Dems train fire on Comey
© Haiyun Jiang

Democrats are ramping up pressure on FBI Director James Comey to provide details about new emails he says may relate to the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Kanye West 'not denying' his campaign seeks to damage Biden MORE's use of a private email server.

Comey's brief letter Friday announcing the emails shocked Washington less than two weeks before the presidential election, and some Democrats are suggesting he acted improperly by offering limited information.

ADVERTISEMENT

Top brass in the Democratic Party have called on Comey to quickly release more information to supplement his three-paragraph letter to eight GOP chairmen and their Democratic counterparts on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Friday that it was “appalling” Comey would not exercise more caution given the current political climate.

“Without knowing how many emails are involved, who wrote them, when they were written or their subject matter, it’s impossible to make any informed judgment on this development,” Feinstein said in a statement.

“However, one thing is clear: Director Comey’s announcement played right into the political campaign of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE, who is already using the letter for political purposes. And all of this just 11 days before the election.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill MORE (D-Nev.) said that the controversy over Clinton’s server has always been based more on “froth than fact,” emphasizing that some reporting suggests the new emails may not amount to much.

"Now, as always, the public would benefit from more information,” Reid said, referencing the three-paragraph letter. “Specifically, the public deserves more transparency from the FBI."

Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineEx-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets USAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal MORE (D-Va.), also said it was “troubling” that the public learned about the new emails through leaks to the press and not from the FBI director himself.

Republicans have pounced on the letter, with Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, pointing to it as fresh evidence that Clinton's behavior as secretary of State was unacceptable.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) broke the FBI news Friday and announced that the investigation, which never formally closed, was “reopened,” setting off a firestorm of speculation.

Democrats pushing Comey to offer more information worry that voters will be swayed by fresh media coverage of Clinton's email issues and Trump’s repeated claims that the development Friday points to criminal acts.

Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, said in a brief press conference Friday night that it is imperative that the public get “the full and complete facts immediately."

"When you do this 11 days before a presidential election and you don’t provide many details, but details are apparently being given by the FBI to the press, this is very, very troubling, and we hope that the director — and we really think that he should give a clearer accounting of exactly what’s going on right now," Kaine told Vice News on Friday.

Trump used the letter on Saturday to tear into Clinton's record as secretary of State, even speculating the FBI may be reviewing some of the emails her aides deemed personal and deleted.

"They found, by looking at Anthony Weiner — a major, major, major sleaze — they found what may be some of the 33,000 missing and deleted emails," Trump told supporters in Golden, Colo.

The ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, John Conyers (Mich.) and Elijah Cummings (Md.), responded to Comey with their own letter, writing that the FBI director’s message “allowed rampant speculation, numerous leaks, and wild accusations just 11 days before the presidential election."

“The FBI has a solemn obligation to remain neutral in political matters – even the faintest appearance of using the agency’s power to influence our election is deeply troubling,” Donna Brazile, the interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said in a statement.

“At the very least, Director Comey must immediately address the serious outstanding questions over what, precisely his letter means, and what action or actions his agency plans to take," she added.

Matthew Miller, who was a Justice Department spokesman under former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderObamas discuss pandemic, voting, anxiety and community in new podcast Joy Reid debut delivers 2.6 million viewers for MSNBC The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Facebook — Republicans rejigger summer convention plans MORE, has been more outspoken in his condemnation of Comey’s action.

Miller, a Democrat, has lambasted the FBI director in a series of interviews and tweets for violating the Justice Department’s longstanding practice of avoiding actions that could influence an election.

“This might be totally benign & not even involve Clinton,” he wrote on Twitter of the new emails. “But no way for press or voters to know that.”

“Which takes us back to the original rule: you don't comment on ongoing investigations. Then multiply that times ten close to an election.”

“For whatever reason (& there are many theories), Comey continues to ignore that. But only for Clinton,” he continued.

Miller added in later tweets that the FBI is likely investigating issues that would cast the Trump campaign in unfavorable light, but is rightfully declining to comment on them.

But it's unclear whether the noise made by Democrats will have any effect on Comey, who has prided himself as a staunchly independent law enforcement official.

He famously refused to sign off on a National Security Agency surveillance program as acting attorney general in 2004 while John Ashcroft was undergoing hospital treatment for pancreatitis. Comey then beat Republican White House officials to Ashcroft’s hospital bed when they tried to get the ailing prosecutor to approve the program himself.

The FBI director angered Republicans in July when he announced that he would not recommend charges against Clinton for mishandling classified information through her use of a private email server.

And he held up under withering questioning from Republicans on the House Oversight Committee during an hours-long hearing just days after the announcement.

Democrats hailed his nonpartisanship at the time, but now some are turning the tables.

Comey sent a memo to his employees on Friday explaining his decision, saying he realized it could be criticized but that it was important to be transparent about the investigation.

“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed,” reads the memo, which was obtained by the Washington Post.

“I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record,” Comey continued. “At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.

“In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”