Obama faults FBI chief’s ac­tion

Clin­ton emails let­ter breached in­ves­tiga­tive norms, he sug­gests

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Christi Par­sons and Sarah D. Wire Los An­ge­les Times’ Del Quentin Wil­ber in Wash­ing­ton and Michael A. Me­moli aboard the Clin­ton cam­paign plane con­trib­uted.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama faulted the FBI on Wed­nes­day over its han­dling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether new­found emails are re­lated to Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pri­vate server, con­demn­ing the bureau for fall­ing short of stan­dards.

“There is a norm that when there are in­ves­ti­ga­tions, we don’t op­er­ate on in­nu­endo and we don’t op­er­ate on in­com­plete in­for­ma­tion and we don’t op­er­ate on leaks,” Obama told NowThis in an in­ter­view. “We op­er­ate based on con­crete de­ci­sions that are made.”

The re­marks were Obama’s first public re­ac­tion to FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey’s de­ci­sion last week to make the re­view public just days be­fore the elec­tion.

He did not men­tion Comey by name and cau­tioned that he wasn’t try­ing to in­ter­fere with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

None­the­less, his com­ments con­sti­tuted an ex­tra­or­di­nary de­par­ture for a pres­i­dent who has held his fire on the FBI’s ac­tions in a va­ri­ety of cases, cit­ing a long-stand­ing prece­dent of pres­i­dents try­ing not to influence fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Clin­ton’s cam­paign, most Democrats and even some Repub­li­cans ex­cori- Pres­i­dent Barack Obama speaks at a cam­paign event for Hil­lary Clin­ton at the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. ated Comey for re-in­ject­ing the emails into the fore­front of the pres­i­den­tial race. More than three months ear­lier, Comey said his agents had com­pleted their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Clin­ton mis­han­dled sen­si­tive govern­ment in­for­ma­tion and con­cluded that they did not have enough ev­i­dence to rec­om­mend charges.

“When this was in­ves­ti­gated thor­oughly the last time, the con­clu­sion of the FBI, the con­clu­sion of the Jus­tice Depart­ment, the con­clu­sion of re­peated con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions was that she had made some mis­takes but that there wasn’t any­thing there that was pros­e­cutable,” Obama said.

Oth­ers said that Comey, who no­ti­fied law­mak­ers of the new re­view in a brief let­ter Fri­day, should have re­leased more in­for­ma­tion about it once he de­cided to go public. Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, R-Iowa, the head of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, de­manded that the di­rec­tor re­lease more about the probe and com­plained that much of what was pub­licly known came from me­dia re­ports.

Comey has agreed not to seek sub­poe­nas or take other in­ves­tiga­tive steps in probes re­lated to ei­ther Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump so close to the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, a fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cial con­firmed. That ap­plies to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion charitable or­ga­ni­za­tion and an­other i nto whether Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, had im­proper busi­ness deal­ings with Ukraine.

Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials wor­ried that tak­ing public in­ves­tiga­tive steps could af­fect the out­come of the Novem­ber elec­tions, and Comey agreed with that de­ter­mi­na­tion in both cases, as first re­ported by The New York Times. Such ac­tions would also have vi­o­lated long- stand­ing agency guide­lines pro­hibit­ing law en­force­ment ac­tion or public state­ments about in­ves­ti­ga­tions within weeks of an elec­tion.

The new FBI probe comes at a crit­i­cal mo­ment not only for Clin­ton but also for Obama, who is fo­cused in­tently on see­ing her suc­ceed him in the Oval Of­fice.

With his legacy hang­ing in the bal­ance, he has been on the cam­paign trail nearly ev­ery day this week on be­half of the Clin­ton cam­paign, telling vot­ers that all of the achieve­ments of his term in of­fice could be wiped away if he is suc­ceeded by Trump. He plans to travel at least three more days be­fore the elec­tion.

And in in­ter­views, Obama is try­ing to re­as­sure vot­ers who have con­cerns about the trans­parency of a Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion. The news that the FBI may once again be look­ing at her use of a per­sonal email server has given new life to con­cerns about whether she would com­ply with prin­ci­ples of trans­parency if she were pres­i­dent.

Clin­ton cam­paign of­fi­cials say they’re not wor­ried about the ef­fect of the Comey an­nounce­ment on the elec­torate.

At the same time, Democrats ar­gue, Comey’s an­nounce­ment raises con­cerns that may be base­less. It’s only right that Obama should call it into ques­tion, said Rep. Adam Schiff, DCalif., ranking member of the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence.

“It’s a sub­tle way for the pres­i­dent to say that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice poli­cies are sound and ought to be fol­lowed,” said Schiff. “I don’t think he was try­ing to be overtly crit­i­cal of the di­rec­tor.”

SARA D. DAVIS/GETTY

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