John Podesta, who served as campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, believes anti-Clinton “forces within the FBI” may be to blame for the former Democratic presidential candidate’s loss in November.
“There are at least forces within the FBI that wanted her to lose,” he told Bloomberg Politics editor John Heilemann during an event hosted by NewCo. “I’m not sure they really understood the alternative, but they wanted her to lose. I think that’s one possibility.”
Podesta offered no evidence to back up his speculation, though it is a common assumption among Democratic operatives.
The campaign leader argued these unidentified “forces” could have led to FBI Director James Comey’s decision to come forward 11 days before Election Day to alert Congress that the federal agency was examining more of Clinton’s emails from her tenure as secretary of state.
In late October, Comey sent a letter to Congress informing lawmakers that the FBI was investigating more of the Clinton’s emails. Comey defended the decision, saying he felt an “obligation” to tell Congress about the development because he “testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed.”
Many Democrats have pointed to the release of that letter as a turning point in Clinton’s campaign for president. In December, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told CNN that Comey was “heavily involved as a partisan” in the weeks before the election and posited that Democrats “would have won the majority in the Senate and would have won the presidency but for Comey.”
Podesta said it was internal pressure that led the FBI chief to send the letter to Congress, though he — once again — offered no evidence for that claim.
The Clinton operative argued the other possibility is that the FBI has become, in his words, a “cover-your-ass organization” and Comey felt it necessary to come forward since he months earlier announced that the bureau was recommending no charges against Clinton. When he made the July announcement, Comey broke long-held FBI protocol of not commenting on investigations that result in no charges.
It is important to note, though, that Comey likely made the public announcement due to the fact that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch effectively recused herself after her clandestine meeting with former President Bill Clinton before a decision had been reached on the Clinton email investigation.
“[Comey] made a bad judgment, and I think virtually anybody who has opined on the topic … have said it was a terrible mistake of judgment,” he told Heilemann. “And I think it did terrible damage to us. If you look at the polling at that period time, that’s when the race began to tighten in that week.”