The Justice Department discouraged the FBI from alerting Congress to the unexpected discovery of emails potentially related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, given the proximity to the presidential election and the potential for political fallout, a government official said.
Justice Department officials who were advised of the FBI’s intention to notify Congress about the discovery expressed concern that the action would be inconsistent with department protocols designed to avoid the appearance of interference in an election.
In an apparent departure from the wishes of top Justice Department leaders, FBI Director James Comey acted independently when he sent several members of Congress a letter about the emails on Friday, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move creates the potential for a divide between the Justice Department and Comey, who has served in government under both Democratic and Republican presidents. And it provides political fodder for Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Speaking at a rally in Phoenix on Saturday, where the crowd cheered “Lock her up!” at the mention of Clinton’s name, the billionaire accused the Justice Department of doing everything it can to protect the Democratic nominee in another example of what he claims is a “rigged system.”
“Now it’s reported that the Department of Justice is fighting with the FBI. That’s because the Department of Justice is trying their hardest to protect the criminal activity of Hillary Clinton,” Trump said, offering no evidence for the assertion.
It was not immediately clear what the emails were about or what significance, if any, they carried to the email investigation. Nor was it clear when agents would complete the process of reviewing the recovered emails, and Comey made no guarantees that would happen before Election Day.