FBI Director James Comey Suffers Backlash Over Email Investigation

Oct 31, 2016
Originally published on October 31, 2016 6:21 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And NPR's Carrie Johnson is still here in the studio with us. You cover the FBI. And tell us. How is the FBI director responding to the kind of criticism we just heard from Richard Painter?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: James Comey hasn't said anything at all publicly, Ari, since that bombshell letter on Friday, but longtime friends are telling me he felt boxed in. He testified at least twice to Congress that the Clinton server investigation was closed. And then this new information arrived on his desk just days before the election.

They say he also worried the news might leak and it would look like the FBI was hiding something or there were some kind of cover up. It's worth noting the White House today said the president has confidence in Jim Comey as a man of integrity, and the president does not believe this FBI director was trying to influence the election.

SHAPIRO: You have followed Comey's career for a very long time since he was a prosecutor in New York. How does this fit in with his reputation?

JOHNSON: Yeah, as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Jim Comey had no trouble going after very prominent defendants, including housewares maven Martha Stewart back in the days when I covered him. As deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush, he famously threatened to quit over a secret surveillance program. That episode a lot of folks might remember because it involved a hospital bed confrontation when Attorney General John Ashcroft had taken very ill.

SHAPIRO: And now he's being criticized by both Democrats and Republicans. It strikes me, though, that even some of his most vicious critics are not accusing him of being a partisan hack exactly. They're impugning his motives but sort of in a different way.

JOHNSON: That's right - no real evidence of law breaking here at all by the FBI director, more a violation of Justice Department traditions and norms, only talking when you're going to charge somebody with a crime and convict somebody, not talking so much about things that you disagreed with about their behavior and then deciding not to bring any charges. A hundred former DOJ prosecutors have signed a letter to that effect.

You know, it is worth noting, too, Ari, if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, she's going to have to live with Jim Comey for a long time. He's got seven years left on his term.

SHAPIRO: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, thank you.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.