- Senate Democrats’ next leader once defended FBI director
- Comey’s disclosure could affect outcome of Senate elections
Senate Democratic leader-in-waiting Chuck Schumer said Wednesday he’s lost confidence in FBI Director James Comey over his handling of the most recent disclosure in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation -- a tough rebuke to a man Schumer has long admired.
“I do not have confidence in him any longer,” said the New York Democrat, who has criticized as “appalling” Comey’s decision to send a letter to lawmakers 11 days before the election disclosing the bureau’s new review of e-mails potentially pertinent to the investigation of Clinton’s private server.
“To restore my faith, I am going to have to sit down and talk to him and get an explanation for why he did this,” Schumer said in an interview.
Schumer noted that he had previously lauded Comey for disputing contentions by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that the 2006 firings of U.S. attorneys were performance-related. Comey, who had previously served as deputy attorney general during George W. Bush’s administration, praised the prosecutors’ performance before a congressional panel.
“He had huge courage,” said Schumer, who also recalled rallying his Senate colleagues to support Comey’s confirmation as FBI director.
President Barack Obama, speaking in an interview posted online Wednesday by NowThis, said Comey’s decision has stirred a political controversy, but that the White House didn’t want to be seen meddling in the investigation. He also appeared to question whether Comey was right to inform Congress of the new probe without offering specifics.
‘There is a Norm’
“I do think that there is a norm, that 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. “We operate based on concrete decisions that were made.”
Comey’s latest move on the Clinton probe, which roiled the presidential race, has also potentially shifted the dynamics in the battle over Senate control. Schumer’s Democrats are facing a tighter battle to wrest control of the Senate from Republicans next week, with polls showing Democratic leads in polls eroding in states like Nevada and Wisconsin.
Schumer declined to comment on whether Comey’s Oct. 28 letter could change the result of Senate elections, but he said he thinks Democrats will still end up in the majority.
“These are close races and it’s tough,” he said. “Nothing is a foregone conclusion but I would say it’s more likely than not” that Democrats take the Senate.
Schumer’s rebuke comes as Democrats have piled pressure on Comey, saying he violated long-established guidelines against public pronouncements about investigations near an election. Only one Democrat, Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, has specifically called for Comey’s resignation.
Retiring Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada on Sunday torched Comey’s decision as a possible violation of the Hatch Act prohibition on officials abusing their position to affect an election.
Republican presidential Donald Trump, meanwhile, who previously blasted the FBI for closing the Clinton e-mail probe, praised Comey on Wednesday for being willing to examine new evidence.
“I have respect that the FBI has given it a second chance,” Trump said at a campaign event in Miami.