Hillary Clinton's campaign declares war on FBI Director James Comey amid new email review
Hillary Clinton's campaign found itself embroiled in an all-out war with FBI Director James Comey on Saturday, charging that Comey's letter to Congress announcing a new review tied to Clinton's email practices was "long on innuendo and short on facts."
Speaking to reporters about 24 hours after Comey's letter jolted the race for the White House, Clinton campaign officials simultaneously slammed Comey for what they called an "unprecedented" intervention less than two weeks before Election Day while maintaining the development could actually be a boon to the Democratic nominee's bid.
"There's no evidence of wrongdoing," campaign chairman John Podesta said on a noon press call Saturday. "No charge of wrongdoing. No indication this is even about Hillary."
Podesta said Comey's cryptic letter to members of Congress — in which Comey said his agency had "learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation" — was "long on innuendo and short on facts."
"The more information that comes out, the more overblown this entire situation seems to be," campaign manager Robby Mook said on the call.
Mook and Podesta cited reports that the emails at the heart of the new review — which reportedly were sent on a device shared by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband Anthony Weiner — weren't sent or received by Clinton herself, and may have been duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI.
There is no indication that the review threatens Abedin's status as a closely held Clinton adviser. Podesta said Abedin had "fully" cooperated with the FBI's probe of Clinton's private email server and there was "absolutely nothing" about Abedin's conduct that concerned the campaign.
Reiterating calls from Clinton herself for Comey to come clean about the focus of the new review, Mook said, "He owes the public the full story — or else he shouldn't have cracked open this door in the first place."
While suggesting Comey bowed to political pressure from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, Podesta stopped short of saying Comey acted with partisan motives in releasing the letter Friday.
"We are not charging him with anything other taking an unprecedented step for which he owes the American public an explanation," Podesta said.
What's more, Mook maintained that the focus on the FBI review — which has prompted glee from Republican nominee Donald Trump and his campaign surrogates — could actually galvanize Clinton's supporters and carry her over the finish line on Nov. 8.
"This situation has created an urgency and intensity among our volunteers and activists," Mook said, citing information he'd heard from the ground. "Our volunteers are rallying behind Hillary."
But while the story may infuse new energy into a Clinton campaign that was increasingly worried about complacency given her steady polling lead, it may also energize Republicans and independents who were skeptical of Trump but reluctant to embrace Clinton's candidacy. The story dominated swing state newspaper headlines on Saturday morning, threatening to worsen Clinton's image among voters who have yet to make up their minds.
But Mook — like Clinton in a Friday evening press conference — said the email story was already baked into voters' perceptions of her.
"Voters are clear. They understand the issue and they've already factored it into their decision-making," he said.
In 10 days, the Clinton campaign will discover whether that theory holds water — or amounts to wishful thinking.