This piece was updated Nov. 1, 2016, at 12:02 a.m. CT — Ed.
aNewDomain — From hardcore Trump supporters like former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh and Fox News host Jeannine Pirro, to former House speaker Newt Gingrich, US Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Watergate-era White House attorney John Dean, conservatives are coming out in force against FBI director James Comey.
It’s a surprise turn of events in one of the most explosive late election controversies on record.
Last Friday, a mere 11 days before former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces off against erstwhile reality TV star Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election, Comey penned a three paragraph letter to lawmakers that left the nation reeling. The vaguely-worded letter seemed to suggest that the FBI had new evidence in its now-closed investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email use. Echoing tweets from Wikileaks and US. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), mainstream media immediately ran with that story.
It was more than four hours before FBI officials quietly told media had it all wrong: The FBI hadn’t reopened the case at all, a source told Newsweek. In fact, the agency had yet to even look at the emails Comey was referring to.
At this writing, the FBI has obtained the warrants it needed to examine the emails. The Clinton inquiry Comey closed in July remains closed.
But a brewing battle surrounding Comey’s motivations in writing the letter is anything but.
Now prominent Republican figures, lawmakers and pro-Trump media are joining top Democrats in blasting Comey for what many of them consider to be an illegal attempt to impact the election.
Which Republicans are saying what and why? Here’s our running list:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
Former House Speaker and outspoken,Trump-supporting Republican Gingrich similarly criticized the FBI and the Comey letter.
Top Democrats are correct in their demand that the FBI immediately clear up misconceptions and explain any new information to the American people, he said. “Americans,” he tweeted, “have a right to know.”
US Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus
Ultra conservative Rep. Jim Jordan is renown for his hard line commentary on the FBI’s investigation of the Clinton email matter last summer, and has repeatedly called for officials to investigate her for perjury on the matter. But on Monday he distinguished himself as the first sitting GOP congressman to publicly slam FBI director Comey’s Oct. 28 disclosure to lawmakers.
In an interview with Fox News Radio, Jordan said:
“This was probably not the right thing for Comey to do … to come out this close to an election. But this whole case has been mishandled,” the ultra conservative Jordan added. “And now it is what it is.”
Jordan was the first, but not the last, sitting Republican congressman to criticize Comey. Several others followed suit throughout the day.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
In a letter Grassley sent to Comey on Monday, the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee chair hammered the FBI director for a”vague disclosure” that “failed to give Congress and the American people enough context to evaluate the significance and full meaning of this development.”
Note: Grassley’s letter to Comey is reproduced in full at the end of this article. -Ed.
“Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton. The factual context is important. (I)t is critical for the public to know whether the FBI has requested from the Justice Department vital investigative tools such as grand jury subpoenas and search warrants and whether it has been denied access to them.
In the absence of additional, authoritative information from the FBI … Congress and the American people are left to sift through anonymous leaks from Justice Department officials to the press of varying levels of detail, reliability and consistency. The American people deserve better than that.”
John Dean, White House lawyer under President Richard M. Nixon
Trump’s recent comparisons likening Hillary Clinton’s email issues to disgraced Pres. Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal are dead wrong, said former White House lawyer John Dean in the New York Times today.
“Whatever mistakes Mrs. Clinton made, her actions bear no similarities whatsoever to Nixon’s criminalization of his presidency, and his efforts to corrupt much of the executive branch,” he wrote. “To compare them to Watergate is more than historical ignorance.”
Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman and conservative talkshow host
The Hatch Act is federal law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan activity and keeps federal agencies like the FBI from wielding their power to influence American politics. For more on the Hatch Act, check out this US government employee Hatch Act guide here, or read it in full at the end of this piece.
“On Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics,” said Painter. “I spent much of my career working on government and lawyers’ ethics, including as the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush.
“But I never thought the FBI could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations,” he continued. “Until this week.”
Former Bush strategist Karl Rove
On Sunday, Fox News’ Bill Hemmer reported that Karl Rove, the conservative Bush-era strategist, told him that FBI director Comey was “wrong in July” when he found no criminal wrongdoing by Clinton, “and was wrong on Friday.”
