- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2016

Democrats have accused FBI Director James B. Comey of wading into political territory after he notified Congress that the bureau was restarting the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server — with one Democratic congressman even calling on the director to resign.

But as a high-profile group of former prosecutors criticized Mr. Comey for what they described as a break with Justice Department protocol, they were careful to say that while his actions were questionable, his motives were not.

Nearly 100 former federal prosecutors and high-ranking officials with the Justice Department, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, issued an open letter on Sunday that criticized Mr. Comey’s actions, calling it “inconsistent with prevailing Department policy.”

“We believe that adherence to longstanding Justice Department guidelines is the best practice when considering public statements on investigative matters,” the letter states.

“We do not question Director Comey’s motives,” read the letter, which was first obtained by The Associated Press and later released by the Clinton campaign. “However, the fact remains that the Director’s disclosure has invited considerable, uninformed public speculation about the significance of newly-discovered material just days before a national election.”

For that reason, the officials echoed calls from Democrats and Clinton supporters that the director should release further information “that provides a full and complete picture regarding the material at issue.”

Mr. Comey informed Congress on Friday that the FBI would renew the Clinton server probe after new emails came to light that “appear pertinent to the investigation.” The emails reportedly surfaced as part of a sexting investigation into former Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin — a top personal aide to Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Comey did not explain in his letter to what information the new emails contain, how long it will take to evaluate them, nor how they were obtained.

But the FBI director said he was briefed on the new emails on Thursday and felt it was important to promptly alert Congress of investigators’ latest efforts.

“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,” he wrote to lawmakers.

In July, Mr. Comey effectively brought to a close the investigation of Mrs. Clinton and the email server she maintained at her New York home during her time at the State Department, announcing that while the arrangement represented reckless risk to national security that he would not recommend bringing criminal charges against Mrs. Clinton. He has since defended his decision to provide “unprecedented transparency” about the investigation.

Democratic lawmakers have taken Mr. Comey to task over the disclosure, with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid writing in a letter Sunday that Mr. Comey may have violated federal law that prohibits government officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Meanwhile Rep. Steve Cohen called on Mr. Comey to resign.

Mr. Holder, in an op-ed published by The Washington Post that was separate from the letter he signed with other former prosecutors, wrote that he did not doubt either Mr. Comey’s integrity and honor as a result of his latest action.

“I respect him. But good men make mistakes,” Mr. Holder wrote. “In this instance, he has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications. It is incumbent upon him — or the leadership of the department — to dispel the uncertainty he has created before Election Day.”

As Mr. Comey prepared to alert Congress of the new wrinkle in the email investigation, the director wrote in a memo to FBI staff that he was aware of the risk of his actions being misunderstood.

“We don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed,” Mr. Comey wrote. “I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.”

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