FBI head challenges Clinton's description of email probe

FBI head challenges Clinton's description of email probe
© Cameron Lancaster

The head of the FBI on Wednesday appeared to challenge Hillary Clinton’s characterization of the federal investigation into her private email server.

Clinton and her allies have repeatedly called the probe a routine “security inquiry.”

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But Director James Comey told reporters that wasn’t an accurate description.

"It's in our name. I'm not familiar with the term 'security inquiry,' " Comey said at a roundtable with reporters, according to Politico.

“We’re conducting an investigation ... That’s what we do,” he said, according to Fox News.

Comey reportedly declined to say whether or not the investigation is “criminal” in nature.

The months-long federal probe appears to be entering its final stages, following reports in recent days that a number of Clinton allies have been interviewed. Clinton herself is expected to answer questions from FBI investigators and federal prosecutors in coming days or weeks.

Comey on Wednesday said the investigation is not “tethered to any external deadline,” such as this summer’s Democratic convention.

Still, he said he was under “pressure” to finalize the investigation promptly and efficiently.

"We want to do it well and we want to do it promptly. I feel pressure to do both of those things," Comey said. "As between the two things, we will always choose 'well.' "

Comey’s description of the investigation could frustrate the likely Democratic nominee’s efforts to dismiss concerns about her email arrangement.

The federal investigation into Clinton’s server, and the possibility that classified information may have been mishandled, has magnified criticism about the bespoke email setup.

Her decision to use a private server throughout her time as secretary of State has been a repeated target for Clinton’s Republican critics, and is likely to be hammered once the likely Democratic nominee squares off against presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Clinton’s campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill about Comey’s characterization.

The FBI itself has been closely scrutinized throughout the investigation, despite the refusal of Comey, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other top officials to discuss the matter.

The heightened partisan tensions on both sides of the probe make it likely that any decision on how to proceed — whether the investigation turns into a criminal indictment or not — quickly becomes a target of political fire from one side or the other.

Critics of Clinton, who fear that the Justice Department will abandon the probe into Clinton’s email setup, have pushed for investigators to release details of the probe, if it comes up short of a criminal charge.

On Wednesday, Comey reportedly declined to say whether or not he would take that step.

"There's no special set of rules for anybody that the FBI investigates,” he said.

This story was updated at 2:55 p.m.