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Story highlights

"We don't play games," Comey said

Republican House Speaker had criticized the FBI's handling of the matter

(CNN) —  

FBI Director James Comey is defending the bureau’s Friday afternoon release of documents from the Hillary Clinton email investigation, saying “we don’t play games” and that the documents were put out when ready.

In a memo to employees Wednesday, Comey said the decision to not recommend charges against the now-Democratic nominee wasn’t a close call.

Read Comey’s full memo

“At the end of the day, the case itself was not a cliff-hanger; despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn’t a prosecutable case,” he said in the memo.

In recent weeks, Comey has met with groups of former FBI agents as part of his routine visits to field offices around the country. In at least one recent such meeting, according to people familiar with the meeting, former agents were sharply critical of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe and particularly the decision to not recommend charges against Clinton. Comey gave the meeting participants a similar answer about the case not being a cliff-hanger.

Comey said he briefly considered holding the documents until after the Labor Day holiday, knowing that the Friday afternoon release would likely prompt criticism. He also said more document releases are coming.

“I almost ordered the material held until Tuesday because I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend, but my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us,” Comey said.

“We don’t play games. So we released it Friday. We are continuing to process more material and will release batches of documents as they are ready, no matter the day of the week,” Comey said.

He concluded the memo by writing, “Those suggesting that we are ‘political’ or part of some ‘fix’ either don’t know us, or they are full of baloney (and maybe some of both).”

On Tuesday, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized the FBI’s handling of the matter, accusing the bureau of playing politics with the release.

“It’s like the most buried time you could ever put out a story. I’m surprised. I can’t believe that they would do what is such a patently political move. It makes them look like political operators versus law enforcement officers,” Ryan said in a radio interview with WRJN’s Glenn Klein.