DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Hillary Clinton slammed FBI Director James Comey at a Saturday afternoon rally, describing as “strange” and “deeply troubling” his decision to inform Congress that he planned to examine new emails that could relate to the agency’s previous investigation into the private server she used as secretary of state.
“Some of you may have heard about a letter that the FBI director sent out yesterday,” Clinton said, as her volunteers and supporters interrupted her with loud boos. “Well, if you’re like me, you probably have a few questions about it.”
“It is pretty strange — it’s pretty strange — to put something like that out with such little information right before an election,” she continued. “In fact, it is not just strange: It is unprecedented and deeply troubling.”
Earlier Saturday, Clinton’s top aides held a conference call with reporters to criticize Comey, demonstrating that the Democratic nominee’s campaign is trying to limit the fallout from the FBI’s cryptic announcement just 11 days before Election Day. Polls had given her a healthy lead over Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.
Clinton told the crowd she felt “so motivated” and excited in the final stretch of the campaign and implored them to ignore the “noise” and focus on getting their friends and families out to vote. “Like any campaign, there have been ups and downs and ups and downs,” she said. “But I’ve gotta tell you, I feel so motivated, so excited.”
Her top campaign aides have questioned Comey’s judgment in making the surprise email announcement.
“Twenty-four hours after the letter was sent, we have no real explanation of why Director Comey sent that letter,” campaign chair John Podesta said earlier Saturday. He called Comey’s letter to lawmakers “long on innuendo and short on facts.”
“No one can separate what is true from what’s not, because Director Comey has not been forthcoming with the facts,” he said.
A campaign official said Clinton had taken the surprise news “like a champ,” adding that she “always knew there’d be another twist in this election.”
On Friday, Comey announced that the FBI had discovered emails in an unrelated probe that might relate to its investigation of the private email server Clinton exclusively used as secretary of state. The New York Times and other outlets reported that the emails were discovered as the agency was looking into Anthony Weiner’s alleged sexts to an underage girl. Weiner is married but now separated from Clinton’s longtime top aide Huma Abedin.
Podesta cited reports from NBC News to argue that it was possible that the emails discovered during the FBI’s probe of Weiner’s sexting could be duplicates the agency has already looked into and cleared in its earlier investigation. In July, Comey announced he was not recommending charges either against Clinton or her aides, though he criticized her email-server setup as careless with classified information.
“Just to recap and put this in perspective, there’s no evidence of wrongdoing, no charge of wrongdoing, no indication that this is even about Hillary,” Podesta said Saturday.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook extensively quoted officials who had criticized Comey in a Washington Post article for making the announcement so close to a presidential election. “He owes the public the whole story, or else he shouldn’t have cracked open this door in the first place,” Mook said.
Asked whether Abedin would consider resigning her campaign post over the recent news, Podesta said, “We of course stand behind her.” On Saturday, Abedin did not travel with Clinton to Florida. Podesta said the campaign has not been in touch with the White House about this matter.
It’s not clear whether the news will negatively affect Clinton’s chances in the November election. Mook argued that the FBI’s announcement had actually “increased the momentum” among Clinton’s volunteers and supporters.
Meanwhile, Trump has gleefully seized on the development at his rallies, musing: “Perhaps justice finally will be done.”