Senior Justice Department officials warned the FBI that Director James B. Comey’s decision to notify Congress about renewing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was not consistent with long-standing practices of the department, according to officials familiar with the discussions.Comey told Justice officials that he intended to inform lawmakers of newly discovered emails. These officials told him the department’s position “that we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” said one Justice official who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the high-level conversations.
“Director Comey understood our position. He heard it from Justice leadership,” said the official. “It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill. He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it.”
Comey decided to inform Congress that he would look again into Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails during her time as secretary of state for two main reasons: a sense of obligation to lawmakers and a concern that word of the new email discovery would leak to the media and raise questions of a coverup.
The rationale, described by officials close to Comey’s decision-making on the condition of anonymity, prompted the FBI director to release his brief letter to Congress on Friday and upset a presidential race less than two weeks before Election Day. It placed Comey again at the center of a highly partisan argument over whether the nation’s top law enforcement agency was unfairly influencing the campaign.P.M.T