U.S. President Barack Obama is questioning the judgment of FBI chief James Comey in announcing just ahead of next Tuesday's presidential election that the agency is taking a new look at more emails linked to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from her four-year tenure as secretary of state.
Comey told congressional leaders last week that investigators found a new cache of Clinton-related emails and are examining them to see if they offer any new information about her handling of classified national security documents.
In July, Comey said Clinton had been "extremely careless" in dealing with the classified material, but that no criminal charges were warranted.
Democrats supporting Clinton's run for the White House and some Republicans attacked the timing of Comey's latest announcement, 11 days ahead of the election, and that he vaguely said he did not know whether the emails were relevant to the earlier investigation.
The FBI does not normally announce when it is conducting an investigation and especially not just before an election. But Comey said he had previously told congressional leaders the probe had ended so felt obligated to tell them he was reviving it.
Obama, in an interview with the online news site NowThis released Wednesday, did not mention Comey by name. The president said he had "made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don't look like I'm meddling" in the controversy that has roiled Clinton's campaign in the last days of her race against Republican Donald Trump.
But Obama added, "I do think that there is a norm that when there are investigations we don't operate on innuendo, we don't operate on incomplete information, we don't operate on leaks."
FBI agents are examining thousands of emails found on the computer of the estranged husband of a longtime Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. Investigators were looking at the computer of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, accused of sending lewd messages to a 15-year-old girl, when the cache of Clinton-related emails was discovered.
The FBI has not said whether it will be able to finish its investigation in time to divulge its findings before the election.
"Obviously, it’s become a political controversy,” Obama said of Comey's announcement. “You know, the fact of the matter ... is that Hillary Clinton, having been in the arena for 30 years, oftentimes gets knocked around and people say crazy stuff about her and when she makes a mistake, an honest mistake, it ends up being blown up as if it’s just some crazy thing.”
Obama, who has campaigned several times for Clinton, reiterated his support for her.
“I just want everybody who’s watching to know that Hillary Clinton not only is going to make a great president," Obama said, "and not only is she willing to work on the issues that your viewers care about most, but I trust her, I know her and, you know, I wouldn’t be supporting her if I didn’t have absolute confidence in her integrity and her interest in making sure that young people have a better future."