FBI Director James Comey wrote Congress on October 28 – less than two weeks from election day – that the FBI is investigating newly discovered emails “pertinent” to the agency’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
That has some people wondering about his politics, especially as Comey has been criticized for deviating from past practice not to do anything that could be construed as interfering in an election. Attorney General Loretta Lynch objected to the letter’s release.
Comey has been a lifelong Republican, although he recently said he is no longer registered as one. But that’s just the start of his lengthy and long-standing ties to Republican politics, including past donations to GOP presidential candidates.
The email revelation threatened to upend the 2016 presidential election as it immediately dominated news coverage and was seized upon by Clinton critics. Others argued that the FBI director had a responsibility to give voters more information because his statement was vague on a number of key questions, such as whose emails they were, how they were found, and what the potential relevancy might be to the Clinton investigation, if any.
The New York Times is now reporting that the emails in question were found on Anthony Weiner’s devices in a sexting investigation into him; Weiner is married to Clinton’s top aide and confidante Huma Abedin.
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Comey wrote in part. “I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.” Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta said in a statement that Comey should release more information and denied that Comey’s letter meant the probe was being reopened.
But what are the FBI director’s politics?
Comey works in the administration of a Democratic president, Barack Obama.
He told Congress in July that he was previously a registered Republican but is no longer one.
“I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life, not registered any longer,” Comey said, according to Politico.
He did not clarify whether he is still a Republican at all or what he considered his partisanship to be currently, if any.
There is no question though that Comey, until July anyway, was a lifelong Republican and even a Republican campaign donor. He also had earned enough of a reputation as a non-partisan style prosecutor willing to go against his own party that a Democratic president wanted him as FBI director.
Comey has been a Republican campaign donor to Republican presidential nominees in the past. Politico said he donated to the presidential campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Comey was nominated to be FBI director by President Barack Obama.
When Comey was nominated (only Rand Paul voted against him), the White House said Comey had served “in a prominent role in a Republican administration” and had a “well-established reputation” of not being driven by political decisions, said Bloomberg.
Comey was the top deputy of Attorney General John Ashcroft during the Bush administration. CNN said he has described how top Bush administration officials tried to get an ailing Ashcroft to sign off on an illegal wiretapping program, but Ashcroft refused from his hospital bed. The Week said Comey got wind of the plan and rushed to Ashcroft’s bedside, upsetting the Bush White House, but cementing his reputation as a non-partisan style prosecutor, despite his personal Republican registration. The incident led him to draft a resignation letter from the Bush administration that he never sent.
CNN said Comey was a deputy special counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee in the mid-1990s investigating the Clintons and investigated President Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich in 2001 as a federal prosecutor. He worked in the Justice Department from the 1990s through 2006, including running the Richmond, Virginia and New York City U.S. Attorney offices. He prosecuted everyone from Martha Stewart to John Gambino.
In 2013, The Week described Comey as “a former hedge fund executive, the former top lawyer for defense contractor Lockheed Martin, and a Republican.”