come just two days after his press secretary, Josh Earnest, said the White House would not criticize Comey’s decision to continue looking into the curious case of Clinton’s emails.

“The president,” Earnest said, “doesn’t believe that [Comey is] secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party,” adding, “He’s in a tough spot.”

That spot seems to have just gotten a bit tougher.

Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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