George Terwilliger, deputy attorney attorney general to George H.W. Bush
FBI director Comey, in sending the letter last Friday, seems to have violated “a long-standing policy of not doing anything that could influence an election,” Bush administration deputy attorney general George Terwilliger told The New York Times this pastweekend.
“There’s a difference between being independent and flying solo,” Terwilliger said, pointing out that US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other DOJ officials tried, but failed, to discourage Comey from sending his vague missive.
As aNewDomain reported after Comey’s letter came out Friday, Comey penned an internal memo to staffers about the letter, saying he realized it “might be misunderstood.”
Larry Thompson, administration deputy attorney general under Pres. George W. Bush
One among 100 former Justice Department officials who signed a letter criticizing Comey for the letter over the weekend, Larry Thompson has come out to say that “James Comey is damaging our democracy” as a result of his release of the letter.
In a Washington Post op-ed published the day after Comey released the letter, Thompson wrote:
“We now have real-time, raw-take transparency taken to its illogical limit, a kind of reality TV of federal criminal investigation. Perhaps worst of all, it is happening on the eve of a presidential election. It is antithetical to the interests of justice, putting a thumb on the scale of this election and damaging our democracy.”
Fox News host Jeannine Pirro
On the Fox News show she hosts, Jeannine Piro this weekend said Comey’s decision to release the letter “disgraces and politicizes” the FBI:
“One of the most revered agencies in our nation’s history — now seen as putting its finger on the scales of justice — should not now be front and center,” Pirro said, adding that Comey’s decision ” is symptomatic of all that is wrong in Washington.” She went on to say:
“One of the most revered agencies in our nation’s history–now seen as putting its finger on the scales of justice–should not now be front and center,” Pirro continued.
“You know I support Donald Trump and want him to win, but whether it’s Hillary Clinton or anyone else, Comey’s actions violate not only longstanding Justice Department policy…but the most fundamental rules of fairness and impartiality.”
In 2006, Pirro ran for the office of New York State attorney general as a Republican.
Bush Adminstration attorney general Alberto Gonzales
Alberto Gonzales is one of a growing number of Bush Administration former officials who have expressed shock and dismay at Comey’s release of the letter and its timing.
“Typically you don’t talk about investigations,” Gonzalez told NPR over the weekend. “Sometimes you may make an announcement about an investigation and then you turn out not to do anything about it … but nonetheless it adversely affects someone’s life.
“And it kind of surprised me that that letter went out, and I suppose that the reason for it is because we’re in the middle of a presidential campaign,” he said, adding “I think it would be contrary to typical protocol.”
This story will be updated three times daily. Stay tuned.
For aNewDomain, I’m Gina Smith.
Cover image: NPR.org, All Rights Reserved.
Below, find the letter US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent to FBI director Comey on Monday. In it, the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee chairman tells the FBI director that his Oct. 28 disclosure to lawmaker “was not fair to Congress, the American people or Secretary Clinton,” adding that “the American people deserve better than that.”
The US Government issues a guide to federal employees on The Hatch Act. Read it below.
Below, find Comey’s Oct. 28 letter to lawmakers, which kicked off the current controversy.
Here is what high profile Trump supporter and Fox News host Jeannine Pirro had to say about Comey’s actions on her show this weekend.
As background, a number of prominent Democrats were first to level criticism against beleaguered FBI director Comey after his letter came out.
One of the most scathing came from Democrat Senate minority leader Harry Reid on Oct. 30. In a letter to Comey, Reid accused the director of repeatedly refusing to make public damaging new information about the Donald Trump campaign’s ties to Russian spying efforts, yet it “jumped at the chance” to level “innuendo” against Clinton “in the most damaging way possible,” he said. Read the letter in full, below.
Here is the full text of a letter top Democratic senators sent to the FBI and the DOJ this weekend, demanding that they launch an investigation into whether Comey broke federal law in releasing the letter.