john earnest wh comments
White House: Obama believes Comey has integrity
02:20 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said James Comey is in a 'tough spot'

The FBI director sent a letter to Congress last week about additional emails under review

CNN  — 

President Barack Obama does not believe FBI Director James Comey is attempting to influence this year’s presidential vote, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

“The President doesn’t believe that he’s secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party,” Earnest said. “He’s in a tough spot, and he’s the one who will be in a position to defend his actions in the face of significant criticism from a variety of legal experts, including individuals who served in senior Department of Justice positions in administrations led by presidents in both parties.”

Comey in the harsh spotlight of 2016 campaign

The White House had no role in Comey’s decision to inform Congress he was investigating new emails related to Hillary Clinton’s private server, Earnest added.

Earnest said he would neither “defend nor criticize” the decision. He’s aiming to preserve the integrity of the review into whether additional emails discovered on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner are relevant to an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Earnest said that norms about making information public should be followed.

Amid outcry about Comey’s decision, Earnest called the FBI director a man of “integrity and good character.”

RELATED - Clinton’s FBI investigation: What you need to know

Earnest’s comments come after Democrats, as well as even a few Republicans, have been critical of Comey’s actions. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Comey may have violated the Hatch Act and at least one Democratic member of Congress has called the FBI director to resign.

Earnest said Obama still has confidence in his FBI director amid widespread criticism of his decision to make information public about Clinton’s emails.

“The president thinks very highly of Director Comey,” Earnest said. “And yes, you can assert that he still has confidence in his ability to do his job.”