Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused FBI Director James Comey Monday of engaging in a “blatant double standard.”
Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook slammed Comey in the wake of reports that the FBI director refused to publicly comment on potential Donald Trump campaign ties to Russia’s alleged efforts to meddle with the US election, but did weigh in on an updated investigation involving Clinton’s email server.
“It is impossible to view this as anything less than a blatant double standard,” Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, said on a call with reporters. “That Director Comey would show more discretion in a matter concerning a foreign state action than one involving the Democratic nominee for president is nothing short of jaw-dropping.”
Comey propelled himself into the 2016 election on Friday when he sent a letter to Congress announcing a renewed probe into emails tied to Clinton. The move has drawn scorn from Democrats, but also Republican former Justice Department officials, who argue Comey has violated protocol.
Clinton’s campaign held a call with reporters Monday jumping on reports from CNBC and Huffington Post that Comey argued privately against naming Russia as the state actor carrying out hacks on Democratic officials, citing the election.
CNN reporters have no sources corroborating the story and the FBI has declined to comment. The reporting stands in contrast to what CNN reported in September concerning the deliberations about Russia’s role. At the time, CNN reported that the FBI and Justice Department officials believed there was strong evidence to warrant naming Russia, but there was caution from the broader intelligence community (which was concerned about potential retaliation) and the White House, which was concerned about the political overtones so close to the US election.
According to sources CNN talked to both around the time of the actual decision and Monday: The FBI was supportive of the intel community putting out the statement pointing a finger at Russia. The intention was always for it to come from the intel community and the Department of Homeland Security, to project their role in defending critical infrastructure.
The FBI was never going to have its name on any announcement, sources said. Instead, the plan was for it to be an intelligence community statement coming from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which represents the FBI on these matters. The FBI is part of the intelligence community.
But the FBI was not ready to make a legal case trying to prove how Russia may have passed the material to WikiLeaks and if there was coordination. That was not a case they could make at the time of the statement being released.
Mook called Comey’s comments about Clinton “not the hallmarks of a responsible investigation,” especially when compared to his reported caution about fingering Russia.
Brian Fallon, Clinton’s national press secretary, said it was “time for Director Comey to disclose as much information as possible about these investigations.”
Comey, meanwhile, stands by his decision despite the backlash, and believes he did the right thing, according to a source familiar with Comey’s thinking.
“He’s doing OK,” this person said.
In Comey’s view he was faced with two bad options: not be upfront with Congress and risk the news leaking out or violating Justice Department protocol and living up to his word to Congress to provide any updates related to the investigation. He chose the lesser of the two bad choices in his mind. He was trying to reach the delicate balance of providing just enough information to fulfill his obligation to Congress.
“He doesn’t have a partisan bone in his body,” the source said, adding Comey didn’t want to do anything this close to the election, but felt he had no choice given the development with the new emails.
CNN’s Pam Brown contributed to this report.