White House says it cannot ‘defend or criticise’ FBI in wake of reopened investigation into Hillary Clinton emails

Press secretary Josh Earnest said FBI director James Comey was a man of ‘integrity’ and he had a ‘tough job’


Rachael Revesz
New York
Monday 31 October 2016 18:47
The White House insisted it had not been briefed on the FBI's timing or handling of the investigation
The White House insisted it had not been briefed on the FBI's timing or handling of the investigation

The White House has delivered its first remarks on the controversy surrounding the ongoing investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, saying it will not “defend or criticise” FBI director James Comey.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said the White House had not been briefed on Mr Comey’s decision last week to investigate new emails that were "pertinent" to Ms Clinton’s alleged misuse of her personal email server when she was secretary of state.

"I can neither defend nor criticise what director Comey has decided to communicate about the investigation to the public," said Mr Earnest, adding the White House would not be making recommendations to the FBI.

"I don’t have any independent knowledge of how those decisions were made or the factors that were considered, dating back to July," Mr Earnest told reporters.

The original investigation into Ms Clinton's emails did not recommend charges against Ms Clinton and was closed in July.

The new emails, discovered in October, reportedly linked to the investigation of disgraced former congressman, Anthony Wiener, and former husband to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Since the surprise announcement of the FBI last week, Mr Comey has faced growing respect among Republicans and growing anger from Democrats.

The Clinton campaign, including the democratic nominee, has called publicly for Mr Comey to reveal the full details behind his decision to clear up any whiff of controversy before the election.

Yet Mr Earnest insisted that president Barack Obama’s opinion of director Comey had not changed, and he still thought him someone of "principle" and "integrity" who had served under former president George W Bush and who had received bipartisan support.

Hillary Clinton email probe: Donald Trump hails decision to investigate new emails

"The president’s assessment of his [Comey's] integrity and his character has not changed. For example, the president doesn’t believe that director Comey is deliberately trying to influence the election."

Donald Trump said he had "respect" for the director and that it took "guts" to wade back into the investigation.

The news of a possible second investigation into whether Ms Clinton sent and received top secret and classified information outside of a secured government server has sparked further debate before the election, and has been jumped on by Republicans.

Mr Earnest said that, normally, Department of Justice and FBI investigations did not involve such a large public discussion and there was "a variety of good reasons for that", one being that "congress is not impartial".

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