FBI director defends probe’s independence

FBI director defends probe’s independence
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FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday defended the integrity of his agency’s investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy 'Too Far Left' hashtag trends on Twitter Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family MORE’s use of a personal email server during her tenure as secretary of State.

“What I can assure the American people is that this investigation was done honestly, competently and independently,” Comey said at the close of his announcement that the FBI is not recommending charges against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. “No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear.”

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Critics of the Obama administration have long argued that political pressure from above would forestall any chance of an indictment of Clinton, regardless of whether she violated federal law. Those tensions were inflamed last week when Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a private and extremely controversial 30-minute meeting with former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonPrince Andrew says he regrets staying with Jeffrey Epstein Now for your moment of Zen from the Trump impeachment hearings The Hill's Morning Report — Public impeachment drama resumes today MORE.

Comey became heated in his defense of the investigation, at one point banging his hand on the podium.

“I know there were many opinions expressed by people who are not part of the investigation including people in government, but none of that mattered to us,” he said. “Opinions are irrelevant. Only facts matter. And the FBI found them here in an entirely apolitical and professional way.”

The FBI director became the public face of the investigation following Lynch’s meeting with Clinton, after which she said she would defer judgment to the FBI and career Justice Department prosecutors. Comey, a Republican, is widely seen as a maverick, and some onlookers expected he could use the moment to buck any reported pressure from the Justice Department.

Those expectations did not come to bear on Tuesday. Although he dinged Hillary Clinton for carelessness, the FBI head said the investigation found no evidence that Clinton's email practices constituted “clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information.”

Comey was explicit at the outset of his remarks that the Justice Department had not been briefed on the contents of his announcement.  

“I have not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government. They do not know what I am about to say,” Comey said.