President Barack Obama said FBI Director James Comey’s decision to renew a probe of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails 11 days before the election had stirred a political controversy but said that he wouldn’t be seen meddling in the investigation.
He did not specifically criticize Comey in an interview posted online Wednesday by NowThis News. He appeared to question whether Comey was right to issue a three-paragraph letter informing members of Congress that the bureau was reviewing new information related to Clinton without offering specifics.
“I do think that there is a norm, that when there are investigations, we don’t operate on innuendo, we don’t operate on incomplete information, we don’t operate on leaks,” he said in an interview posted online by NowThis News. “We operate based on concrete decisions that were made.”
In July, he noted, Comey had announced that he would not seek charges against Clinton or her aides for using a private e-mail server for official business. “The last time, the conclusion was that she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable,” Obama said.
Comey’s Oct. 28 letter, Obama conceded, may be political damaging to Clinton. But he defended his former secretary of State, saying that her errors are often exaggerated by political opponents.
“Obviously it’s become a political controversy but the fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton having been in the arena for 30 years, oftentimes gets knocked around and people say crazy stuff about her,” Obama said in an interview published online Wednesday by NowThis News. “And if she makes a mistake, an honest mistake, it ends up getting blown up as if it’s just some crazy thing.”
Obama has sought to distance himself from the controversy swirling around Comey, who has been the focus of withering attacks by top Democrats who say his actions could sway the election in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
The NowThis interview was Obama’s first public discussion of the FBI’s actions since Comey disclosed a review of newly discovered e-mails that may be related to the investigation of the former secretary of state’s use of a private server.
Obama declined to comment on the course of the FBI investigation.
“I’ve made a very deliberate effort to make sure I don’t look like I’m meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes,” Obama said.