FBI Director James Comey's three-paragraph letter to Republican Congressional Chairmen stating that the FBI found more of Hillary Clinton's emails that it will be looking into is infuriatingly vague, unorthodox—and, according to multiple reports, was sent against the wishes of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who is Comey's boss.
On Thursday, Lynch's office "strongly discouraged" Comey from sending the letter, according to the New York Times, and told him he would be violating department policy. Comey, whose recent actions and statements on issues like data encryption and police brutality have helped him establish his brand as an independent, and conservative, FBI leader, decided it was more important to update the Congressional leaders than abide by FBI policy to not do anything that would interfere with an election, an anonymous official told the Times.
Eric Holder formalized the policy four years ago, writing that officials “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship" when investigating political cases, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer noted.
The new Clinton emails were found on a device owned by Anthony Weiner, whom the FBI is investigating after reports he sexted with an underage girl. The emails did not come from Clinton's private server but were instead sent by top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, who is Weiner's estranged wife and had used the device, NBC News reported.
This is not the first time Comey has violated DOJ and FBI procedures while handling the Clinton investigation. His press conference in July, at which he announced he would not be recommending that prosecutors criminal charges, was highly unusual and prompted conservative commentators (and Donald Trump) to say the investigation was politically tainted. Of course, now Trump is using Comey's letter on the campaign trail.
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.