FBI Director Comey Defends Decision To Go Public On Clinton Email Investigation Announcement Days Before Election

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork)FBI Director James Comey defended his decision to announce that the FBI was looking into additional Hillary Clinton emails just days before the 2016 presidential election while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, Comey in the process revealed more details about Huma Abedin, and how classified emails ended up on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

Comey told members of the committee that when he received word that there were “thousands of Secretary Clinton’s emails” on a laptop belonging to Weiner he faced a choice: To say something or to conceal it.

“I sat there that morning and I could not see a door labeled ‘No action here,'” Comey said. “I could see two doors, and they were both actions. One was labeled ‘speak,’ the other was labeled ‘conceal.'”

Comey said he had repeatedly told Congress the investigation was over and there was nothing there.

“To restart in a hugely significant way, potentially finding the emails that would reflect on her intent from the beginning, and not speak about it would require an act of concealment, in my view. And so I stared at ‘speak’ and ‘conceal,'” Comey said. “Speak would be really bad. There’s an election in eleven days. Lordy, that would be really bad. Concealing, in my view, would be catastrophic.”

Comey said there was a “great debate” among his staff about what to do.

“One of my junior lawyers said ‘Should you consider that what you’re about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?’ And I said: ‘Thank you for raising that. Not for a moment. Because down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent institution in America. I can’t consider for a second whose political fortunes will be affected in what way. We have to ask ourselves “What is the right thing to do?” and then do that thing.’ I’m very proud of the way we debated it, and at the end of the day, everyone on my team agreed we have to tell Congress we are restarting this in a hugely significant way.”

Comey also said the idea that his decision may have played a role in the outcome of the election made him “mildly nauseous.”
But he was quick to point out, “honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”

Just Tuesday, Clinton told an audience she believed that Comey’s announcement was partially responsible for her loss.

“I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28th and Russian Wikileaks raised doubts in the minds of people,” Clinton said.

Comey also told members of the committee he had never been an anonymous source in either the Trump or Clinton investigations.

Comey also said there was no difference in his treatment of the Clinton email investigation and the investigation into whether or not there were ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“With respect to the Russia investigation, we treated it like we did with the Clinton investigation. We didn’t say a word about it until months into it. And then the only thing we’ve confirmed so far about this is the same thing we with the Clinton investigation: That we’re investigating. And I would expect we’re not going to say another peep about it until we’re done. And I don’t know what’ll be said when we’re done. But that’s the way we handled the Clinton investigation as well,” Comey said.

Meanwhile, the revelations from Comey on Wednesday may raise additional doubts about Clinton’s judgment and whom she trusted with classified material.

In October, Politico reported that Abedin was “in the dark” over how classified Clinton emails ended up on Weiner’s laptop. On Wednesday, Comey blew that story to smithereens.

“(Weiner’s) then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him, for him I think to print out for her, so she could then deliver them to the Secretary of State,” Comey said.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) grilled Comey on Abedin and Weiner’s involvement.

Graham: “Somebody should be prosecuted for letting Anthony Weiner have access to classified information. Does that make general sense?”

Comey: “It could be a crime. It would depend up what the…”

Graham: “Well, do you agree with me it should be — that anybody that allows Anthony Weiner to have classified information probably should be prosecuted? If our laws don’t cover that, they probably should.”

Comey said a lack of evidence of criminal intent saved Abedin and Weiner from prosecution. He also reaffirmed that Russia worked to influence the election, and predicted that Russia would try to do so again in 2018 and 2020.

Overnight, President Trump Tweeted that Comey “was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!”

Trump also blasted the “phony Trump/Russia story” as “an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election.”

More From CBS New York

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
Get Our Morning Briefs
Bloomberg WCBS Tri-State Business Index