WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Sunday pressured FBI Director James Comey to release more details about the emails he says could be related to the investigation into her use of a private email server, including whether Comey had even reviewed them himself.
Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, said Comey owed it to the public to be more forthcoming about the emails under review by the FBI with only 10 days remaining before Nov. 8 election. Kaine’s message aimed to counter Republican rival Donald Trump, who has seized on the reignited email controversy in hopes of sewing fresh doubts about Clinton’s trustworthiness.
“As far as we know now, Director Comey knows nothing about the content of these emails. We don’t know whether they’re to or from Hillary at all,” said Kaine, who called Comey’s announcement “extremely puzzling.” The Virginia senator said if Comey “hasn’t seen the emails, I mean they need to make that completely plain. Then they should work to see the emails and release the circumstances of those once they have done that analysis.”
Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, said Comey’s handling of the matter was “inappropriate.” Podesta urged Comey to be more transparent because the disclosure came “in the middle of the presidential campaign so close to the voting.”
Clinton, speaking at a predominantly black church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, did not mention the FBI inquiry but said Scripture reminded them that “suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope.” Trump visited a nondenominational church in Las Vegas, where he swayed and clapped along to the music.
Comey’s actions Friday roiled the White House race, energizing Trump as polls had showed him sliding and unnerving Democrats worried about the presidency and down-ballot congressional races.
The FBI is looking into whether there was classified information on a device belonging to Anthony Weiner, the disgraced ex-congressman who is separated from longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Comey, in a letter to Congress on Friday, said the FBI had recently come upon new emails while pursuing an unrelated case and was reviewing whether they were classified.
Clinton’s team tried to make its case on the Sunday news shows, joining Democratic leaders who have said it was “unprecedented” for such FBI action so close to an election.
Her campaign has called on Comey to release all the facts known so far, and they have criticized his letter because, they contend, it lacks crucial details.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Comey was in “an impossible spot” when he acknowledged the FBI was looking into the messages. “Had he sat on the information, one can argue that he also would be interfering in the election,” by failing to disclose the review, Conway said.
Clinton said in Florida on Saturday that it was “pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election” and accused Trump of using the issue to mislead voters in the final leg of the campaign.
Trump told a crowd in Golden, Colorado, on Saturday that the FBI’s review of Clinton email practices raises “everybody’s deepest hope that justice, as last, can be properly delivered.” His crowd cheered Clinton’s email woes, which Trump has taken to calling the biggest political scandal since Watergate.
The controversy over Clinton’s email practices while she served as secretary of state has dogged her for more than a year.
Late Saturday, four senior Democratic senators urged the Justice Department and the FBI to provide more detailed information by Monday about what investigative steps are being taken, the number of emails involved and what is being done to determine how many of the emails are duplicative of those already reviewed by the FBI.
The letter went to Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch from Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tom Carper of Delaware, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dianne Feinstein of California.
Comey spoke Saturday with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, said Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
Goodlatte said he and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., encouraged Comey to make as much information as possible public before the election. He said the FBI chief “did not give us any response in terms of what more he could say.”
Goodlatte said he also asked Comey about the status of the request from the House Republicans on the referral “of potential impeachment — I’m sorry — potential perjury charges to be brought with regard to Ms. Clinton and he deferred to the Justice Department itself. He did not answer that question as well.”
The slip about impeachment reflected the GOP promise, if Clinton is elected, to doggedly investigate her.
A government official told The Associated Press on Saturday that the Justice Department had advised the FBI against telling Congress about the new developments in the Clinton investigation because of the potential fallout so close to the election. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and discussed it on condition of anonymity.
Justice officials concluded the letter would be inconsistent with department policy that directs against investigative actions that could be seen as affecting an election or helping a particular candidate, the official said.
Kaine and Goodlatte appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” Podesta and Conway were on CNN’s “State of the Union”
Top aides to Clinton angrily condemned Comey on Sunday for revealing the bureau’s probe of newly found emails related to her use of a private server, and demanded he quickly release details about the discovery.
Sources said on Sunday that Comey likely has limited information about what is in the emails because the FBI lacks legal authority to examine their content thoroughly.
Clinton campaign chief Podesta and manager Robby Mook blasted Comey for sending a letter notifying Congress of the email review before he even knew whether they were significant or relevant.
Comey’s letter was “long on innuendo, short on facts,” Podesta said CNN’s “State of the Union” program, and accused the FBI chief of breaking precedent by disclosing aspects of an investigation so close to the Nov. 8 election.
“We are calling on Mr. Comey to come forward and explain what’s at issue here,” Podesta said, adding the significance of the emails was unclear.
“Comey really needs to come forward and explain why he took this unprecedented step, particularly when he said himself in the letter to the (Capitol) Hill that these may not even be significant,” Podesta said. “He might have taken the first step of actually having looked at them before he did this in the middle of a presidential campaign, so close to the voting.”
Comey’s letter, sent over the objections of Justice Department officials, plunged the final days of the White House race between Clinton and Trump into turmoil with Trump focusing on the issue as proof for his argument that Clinton is corrupt and untrustworthy.
Comey, who announced in July that the FBI’s long investigation of Clinton’s emails during her time as secretary of state was ending without any charges, said in his letter the agency would review the newly surfaced emails to determine their relevance to the investigation of her handling of classified information.
“If there is new information, get it out on the table,” Mook said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding the emails could be duplicates of previously reviewed emails or completely irrelevant. “Again, it’s been reported these emails may not have been sent or received by Secretary Clinton. We don’t know anything.”
Sources close to the investigation said on Friday the latest emails were discovered as part of a separate probe into Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Weiner, a former Democratic U.S. congressman from New York, is the target of an FBI investigation into illicit text messages he is alleged to have sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.
Sources said FBI agents working on the Weiner investigation saw material on a laptop belonging to Weiner that led them to believe it might be relevant to the investigation of Clinton’s email practices.
But the sources said the FBI concluded it could not thoroughly examine the material without additional legal authorization, likely in the form of a search warrant. A warrant would normally require approval from a judge or magistrate.
Under standard procedures, the FBI would ask a federal prosecutor working for the Justice Department to seek such a warrant. But that scenario may be complicated because the Justice Department has signaled its dismay with Comey’s decision to publicly disclose the bureau’s interest in the newly discovered emails.
FBI officials were unavailable for comment on the status of their investigation.
Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to slam the Democrats as hypocrites for blasting Comey.
“Hillary and the Dems loved and praised FBI Director Comey just a few days ago. Original evidence was overwhelming, should not have delayed!” Trump said.
Clinton had opened up a significant lead over Trump in public opinion polls before the letter surfaced. The most recent polls had shown the lead narrowing slightly.
Trump campaign manager Conway appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and said Comey faced an “impossible” situation.
“Had he sat on the info, one can argue that he would also be interfering with the election by not disclosing to the public that yet again, for the second time in a year, Clinton is under FBI investigation for something of her own doing,” she said.
Kaine said Comey should provide details about the emails so voters can have all the facts.
“These could be duplicates of what’s already being analyzed,” Kaine said in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “They could be things that don’t have anything to do with Hillary Clinton. You owe the public full information. That’s what Hillary Clinton wants and that’s what the American public deserves.”