Obama criticises FBI boss for operating on ‘innuendo’

President breaks silence on decision to tell Congress about revived Clinton email inquiry

Barack Obama criticises the FBI announcement of new emails linked to Hillary Clinton's private server, saying there is no room for innuendo in the investigative process. Video: Reuters


President Barack Obama appeared to criticise the way in which FBI director James Comey disclosed the renewed investigation into new emails linked to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s personal server.

Speaking for the first time on the political storm that has shaken the US presidential election in its final week, Mr Obama implied that Mr Comey’s decision to tell Congress in a short letter that it was investigating newly discovered emails violated normal procedures followed during an FBI inquiry.

“When there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo. We don’t operate on incomplete information, we don’t operate on leaks,” the president said in an interview with the digital news outlet NowThis News. “We operate on concrete decisions that are made.”

Mr Comey’s letter referred to emails discovered on the laptop of former US congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Mrs Clinton’s campaign vice-chairwoman and long-time aide Huma Abedin, during an investigation into allegations that he sent sexually explicit messages to an underage girl.

Mrs Clinton and fellow Democrats denounced Mr Comey for being vague in his letter on the fresh inquiry, three months after he recommended no criminal charges against Mrs Clinton, despite her “extremely careless” handling of classified information on a private email server while secretary of state.

Mr Obama’s spokesman on Tuesday refused to defend or criticise Mr Comey, one of Mr Obama’s own appointees, for sending the letter 11 days before the election.

The re-emergence of Mrs Clinton’s email problems, an issue that has dogged her campaign, has helped her Republican opponent Donald Trump to narrow her lead in the polls.

Clinton’s lead down

The Real Clear Politics average of polls put the Democrat’s lead at just under two points, down from almost six a week ago, as likely voters have shown decreasing enthusiasm and increasing concerns on her trustworthiness and honesty in light of the revived FBI probe.

More than 24 million Americans have already cast a ballot in early-voting in 38 states. Figures show lower turnout among African-American voters than in 2012, posing problems for Mrs Clinton, particularly in North Carolina and Florida, states that would likely guarantee her victory on November 8th.

In North Carolina, where early voting ensured Mr Obama’s slim victory in 2008, registered Democrats are slightly below their rate of early voting four years ago, while registered Republicans are up 8 per cent and voting by people unaffiliated with either party has increased 39 per cent.

“It says North Carolina is a coin toss; it is simply too close to call,” said Michael Bitzer, a politics professor at Catawba College in North Carolina. He called the surge in unaffiliated voters a “wild card”.

In an effort to shore up her support among African-American voters and encourage voting in this important swing state that Mr Trump must retain, Mr Obama is holding three campaign rallies in North Carolina this week, with Mrs Clinton appearing in the state on Thursday.

Beyond the last-minute barnstorming across swing states, the candidates took advantage of large TV audience by placing ads during the game-seven tie-breaker in the baseball World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians that was expected to draw 30 million viewers on Wednesday night.

Mrs Clinton bought four advertising slots to Mr Trump’s three during the broadcast.