A group of former federal prosecutors signed an open letter Sunday evening criticizing FBI Director James Comey for alerting Congress to new emails pertaining to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton so close to Election Day.
The Clinton campaign drafted a version of the letter and sent it to the former federal prosecutors over the weekend. Among those who signed the letter ― which was posted to Clinton’s campaign website ― is former Attorney General Eric Holder.
“Many of us have worked with Director Comey; all of us respect him,” the letter says. “But his unprecedented decision to publicly comment on evidence in what may be an ongoing inquiry just eleven days before a presidential election leaves us both astonished and perplexed.”
In its criticism of Comey’s decision, the letter cites the lack of details around the emails in question, which came from a computer owned by former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) ― who is currently under investigation for allegedly sexting with a minor ― and his estranged wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The letter also cites the Justice Department’s “widely-respected, non-partisan traditions” that have kept officials from making statements ahead of elections in the past.
“We do not question Director Comey’s motives,” the letter says. “However, the fact remains that the Director’s disclosure has invited considerable, uninformed public speculation about the significance of newly-discovered material just days before a national election.”
While the former prosecutors did not accuse Comey of abusing his power, some have questioned whether Comey violated the Hatch Act ― which prohibits employees of the executive branch from engaging in political activity ― by releasing the letter. Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer during several years of George W. Bush’s administration, filed a complaint against the FBI over Comey’s letter this weekend, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also questioned whether Comey broke the rules.