Former Attorney General Eric Holder has joined a growing chorus of Department of Justice alumni to criticize FBI Director James Comey’s decision to publicly comment on the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server mere days before the presidential election.
On Oct. 28, Comey threw the Clinton campaign for a loop after he sent a letter to Republican lawmakers informing them that his bureau had discovered new emails that may be related to Clinton’s investigation. Those emails were obtained from former congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop.
The FBI did not obtain the warrant necessary to investigate Weiner’s emails until Oct. 30, and Comey had noted that there was no way to tell whether or not the new evidence had anything to do with Clinton’s case, NBC News reports.
Comey’s decision to publicly embroil a presidential nominee in a scandal that may not even involve them mere days before a presidential election has ignited scathing criticism.
The Senate Minority Leader, Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, went so far as to accuse Comey of violating the Hatch Act, a law that forbids government officials from using their powers to influence election outcomes.
On Oct. 30, Holder penned an op-ed in The Washington Post blasting Comey for violating long standing DOJ precedent and seeding mistrust in the American public.
“According to the director himself, there is no indication yet that the ‘newly discovered’ emails bear any significance at all,” Holder wrote. “And yet, because of his decision to comment on this development before sufficient facts were known, the public has faced a torrent of conspiracy theories and misrepresentations.”
The former attorney general added that he viewed Comey's decision to hold a press conference announcing his decision to not recommend charges against Clinton in July was also inappropriate and unprofessional.
“This is a very difficult piece for me to write,” Holder continued. “[Comey] is a man of integrity and honor. I respect him. But good men make mistakes. In this instance, he has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications.”
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who had served during the George W. Bush administration, also blasted Comey for his public disclosure.
“You don’t comment on investigations because commenting on the investigation may jeopardize the investigation,” Gonzales told CNN.
Even political opponents of Clinton have joined the chorus of criticism towards Comey. On Oct. 31, Libertarian vice presidential nominee Bill Weld called the FBI director’s letter “disgraceful.”
“There’s no way for Mrs. Clinton to know what the evidentiary basis is on which they made this update to their investigation, and they’ve said themselves they don’t know it, so that just makes it all the more unreasonable to have waded into these waters in the first place,” Weld said.
Former DOJ spokesman Matt Miller summarized how politically damaging Comey’s public disclosure was by noting that the letter could tip the scales of the election even if the new emails prove to be irrelevant.
“Most people, when they hear that the FBI is involved, automatically assume the negative,” Miller said.