Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign ratcheted up its attack on the director of the FBI on Sunday, circulating a draft letter critical of James Comey to former federal prosecutors.
The letter was sent on the same day that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta called Comey’s letter to Congress “long on innuendo, short on facts.” Comey told Congress on Friday that emails discovered in a separate investigation into Anthony Weiner’s sexting may be “pertinent” to the closed investigation of Clinton’s private server.
“It is out of our respect for such settled tenets of the United States Department of Justice that we are moved to express our concern with the recent letter issued by FBI Director James Comey to eight Congressional Committees,” the Clinton campaign’s letter speaking for prosecutors said.
The letter was signed and provided to The Daily Beast by Elkan Abramowitz, a former chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The Clinton campaign released the letter on Sunday night, signed by nearly 100 former federal prosecutors including Eric Holder, who was the attorney general under President Obama and an assistant attorney general under President Clinton.
Speaking for prosecutors, the letter said Comey’s “unprecedented decision to publicly comment on evidence in what may be an ongoing inquiry just eleven days before a presidential election leaves us both astonished and perplexed.”
The letter goes on to allege Comey violated “longstanding Justice Department guidelines” about making public statements on investigative matters, especially concerning political figures within 60 days of an election.
“Director Comey's letter is inconsistent with the prevailing Department policy, and it breaks with longstanding practices followed by officials of both parties during past elections,” the letter said.
Abramowitz said what Comey did was “outrageous.”
“His letter gives away the fact that he doesn’t know what’s in the emails or if it is significant or not. If he doesn’t know if it’s significant, he has no obligation to tell Congress,” he said.
“What’s he’s done here is say look, this may be pertinent, but it also may be insignificant. It’s a no-news comment,” Abramowitz, who is now a defense attorney, added.
The FBI is reportedly seeking a court order to read emails found on Weiner’s computer that are the possession of his estranged wife and Clinton aide, Huma Abedin.
“That’s her problem,” Abramowitz said, “not Hillary’s problem.”
The Wall Street Journal reports as many as 650,000 emails on Weiner's laptop may be scoured by federal agents, many of which may have been sent to or from Clinton’s private server. Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said “these are misleading leaks from the FBI and it is shameless.”
Abramowitz said he doesn’t buy the argument that Comey had to go public before the FBI’s request to read Abedin’s emails was leaked.
“There are leaks all the time,” he said. “Whether he thought there was [going to be] a leak or not, he could comment at that point, one way or the other.”
Abramowitz also criticized Comey for holding a press conference in July to explain why he did not recommend Clinton be prosecuted.
“It’s really bad. Bad for the FBI as well, it makes them look like they’re tilting politically. He’s not all that political a guy. He may be a Republican, but he’s not a partisan,” Abramowitz said.
“I think that he got caught up here in his own sense of rectitude and its misplaced.”
Editor's Note: This story was updated with the release of the letter, including Eric Holder's signature.