House

Pelosi: ‘Political operative’ Comey hurt Dems’ shot at the House

Greg Nash
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the head of the FBI on Tuesday, saying James Comey became “the leading Republican political operative in the country” when he announced a new review of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails just days ahead of the election.
 
“Wittingly or unwittingly, what he did was wrong,” Pelosi told reporters at the Democrats’ campaign headquarters in Washington. 
 
{mosads}The effect of Comey’s announcement was not only to shrink Clinton’s advantage over Republican nominee Donald Trump, Pelosi said. It also dashed the Democrats’ chances of winning back the House.
 
“We hope to overcome it, but … I’ll be very honest with you, it’s difficult to overcome that,” she said.
 
“This is like a Molotov cocktail just thrown into a very explosive arena.” 
 
Moments later, Pelosi seemed to back off of her comments. Walking through the halls of the Democratic National Committee building, she rejected reporters’ tweets indicating she was blaming Comey for “tanking” the Democrats’ chances of taking back the House. Comey blew up “the system,” she said, not necessary the Democrats’ prospects.
 
Still, there’s no question that Democratic leaders were hoping a lopsided win by Clinton would pull a large number of down-ballot Democrats into Congress — a strategy Pelosi amplified again on Tuesday. 
 
“The opportunity to win the House was predicated on a big victory for Mrs. Clinton,” she said. “When her numbers narrowed, so did that prospect for the House and for the Senate.”
 
And already party leaders say they’re seeing early evidence that a closer presidential contest is hurting Democratic challengers in close races — damage that both Pelosi and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, attributed to the Comey letter. 
 
“House races are tied directly to the national environment and to the percentage of the vote that Clinton gets,” said Lujan, seated next to Pelosi. “We’re just pushing ahead, but we’re clearly seeing the impact of Director Comey’s letter in more than several races, more than a handful of races, across the country.”
 
After netting 13 seats in the 2014 midterm elections, House Republicans boast the largest majority either party has held since the Great Depression. The math means the Democrats would need a true wave — a 30-seat flip — to steal the Speaker’s gavel from Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). 
 
Leading up to the election, Pelosi had predicted the Democrats would pick up enough seats to shrink that GOP majority to single digits, if not retake the chamber altogether.
 
“That was the path we were on until Director Comey’s unfortunate actions that he took,” she said. 
 
“He’s now backed off,” she added, “but [it’s] a little late.”
 
Tapped by President Obama to head the FBI in 2013, Comey is a Republican who became a hero to Democrats when he pushed back against President George W. Bush’s warrantless surveillance programs.
 
Pelosi said she “had a high regard” for the FBI director “in other capacities in which he has served.” But she suggested he was swayed by political pressure in announcing the extended Clinton email probe, and she hinted he might be unfit for the job.
 
“It might just be too hot in there,” Pelosi said. “You know that expression, it’s an old expression but I’m just finding new relevance to it: If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. 
 
“He obviously was feeling a lot of heat from the Republicans.” 
 
Molly Hooper contributed.
Tags Donald Trump FBI Hillary Clinton Paul Ryan

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