WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey defended his decision to announce the FBI was reopening its investigation into whether Hillary Clinton used a private email server just days before the election on Wednesday, admitting it made him “nauseous” but saying he saw no better choice.
“This was terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think we may have had some impact on the election,” Comey said of his decision to let Congress know the FBI had found new Clinton emails on a computer owned by Anthony Weiner just over a week before last fall’s presidential election.
But Comey stood by his move, arguing he had no way to keep out of the campaign even as he took fire from both Democrats and Republicans on the way he’s run his department.
“Even in hindsight I would have made the same decision,” he argued. “I sat there that morning and I could not see a door labeled ‘no action here.’ I could see two doors, they were both actions. One was labeled ‘speak’ and the other was labeled ‘conceal.'”
Democrats have been livid since the moment Comey injected himself into the race, and many remain convinced that he cost Clinton the election.
That includes Clinton herself and most of her senior staff.
“I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me and got scared off,” Clinton said on Tuesday.
Democrats were quick to point out that Comey faced the same choice with its probe into whether there were ties between Russia and then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign as Russia tried to help Trump win the election.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, pointed out the FBI “was noticeably silent about its investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference into the election.”
“It’s still very unclear … why the FBI’s treatment of these two investigations was so dramatically different,” she said in her opening statement.
And other senior Democrats lambasted Comey’s framing of how he handled Clinton’s email scandal as a false choice.
“Real choice was not conceal or speak. Comey spoke about Clinton & concealed Trump invest. Real choice was to abide by DOJ policy or violate,” House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted.
While Democrats remain furious at how Comey handled the news that the FBI had discovered new Clinton emails (that later showed to have no real impact on the news), Republicans were harshly critical of how the FBI has handled its ongoing probe into potential Trump-Russia ties.
“Where is all this speculation about collusion coming from?” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said during his opening statement, slamming Comey for leaks from the FBI and questioning why they’d been spurred to investigate Trump.
“A cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI’s objectivity,” he warned.
And that’s one thing Democrats can agree with.
“Mr. Director, today we need to hear how the FBI will regain that faith and trust,” said Feinstein. “We never, ever want anything like this to happen ever again.”