Clinton aides rip ‘double standard’ as Justice Department vows quick action

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton's campaign accused FBI Director James Comey of applying a double standard by disclosing a renewed inquiry into her emails, an hour after the Justice Department offered a bare-bones promise to lawmakers that it would ...

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton pauses while speaking at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused FBI Director James Comey of applying a double standard by disclosing a renewed inquiry into her emails, an hour after the Justice Department offered a bare-bones promise to lawmakers that it would act “expeditiously” to settle the matter.

Clinton campaign officials seized on a CNBC report, citing an unnamed former FBI official, that Comey balked at joining with U.S. intelligence agencies Oct. 7 when they blamed Russia for hacking the email systems of U.S. political figures and organizations - including the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman - because it was too close to Election Day.
Democrats have excoriated the FBI chief for telling Congress about a new, vaguely defined probe of emails related to Clinton less than two weeks before the end of the U.S. presidential campaign.
“It’s impossible to view this as anything less than a blatant double standard,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Monday on a conference call with reporters.
The revelation by Comey that the agency was investigating emails found on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of close Clinton aide Huma Abedin, jolted the presidential race between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump as millions of Americans are casting early ballots and the two candidates are entering the final week of their campaigns.
In addition to complaints from Clinton allies that Comey was influencing the election, he has come under fire from some Republicans as well as Democrats for providing few details about what his agents are investigating and whether it may change the outcome of the FBI’s earlier investigation of Clinton’s emails while she was secretary of state. Comey announced in July that he was closing that inquiry after finding that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in handling classified information but prosecution wasn’t warranted.
“While I disagree with those who suggest you should have kept the FBI’s discovery secret until after the election, I agree that your disclosure did not go far enough,” Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote in a letter Monday to Comey. “Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton.”
As the din of complaints from Congress grew louder on Monday, the Justice Department sent a three-paragraph letter to lawmakers telling them that it will move quickly on the new probe and that it was working with the FBI. Comey made his announcement last week over objections from Justice Department officials.
“We assure you that the Department will continue to work closely with the FBI and together, dedicate all necessary resources and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible,” according to the letter from Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik. “We hope this information is helpful.”
The White House stepped in to give a modest defense of Comey. Press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that he will “neither defend nor criticize” Comey’s decision to disclose the review of newly discovered emails, but he said there’s no reason to believe Comey is “secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party. He’s in a tough spot.”
The FBI is now using a computer program to winnow down the number of Abedin emails that may be pertinent to the Clinton investigation or whether they are duplicates of what investigators have already seen, according to a person familiar with the matter. That process could conclude this week, the person said.
It’s not yet possible to assess whether a complete review can be finished before Election Day on Nov. 8, the person said. If investigators find new emails with potentially significant or classified material, it will take more time to analyze them, possibly by sending them to other agencies for vetting, said the person, who asked for anonymity to discuss a pending investigation.
Democrats are starting to fret openly that the outcome of the presidential and congressional races could be affected by Comey’s disclosure and have mounted a concerted effort to contain the political damage by questioning Comey’s motives and focusing on Russia’s interference in the political campaign.
Mook said Clinton’s staff is “completely confident” that the current investigation won’t reveal anything new, echoing the message the Democratic nominee is delivering as she campaigns through battleground states in the final stage of the race.
Mook and Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon also picked up a line of attack being used by a few members of Congress, notably Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and Rep. Elijah Cummings, suggesting that the FBI is looking into possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.
“I do not know how Director Comey will justify his decision to withhold information relating to Trump while publicly announcing ongoing investigative steps against his opponent just days before the election,” Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said.
Fallon said that if Trump or his allies are being investigated, Comey “should tell us that too.” Mook said Comey already has broken with protocol by disclosing the email review and said the “same treatment that has been applied” to Clinton should be given to Trump.

The FBI review has given Trump a chance to reset his campaign after weeks of stumbles and falling poll numbers. He renewed his assault on Clinton’s trustworthiness and found a new cue for his crowds to chant “lock her up” as he ramped up his campaign pace.
“I have to give the FBI credit. That was so bad what happened originally, and it took guts for Director Comey” to keep the investigation going, Trump said Monday in Grand Rapids, Mich. The candidate, who criticized the FBI chief’s decision in July not to pursue prosecution of Clinton, said Comey has “got to hang tough because a lot of people want him to do the wrong thing. What he did was the right thing.”

(With assistance from Kevin Cirilli, Steven T. Dennis and Jennifer Epstein.)

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