The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s credibility has been “deeply damaged” by its conduct during the presidential election, according to Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Schiff cited “nonstop leaks of information” from the bureau during the presidential campaign and what he called FBI Director James Comey’s violation of Justice Department policies by announcing two weeks before the election that the bureau discovered new emails pertinent to an investigation of Hillary Clinton that had been considered over for months.
Comey subsequently declared 48 hours before Election Day that the emails did not change the FBI’s conclusion that Clinton should not face criminal charges. But the story dominated the final stretch of the campaign. and the Clinton campaign said the political damage was done.
Schiff, speaking with reporters at a Wednesday breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, said if there’s any potential investigation of the Trump administration it’s going to be hard for people to believe that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is unbiased.
“If there is reason to investigate anything going on with the incoming administration how much confidence will the public have in the handling of that investigation? How much confidence will the public have that it is objective, that it is based on the facts, that it has adhered to the highest standards?” Schiff said.
“You could easily see how half the country’s going to believe one thing, the other half is going to believe another, and ultimately no one may believe the legitimacy of the process that leads either to indictment or non-indictment or no initiation of a case at all,” said Schiff, a former assistant U.S. attorney from Burbank.
The Justice Department has rules about discussing ongoing cases and policies that prohibit employees from interfering with elections and also urges them to avoid the appearance of interfering with elections.
Comey’s position was that he had to make the announcement because he’d previously stated publicly that the FBI investigation had concluded there would be no charges against Clinton, and therefore felt it would be misleading if he didn’t let the public know when new emails surfaced.
“I think the bureau has a lot of damage to repair and I think that’s going to be very difficult,” Schiff said.