Hillary Clinton on attack over FBI’s email inquiry claims

Campaign manager says move by James Comey an unprecedented action

Hillary Clinton: “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election.” Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Hillary Clinton: “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election.” Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

 

Hillary Clinton has gone on the offensive against FBI director James Comey in the aftermath of his announcement that the agency was looking into potential new emails from Mrs Clinton’s private email server.

With eight days until polling day in the presidential election, Mr Comey’s intervention has boosted the Republican nominee Donald Trump, shifting the focus onto Mrs Clinton’s conduct and giving him renewed hope in key swing states.

Having initially reacted with puzzlement to the bombshell, Mrs Clinton used campaign stops in Florida at the weekend to assail Mr Comey for his vague letter to Congress on Friday. “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election,” Mrs Clinton said at a rally in Daytona Beach. “It’s unprecedented and it is deeply troubling.”

Citing reports Mr Comey had acted against the advice of attorney general Loretta Lynch in going public with the potential new material, Clinton campaign manager John Podesta also focused on the FBI director, calling his intervention “an unprecedented action”.

The letter to congressional officials was “long on innuendo and short on facts” and was a breach of a longstanding justice department tradition of “not interfering with elections”, Mr Podesta said.

The FBI is investigating whether there is classified information in emails uncovered during the “sexting” investigation of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of key Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Significance

Mr Trump seized on the letter, accusing Mrs Clinton of trying to “politicise” the FBI’s decision to investigate the emails. He said the agency would not have reopened the case “unless it was a most egregious offence”. The FBI has not suggested any offence was committed.

Mr Comey’s actions provoked fury among Democrats at a time when polls show the race tightening. The Clinton campaign fears the FBI disclosure will encourage more Republicans to turn out to vote for the property magnate and harm the Democrats’ chances of taking control of the Senate.

“This is like an 18-wheeler smacking into us, and it just becomes a huge distraction at the worst possible time,” said Donna Brazile, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.