FBI director James Comey waded back into the political fray on Wednesday (May 3), describing what he said was a painstaking decision to publicly reopen an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server just days before the US presidential election was held last fall.
Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Capitol Hill, Comey said he struggled with the initial choice and felt dismayed if his actions had any effect on the outcome of the race.
“It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election,” he said.
Comey faced scrutiny from both sides of the aisle throughout the hearing. The committee’s GOP chair, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, began his remarks by saying “a cloud of doubt hangs over the FBI’s objectivity.”
“We need to know whether there was anything improper going on between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or if these allegations are just a partisan smear campaign that manipulated our government into chasing conspiracy theories,” Grassley said.
On March 20, Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI has been looking into possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia since July of last year. He failed to disclose this simultaneous investigation during the election, leading to accusations of a double standard.
Speaking on Capitol Hill today, Comey said that if he could revisit his actions from the fall, he would have made the same decisions.
“Lordy, has this been painful,” he said. “I’ve gotten all kinds of rocks thrown at me, and this has been really hard, but I think I’ve done the right thing at each turn.”
Comey’s comments come one day after Clinton, in a rare public appearance in New York, blamed the FBI director’s announcement and interference by Russian hackers as two of the key reasons for her defeat. Speaking at a Women for Women International event, Clinton said while she takes “absolute personal responsibility” for losing the election, she believed Comey’s actions were a key reason the electorate swayed against her in the campaign’s homestretch.
“If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president,” she said.