Top officials for the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns on Sunday dueled over the revelation that the FBI had found emails that are potentially new and related to its dormant investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server.
John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, and Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, assailed FBI director James Comey for defying convention by publicly resurrecting the specter of his agency’s investigation, without much detail and so close to election day. Campaign officials repeated the candidate’s call for more information about the content of the emails to be released.
Trailing in the polls with nine days to go until election day, the Trump campaign seized on the news as a lifeline. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN on Sunday that Comey’s decision to write to congressional officials showed Clinton was “unfit to be president based on her constant flouting of the law”.
“This was an unprecedented action,” Podesta told CNN, echoing what has become the Clinton campaign’s official defense. He and Robby Mook, the campaign manager, also cited reports that said attorney general Loretta Lynch and deputy attorney general Sally Yates warned Comey not to make the new findings public, and increasing criticism from former Republican and Democratic justice officials.
“The justice department has had a longstanding tradition of not interfering with elections,” Podesta said.
Podesta added that Comey’s letter to congressional officials was “long on innuendo and short on facts”, and cited a report by Yahoo News that the FBI, lacking a warrant, had yet to read the emails before Comey sent his letter on Friday. CNN host Jake Tapper countered that law enforcement sources had said they were familiar with the emails’ contents.
“We’re calling on Mr Comey to come forward and explain what’s at issue here,” Podesta said. “It may not even be about her server. It may not be about her at all.”
He added that Comey had “said himself, in his letter to the hill, that these emails may not be significant”.
Four senior Senate Democrats – Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Ben Cardin and Thomas Carper – have written to Comey and Lynch, demanding a briefing on the new emails by Monday.