Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid on Sunday claimed FBI Director James Comey may have violated a federal law when he disclosed, less than two weeks before the presidential election, that his office was pursuing potential new evidence related to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Reid was reportedly preparing to send a letter to Comey saying he appears to be aiding one political party over another. He further claimed that may violate the Hatch Act, which bars government officials from using their position to influence an election.
“I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act,” the Senate minority leader wrote, according to a draft of the letter provided to The Wall Street Journal. “Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.”
A spokesman for the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The opinion from Reid, a supporter of Clinton, carries more political weight than legal significance and comes as Democrats aim to circle the wagons around their presidential nominee in the final days of the campaign, noted the newspaper.
Comey has come under intense criticism for the timing of his announcement and bucking the Justice Department’s guidance not to tell Congress about the development.
However, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, dismissed Reid’s assertion that Comey’s actions were partisan.
“Director Comey is updating his previous testimony, and he should do that,” Chaffetz said in an interview on Sunday. “Hillary Clinton can only blame herself for this mess. She created this problem, not Director Comey.”
The emails under investigation are related to a separate probe of former congressman Anthony Weiner, who is alleged to have exchanged explicit sexual messages with a 15-year-old girl.
Weiner is the estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Clinton on Saturday called the new probe “deeply troubling” and urged Comey to quickly release the "full and complete facts" about the new probe of unspecified emails.