FBI Director Comey Letter to Congress
On October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey sent an open letter to the U.S. Congress informing them that the investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified e-mails may not be concluded. Months prior, FBI agents in New York discovered e-mails which could potentially be relevant to the Clinton investigation on the shared computer of Secretary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband Anthony Weiner while conducting an unrelated investigation into Weiner. The following is the content of Director Comey’s letter:
“This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation. Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case. Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.
Of course, 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. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”
At issue is whether or not Director Comey’s actions could unduly influence the outcome of an impending Presidential Election. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, a candidate for partisan political office, or a partisan political group. In keeping with the spirit of the Hatch Act, a longstanding precedent of the FBI is to refrain from announcing an investigation into a political candidate within 60 days of an election so as not to impart partisan advantage to any candidate or party. This situation has raised legal and constitution concerns contending the potential abuse of federal officials using their offices to undermine the electoral process, the duty of the executive branch to administer justice to all citizens of the country fairly and equally, and the right of the electorate to be afforded information of possible wrongdoing which may impact their decisions at the polls.
Should Director Comey have refrained from releasing any information into the possible re-opening of the Secretary Clinton e-mail investigation until after the election?