In a recent interview, former FBI Director James Comey suggested politics may have influenced his announcement that the FBI re-opened the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
ABC News recently released a clip of an interview George Stephanopoulos had with Comey that will air Sunday morning, in which Comey said his view that Clinton would win the 2016 election could have played a role in his decision to announce to Congress that the email probe had been re-opened.
“I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump. I’m sure that it was a factor. I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been,” Comey said in explaining his rationale behind the controversial announcement. “[I]f I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out.”
On October 28, just 11 days before the presidential election, Comey wrote to Congress that the FBI “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” although as of that moment, he couldn’t ascertain the significance of the new emails, which were found on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner — the husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. On November 6 — just two days before the election — The FBI ultimately stood by its earlier decision to not issue any charges against Clinton in the email probe.
Political pollster Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wrote that while the Comey letter may not have been the only factor in Clinton’s loss, its publication and resulting effect on the news cycle shifted polls enough to give Donald Trump a narrow advantage in Electoral College votes.
“At a maximum, [the Comey letter] might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so,” Silver wrote. “Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.”
Shortly after the election, Clinton blamed the James Comey letter for her loss in a call to donors.
“We were once again up in all but two of the battleground states, and we were up considerably in some that we ended up losing,” Clinton said. “And we were feeling like we had to put it back together.”
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.