Comey may be under investigation for Clinton letter

Comey may be under investigation for Clinton letter
© Moriah Ratner

A federal agency has likely opened an investigation into whether FBI Director James Comey is interfering in the presidential campaign by disclosing new materials related to the federal probe concerning Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE’s emails. 

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An Office of Special Counsel (OSC) spokesman declined to address whether the office opened an investigation in response to a complaint by Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer. However, a spokesman noted that it generally would.  

“It's OSC's longstanding policy not to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,” Nick Schwellenbach said in an email to The Hill.

“In general, OSC opens a case after receiving a complaint."

On Friday, months after declaring that the bureau had completed its yearlong probe into the private email system Clinton used while secretary of State, Comey told Capitol Hill lawmakers that the FBI had discovered new emails that might be relevant to the case. The news shook the presidential race less than two weeks before Election Day.

While the Democratic nominee and her allies were particularly upset by the revelation,  many Republicans — most of whom had previously criticized the FBI for not recommending an indictment of Clinton — were jubilant.

Questions about the discovery quickly began to mount. Comey’s letter was short on details, and subsequent leaks have suggested that the FBI so far has few details on the newly discovered messages.

Legal scholars on both sides of the aisle have questioned why Comey announced the development, given the apparent lack of information and the surefire impact it would have so close to Election Day.

“The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election,” Painter, who was an ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House, wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Sunday.

“Such acts could also be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an official position to influence an election,” he added. “That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election.”

On Saturday, Painter filed complaints with both the OSC and the Office of Government Ethics about Comey's letter to Congress.

The typical punishment for violations of the Hatch Act, Painter wrote, was loss of one’s job.

A spokesperson with the Office of Government Ethics did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill.

The likelihood of an OSC investigation was previously reported by the Guardian