James Comey's letter about Hillary Clinton's email exposed a rift in the FBI

The FBI is apparently deeply divided over how to handle the furor over Hillary Clinton's emails.

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 31, 2016 12:05PM (EDT)

James Comey  (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
James Comey (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The FBI is apparently deeply divided over how to handle the furor over Hillary Clinton's emails.

Some officials within the organization are questioning the decision of FBI Director James Comey to release a letter announcing that there may be emails relevant to the Hillary Clinton email case, which caused upheaval in the political world Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Comey's decision, just days before the election, caused backlash against the director for getting involved in a presidential election with less than two weeks until the polls closed.

The FBI discovered discovered thousands of messages that were sent either to or from Clinton's private email server weeks ago, while searching through the computer of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, wife of Anthony Weiner, who's under FBI investigation for allegedly having illicit conversations with a 15-year-old.

However, no official had a warrant to segue from the Weiner investigation to the Clinton one — although the investigators agreed those emails could be potentially relevant.

Comey's decision has not been met well by all within the FBI. Senior Justice Department officials warned him that his actions could influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential election and that even perceived FBI interference would violate bureau policy. Many of them had already been unhappy with Comey's perceived grandstanding on the issue back in July, while still others complained that the FBI wasn't being aggressive enough in investigating the Clinton Foundation.

These criticisms were compounded by the revelation that the wife of Andrew McCabe, the FBI's second-in-command, had received $467,000 in campaign funds in late 2015 from the political-action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is closely connected to the Clinton campaign and Clinton Foundation.

The two presidential candidates had predictable responses to the emerging email crisis.

“We won’t be distracted, no matter what our opponents throw at us,” Clinton declared at a campaign rally in Florida. “We’re not going to be knocked off course. We know how much this election matters, and we know how many people are counting on us.”

Trump, by contrast, has exulted in what he claims was his own sharp judgment in "calling" the situation.

"Boy, did I call that correctly,” he crowed at a rally in Colorado. He went on to ask, “Is she going to keep Huma? Huma’s been a problem, do we agree? I wonder if Huma’s going to stay there, and I hope they haven’t given Huma immunity . . . because she knows the real story. She knows what’s going on.”

Until the reporting on the new emails stops being so contradictory and unclear, it will be impossible to effectively gauge the true implications of this scandal and whether Comey's discussion of it was appropriate. Pundits from CNN to The New York Daily News have already called for the FBI Director's resignation.

A recent Washington Post/ABC News survey found that 34 percent of likely voters believe the new revelations will influence how they vote in this election, compared to 63 percent who do not feel that way.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Clinton Emails Donald Trump Elections 2016 Fbi Hillary Clinton James Comey Video