Criticism of FBI Director James Comey ratcheted up dramatically late Sunday as he faced both a rare public rebuke by the former attorney general who once oversaw him and the first call for his resignation by a member of Congress.
Comey has been at the center of a political storm since issuing a vaguely worded letter on Friday ― 11 days before the election ― that indicated the FBI was reviewing more emails that could be related to its probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, former attorney general Eric Holder charged that Comey’s letter had “violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition,” and he called on the FBI director to “dispel the uncertainty he has created before Election Day.”
Prior to resigning as attorney general last year, Holder directly oversaw Comey’s work as FBI director, a relationship Holder referenced in his op-ed.
“I served with Jim Comey and I know him well,” he wrote. “This is a very difficult piece for me to write. He is a man of integrity and honor. I respect him. But good men make mistakes. In this instance, he has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications.”
Also on Sunday evening, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) became the first member of Congress to call on Comey to step down.
The FBI director’s letter was a “plainly premature, careless and unprecedented in its potential impact upon a Presidential election,” Cohen wrote, “without a speck of information regarding the emails in question, their validity, substance or relevance.”
“I’m sure upon reflection of this action he will submit his letter of resignation for the nation’s good,” the congressman concluded.
Taken together, the pair of public statements were further evidence of a clear two-pronged political strategy that Democrats have been executing since Comey’s letter first became public.
Clinton and her highest-profile campaign representatives have avoided direct attacks on the FBI director. They’ve described his letter as “vague” and “unprecedented,” but their demands have focused on Comey releasing additional information so as not to leave a cloud of impropriety hanging over the Democratic nominee as voters head to the polls.
At the same time, in statements not linked to Clinton’s presidential campaign, other senior Democrats are increasingly lobbing rhetorical bombs in an effort to discredit Comey.
Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday accused the FBI director of “partisan actions” that “may have broken the law.” (Reid cited the Hatch Act, which requires someone to act with the intent of interfering with an election.)
Reid also claimed that Comey was refusing to release “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government,” although he did not offer any evidence.