James Comey is publicly reckoning with his decision to reveal the FBI “re-opening” the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s missing emails days before the election — but one key figure in that episode has largely escaped blame.
Comey, who was then FBI director, notified Congress on Oct. 28, 2016, that investigators were examining new emails discovered as part of an ongoing probe of Clinton’s private emails — and one congressman leaked the news.
Then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) forced Comey to comment on the new investigation — which ultimately turned up no evidence of wrongdoing — and inaccurately framed the news by tweeting about a letter the FBI director sent to lawmakers.
“FBI Dir just informed me, ‘The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.’ Case reopened,” Chaffetz tweeted.
FBI Dir just informed me, "The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation." Case reopened
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) October 28, 2016
Minutes later, House Speaker Paul Ryan repeated Chaffetz’s false claim that the case — which had never been closed — had been reopened, and other GOP lawmakers did the same thing on their own Twitter accounts.
Donald Trump crowed about the development at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, and a number of news organizations used the same framing in headlines about the newly discovered emails.
Comey told ABC News last week that he revealed the Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop because he feared the discovery would be leaked to the media through the FBI’s New York office.
“The team that had done the investigation was in the counterintelligence division at headquarters, of the emails,” Comey said. “And there were no leaks at all, very tight. But the criminal folks in New York were now involved in a major way—and I don’t want to single anybody out ’cause I don’t know where it was coming from, but there’d been enough up there that I thought there was a pretty reasonable likelihood that it would leak.”
Comey notified Congress about the emails before FBI agents could examine their contents, and lawmakers — starting with Chaffetz — quickly politicized the development just 11 days before the presidential election.
Chaffetz, who was chairman at the time of the House Oversight Committee, had previously vowed to spend years investigating Clinton if she was elected.
The Utah Republican declined to conduct similar oversight on the Trump administration, and announced April 22, 2017, that he would resign in June.
Chaffetz is now a paid contributor for Fox News.