President Obama does not receive briefings about the FBI’s investigation into the personal email setup Hillary Clinton used as secretary of State, bureau Director James Comey said on Wednesday.
As a result, Obama should have no way of knowing how the inquiry is proceeding, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite the president’s apparent dismissal of concerns about impropriety.
In response, Comey has repeatedly attempted to shoot down concerns about political motivation in his bureau’s probe and fears that investigators will undermine evidence against Clinton or another Obama administration official.
“I hope the American people know the FBI well enough and the nature and character of this organization,” Comey told the Senate panel on Wednesday.
“As I’ve said many times, we don’t give a rip about politics,” he added. “We care about finding out what is true and doing that in a competent, honest and independent way. I promise you that’s the way we conduct ourselves.”
Conservatives expressed worry in October when Obama said that Clinton had made “a mistake” by using the private email address throughout her time at the State Department but that the behavior did not compromise official secrets.
“I can tell you that this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered,” Obama told CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
According to reports, Obama’s comments upset some FBI officials, who worried that it amounted to meddling in their investigation.
Comey has remained tight-lipped about the bureau’s progress as it explores whether classified information was mishandled.
Even if the search uncovers evidence of wrongdoing, critics warn that the Obama administration would be reluctant to press charges against Clinton or other former State Department officials.
“No matter what the FBI finds, a political appointee of the Justice Department will ultimately make the decision of whether or not to prosecute,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said on Wednesday. “If the FBI refers the matter to the Justice Department, but the Justice Department refuses to prosecute, the public will not learn the facts that the FBI independently established.”
Comey, however, did not commit to releasing details uncovered during the investigation, regardless of what it finds.
“I just don’t want to speculate on this particular investigation,” he told the Senate committee.