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Clinton emails: Should FBI director James Comey have told Congress about probe?

Click to play video: 'Hillary Clinton urges FBI to make details of new emails public' Hillary Clinton urges FBI to make details of new emails public
WATCH ABOVE: Hillary Clinton is urging the FBI to make details public quickly after the agency told the US congress yesterday that it is investigating whether new emails that have emerged in its probe of Clinton's private server contain classified information. Mike Armstrong reports – Oct 29, 2016

There are two very different ways of looking at the recent announcement that the FBI is probing new emails related to Hillary Clinton’s email server.

READ MORE: A look at the latest FBI news on the Hillary Clinton email case

James Comey, the director of the FBI, broke the news to U.S. Congress, and to the world, in a letter Friday.

It’s a decision that’s been lauded by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but has received some very harsh criticism as well.

The emails stem from an investigation into former politician Anthony Weiner, who is under the microscope for allegedly sexting an underage girl. His estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is an aide to Hillary Clinton and used his computer.

WATCH: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called a letter from the FBI Director “pretty strange,” saying it was “unprecedented” and “deeply troubling.” Clinton said Donald Trump is taking advantage of it by using “fear mongering.”
Click to play video: 'Hillary Clinton calls letter from FBI Director ‘strange, unprecedented and deeply troubling’' Hillary Clinton calls letter from FBI Director ‘strange, unprecedented and deeply troubling’
Hillary Clinton calls letter from FBI Director ‘strange, unprecedented and deeply troubling’ – Oct 29, 2016

But in Comey’s letter, he didn’t mention Weiner or Abedin, just that the emails were found in an “unrelated case.”

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The FBI doesn’t normally comment on ongoing investigations. Comey’s decision to go public with the investigation has many people wondering if there were political motives behind it.

New York Times journalist Kurt Eichenwald said FBI employees were “furious” with him, with one agent calling the situation “outrageous incompetence.”

Democratic representative Dianne Feinstein called the letter “appalling” in a statement and said Comey is playing right into “the political campaign of Donald Trump.”

“Without knowing how many emails are involved, who wrote them, when they were written or their subject matter, it’s impossible to make any informed judgment on this development,” she said.

The Democratic Coalition Against Trump filed a complaint against him, accusing him of interfering with the presidential election.

Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, called the timing of the announcement (which flies in just in time to still be considered an October Surprise) suspicious.

“When you do this 11 days before a presidential election, and you don’t provide many details, but details are apparently being given by the FBI to the press this is very, very troubling,” Kaine told Vice News in an interview Friday.

WATCH: The FBI has uncovered new emails related to the investigation into how Hillary Clinton and her aides handled classified information.
Click to play video: 'FBI opens new probe into Clinton emails weeks before the election' FBI opens new probe into Clinton emails weeks before the election
FBI opens new probe into Clinton emails weeks before the election – Oct 28, 2016

“Voting is already underway in our country. So the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately,” she said at a press conference Friday.

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Matthew Miller, who previously worked for the Department of Justice, called the letter an “an unacceptable breach of years of department of justice practice and precedent.”

“The department goes out of its way not to take any action close to an election that could influence the outcome of that election. The FBI’s reputation for independence and integrity is really at the core to their ability to do their job effectively,” he told The Guardian.

A U.S. Department of Justice official told the Washington Post that they were informed about Comey’s intent to go public, but warned against it.  (The FBI falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice.)

“Our position was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill. He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it,” the official said.

But Comey himself justified his decision in a memo to FBI employees obtained by the Washington Post, saying he had “an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed.”

(In July, Comey testified that the investigation into Clinton’s email server was closed and no criminal charges were laid.)

“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record,” he wrote.

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Another FBI official told the Post that not disclosing the information would have been worse.

“What would it look like if the FBI inadvertently came across additional emails that appear to be relevant to the Clinton Investigation and not at least inform the Oversight Committee that this occurred?” the official asked.

Trump has called the decision courageous, and said he was “very proud” of the FBI for re-opening the case. He also said the system might not “be as rigged as [he] thought.”

 

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