Charge of partisanship is a dangerous one for FBI director Comey

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A Republican director of the FBI has thrown a grenade into a tight election where the Democratic candidate is ahead and the charges of political bias were inevitable.

James Comey would have known that but he acted anyway, informing members of Congress about the new investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server fully aware that the news would get out.

His actions appeared to defy long-established Department of Justice (DOJ) principles of avoiding doing anything which could influence the result of an impending election.

But many argue Mr Comey was between a rock and a hard place.

Hillary Clinton attack Trump over Russian espionage
Image Caption:Hillary Clinton has said she is ‘confident’ over a new probe into her emails

Bob Driscoll, a former lawyer at the DOJ says Director Comey is a “politically sophisticated player in Washington”.

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He said: “I think he would have known his move would cause political ripples. So he had to balance the ripples of being accused of sitting on relevant information and it all coming out after.

“I suspect he’d be damned if he did and damned if he didn’t and he decided that to reveal things was a better way to go.

Video:Director of FBI made ‘huge blunder’ over Clinton emails

“He had updated Congress in July (after completing an earlier investigation which ended with no charges against Clinton) and he felt he should update Congress now. He balanced it but he is at some risk.”

The charge of partisanship is a dangerous one for any FBI director and staff at the FBI take the responsibility of impartiality seriously.

Some current and former employees have openly criticised Mr Comey. So have some Republicans and, of course, plenty of Democrats have also done so.

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One FBI employee who preferred to stay anonymous said: “This is as bad for Comey as Clinton.

“The whole email thing from the start has pulled the bureau into an election and that makes us uncomfortable.

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“When the director decided earlier in the year not to prosecute Clinton after the first investigation he did it too public-fashion, too much ‘look at me’. We don’t like that.”

Mr Comey certainly drew ire from Republicans for the decision not to bring charges against Mrs Clinton. Some of those same individuals are now praising him for his latest move.

Democrats are pushing for him to make the detail of what is being looked into public, thus ending the vacuum of information which is allowing the Trump camp to make hay.

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Mr Comey wrote to FBI employees defending his decision saying he felt an obligation to keep elected officials informed.

Some say his actions were in fact honourable. But he has created a new narrative which is eclipsing pretty much everything else in this election cycle in the final days of the campaign.

And that could haunt him and the FBI long-term.

If Hillary Clinton loses the election could the supposedly impartial bureau and its head be held culpable? And if she wins, how will relations be between the White House and the FBI?

:: Watch America Decides, a special programme on the US election at midnight on Monday.

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