×

FBI Director: Notion That Bureau Impacted Election Makes Him ‘Mildly Nauseous’

FBI Director James Comey told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that “it makes me mildly nauseous” that the bureau may have had some impact on the presidential election by announcing in late October that it was reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

But Comey, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he does not regret the decision he made to reveal in a letter to Congress that the investigation was reopened.

“This was terrible,” he said. “It makes me mildly nauseous that we might have had some impact on the election, but honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”

Clinton has placed part of the blame on her election loss on Comey’s Oct. 28 letter to Congress that the FBI had uncovered a new batch of emails but did not know whether they were relevant to the case. Two days before the election, the FBI announced that there was nothing there.

But Clinton, as well as members of her campaign staff, believe that the damage was done, and that Comey’s announcement stalled a rise in the polls.

“If the election was on October 27, I would be your president,” Clinton said on Tuesday.

Under questioning from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Comey defended his decision to reveal that the investigation was being reopened. He said that in advance of the decision, there was debate within the FBI, including talk that it could tip the balance of the election toward Donald Trump.

“Even in hindsight, and this has been one of the world’s most painful experiences, I would make the same decision,” he said.

He also said that it was appropriate to go public with the Clinton investigation but not of the FBI’s probe of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. That later investigation is ongoing.

Comey said that he felt compelled to announce the reopening the Clinton investigation because he had earlier told Congress that they were done. He said that agents had approached him on Oct. 27 that they had discovered metadata showing that Anthony Weiner’s email server also included a stash of “thousands” of Clinton emails. Weiner, who was married to Clinton aide Huma Abedin, was under investigation for potentially passing sexually explicit messages to a minor.

“I sat there that morning and I could not see a door labeled ‘no action here,'” Comey said, describing his thinking at the time. “I could see two doors — one labeled ‘speak,’ the other labeled ‘conceal.'”

He described the choice to speak as “really bad,” given that there was an election approaching, and conceal, which he said would be “catastrophic.”

“I said to my staff we got to walk into the world of ‘really bad,'” he recalled. “I got to tell Congress that we are restarting this.”

He said that investigators found that “somehow” Clinton’s emails “were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner,” including classified information by Abedin.

He said that investigators concluded, after a review of the emails, that they had found “a lot of new stuff, but we did not find anything that changes our view of her intent.”

Comey also talked about WikiLeaks. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that arresting its founder, Julian Assange, is a priority. WikiLeaks was responsible for releasing a trove of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in the weeks leading up to the election, and U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the source of the hacking of Podesta’s computer can be traced to Russian sources.

But more recently, WikiLeaks published a trove of CIA information revealing its methods for surveillance.

Comey said that WikiLeaks had crossed the line into what he called “intelligence porn,” and that their distinction from traditional journalism is that they acquire information and “just push it out with intention to damage.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Mass Appeal and Universal Launch Hip-Hop

    Nas, Mass Appeal and Universal Music Launch Hip-Hop Label in India, Sign Divine

    Mass Appeal and Universal Music Group today announced the launch of Mass Appeal India – a new label dedicated to amplifying India’s burgeoning hip-hop culture on a global scale. The new label’s operations will be based Universal Music India’s headquarters in Mumbai and will function as a multi-channel partnership between the two companies. According to the announcement, Mass Appeal India will sign and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, center, arrives to court

    Weinstein's Attorneys Seek to Move Trial to Long Island or Albany

    Harvey Weinstein’s attorneys want his rape trial moved to Long Island or Albany, citing the “circus-like atmosphere” surrounding the courthouse in Manhattan. Weinstein is set to go on trial on Sept. 9 on five charges of rape and sexual assault. The disgraced producer faces a potential life term if convicted. In a motion to the [...]

  • Edge, left, Adam Clayton, and Bono

    New York’s PlayStation Theater to Close (EXCLUSIVE)

    New York’s PlayStation Theater, a 2,100-capacity venue located in Times Square and operated by Bowery Presents, will close at the end of 2019, a source close to the situation tells Variety. The venue will close with a New Year’s series of shows from the Disco Biscuits. The theater, which is located two stories beneath the [...]

  • Courtesy of Earwolf

    How Lauren Lapkus Tossed the Script and Created a Podcasting Hit

    Lauren Lapkus has tossed the script on what makes most podcasts a hit. At a time when many of the most downloaded shows are true crime investigations or celebrity interviews, she’s doing something entirely different on each episode of “With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus.” Each hour-long installment is a free-wheeling, completely improvised ride. One show [...]

  • WWE NXT

    WWE's 'NXT' Moves to USA Network as Wrestling Competition Heats Up

    WWE has struck a deal to move its “NXT” franchise focusing on rising stars to USA Network starting next month. “NXT” will shift to USA from the WWE Network subscription streaming service as of Sept. 18. The deal comes as USA is about to lose WWE’s “SmackDown” showcase to Fox starting in October. USA is [...]

  • Shazam

    Apple Music Launches 'Shazam Discovery' Chart, Focused on New Artists

    Apple Music today launched the “Shazam Discovery Top 50,” a weekly, global ranking of 50 artists that it describes as “on the move and trending” — in other words, new and emerging artists. While the company wouldn’t say much specifically about how the chart is tabulated, it uses “Shazam’s proprietary algorithms [to offer] a unique predictive view [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content