Fri, May 05, 2017 - Page 7 News List

FBI defends announcement on Hillary Clinton probe

Reuters, WASHINGTON

FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday said it made him “mildly nauseous” to think his announcement of the reopening of an investigation into former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton over her activities involving US Department of State e-mail affected the US presidential election last year, but he had no regrets and would make the same decision again.

In four hours of testimony before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey delivered a defense of a decision that many Democrats believe cost them the White House.

He told the US Congress that 11 days before the Nov. 8 election that the FBI had uncovered a new trove of Clinton-related e-mails.

Comey said he felt he had to speak out at that time because he had repeatedly told lawmakers the Clinton e-mail probe was over.

“To not speak about it would require an act of concealment in my view,” Comey said.

“Concealing, in my view, would be catastrophic,” Comey added.

He told the panel one reason for the FBI’s renewed interest in Clinton’s case was that investigators had found e-mails, some of them classified, forwarded by Clinton’s assistant Huma Abedin to Abedin’s husband, who was not authorized to see such information.

“It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election, but honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision,” Comey said.

The FBI, which is supposed to remain politically neutral, said a few days later that the new e-mails did not change its decision not to recommend criminal charges against Clinton, but many Democrats say that the political damage was done.

Clinton on Tuesday said that her election bid was derailed in part by Comey’s announcement about the renewed probe of her use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state.

She said her effort also was damaged by the WikiLeaks release of her campaign chairman John Podesta’s e-mails.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking member on the committee, led Democrats asking Comey why he went public with the Clinton probe, but kept silent on an investigation into alleged Russian hacking.

“It’s still very unclear — and I hope director that you will clear this up — why the FBI’s treatment of these two investigations was so dramatically different,” she asked.

US intelligence agencies in December last year accused Russia of hacking of Democratic e-mails in an effort to tilt the election toward then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, who won the election.

Comey in March said that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between surrogates of Trump and Russia.

Comey on Wednesday said the probe into whether Russian hacking activities and US citizens was a classified investigation in its early stages — far different from the almost completed e-mail probe.

Moscow has denied the hacking allegations.

The FBI director said that recent months have been difficult.

“I think I’ve done the right thing at each turn. I’m not on anybody’s side. It’s so hard for people to see that,” Comey said.

“I don’t have any regrets,” he added.

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