White House Says FBI Director Isn’t Trying to Influence Election

October 31, 2016 Updated: October 31, 2016

The White House said on Monday that FBI director James Comey likely isn’t trying to influence the election after he decided to inform Congress last Friday about a new investigation into emails that are possibly linked to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server.

President Obama “doesn’t believe Director Comey is intentionally trying to influence the outcome of an election,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday, according to a live video feed of his remarks.

“The president doesn’t believe [Comey is] secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party,” Earnest added.

After Comey sent a letter to Congress, top Democratic officials and the Clinton campaign slammed him, saying that his timing was off. The officials included former Attorney General Eric Holder and Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid. 

Earnest described Comey as “a man of integrity” and a “man of good character.” However, he said that “he’s in a tough spot” over the Clinton email investigation. “I’ll neither defend nor criticize what Director Comey has decided to communicate to the public about this investigation,” Earnest said, adding that he knows little about Comey’s decision-making process.

President Obama himself has yet to comment on the new email probe.

Earnest added that the Obama administration didn’t have a role in Comey’s decision to inform Congress.

“I have made clear that the White House will be scrupulous about avoiding even the appearance of political interference in prosecutorial and investigative decisions,” Earnest told reporters.

“The president thinks very highly of Director Comey,” Earnest said. “And yes, you can assert that he still has confidence in his ability to do his job.”

Last week, Clinton took aim at the FBI director. 

“It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election,” Clinton said at a rally in Daytona Beach, Florida, according to the New York Times. “In fact, it’s not just strange; it’s unprecedented and it is deeply troubling.”