The Hillary Clinton campaign was rocked Friday by what was initially reported as an FBI announcement that it was “reopening” the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. The details of the story quickly revealed that there was no “reopening” of the investigation — so why did FBI Director James Comey make the announcement just 11 days before the 2016 presidential election?
The answer, according to an account by Newsweek magazine, is that Comey had no choice.
“Because the new information followed his sworn testimony about the case, Comey was obligated by Department of Justice rules to keep the relevant committees apprised,” Newsweek reported. “Under oath Comey had stated that the bureau had completed its review. Once he learned that there were new emails that required examination, Comey had to notify Congress that he had to amend his testimony because it was no longer true.”
The magazine also said that there was a “political dimension” to the announcement. Comey knew that if the FBI had come into possession of any new information relevant to the email investigation, but did not alert congress to that fact prior to the election on November 8, “the director and his entire agency’s credibility might have been questioned.”
Newsweek writer Kurt Eichenwald reported on his Twitter account that the announcement involves only three emails.
Newsweek noted that Comey did not use the term “reopened” with regard to the email investigation, likely because, “technically it was never closed.”
Nonetheless, Clinton Campaign manager John Podesta blasted Comey in a statement of his own later Friday.
“It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election,” Podesta wrote. “The Director (i.e. Comey) owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.”
The Clinton email investigation is not the first time that Comey has been involved in an investigation targeting either Hillary or Bill Clinton. In fact, the email probe is the third time Comey, who has said that he was a registered Republican for his entire life until recently when he dropped his party registration altogether, has investigated the Clintons.
Comey served as special counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee in the 1990s, which investigated a failed real estate deal involving the Clintons but ultimately resulted in charges against either Clinton.
Then, when Comey was a federal prosecutor, he led an investigation into a pardon given to fugitive financier Marc Rich in the latter days of the Bill Clinton presidency. But that investigation also went nowhere.