WH: 'We Have Gone to Great Lengths to Avoid the Appearance of Interfering' With FBI's Clinton-Email Probe

Susan Jones | July 6, 2016 | 5:09am EDT
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President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wave following a campaign event at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, July 5, 2016. Obama is spending the afternoon campaigning for Clinton. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CNSNews.com) - No one at the White House knew that FBI Director James Comey was going to speak on Tuesday, never mind what he'd say, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday.

"With regard to a reaction from the White House, I don't have an official reaction to share," he said. "The reason for that is simply that, while the FBI is completing their investigation, the career prosecutors at the Department of Justice still have to make a final determination about how and whether to proceed.

"And we have gone to great lengths to avoid the appearance of interfering with this ongoing process. Director Comey himself noted that there was no outside influence brought to bear on this investigation. That certainly is consistent with the effort that we have made to protect the independence of the investigation."

In October 2015, President Obama, commenting on Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server, said, "I can tell that you this is not a situation in which America's national security was endangered." This was one month after the FBI quietly began its investigation.

Then in April, Obama told "Fox News Sunday," "I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America's national security. Now what I've also said is that -- and she has acknowledged -- that there's a carelessness, in terms of managing e-mails, that she has owned, and she recognizes.

"But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective. This is somebody who has served her country for four years as secretary of state, and did an outstanding job. And no one has suggested that in some ways, as a consequence of how she's handled e-mails, that that detracted from her excellent ability to carry out her duties."

Last month, President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, prompting Fox News's James Rosen to ask Obama's spokesman about a potential conflict of interest, given the FBI's ongoing investigation of Obama's chosen successor.

Rosen asked Earnest, "So when a career prosecutor or an FBI agent who is working on the Clinton investigation hears this president speak openly of how he wants Hillary Clinton to succeed him, you don't think that that career prosecutor or that FBI agent takes that as some indication of how the president wants to see this case resolved?"

"No," Earnest said. "I think that those career prosecutors understand that they have a job do to. And that that job that they are supposed to do, which is to follow the facts, to pursue the evidence to a logical conclusion, that that is a job that they are responsible for doing without any sort of political interference. And the president expects them to do that job.

Earnest continued: "And that's why the president, when discussing this issue in each stage, has reiterated his commitment to this principle that any criminal investigation should be conducted independent of any sort of political interference, and that people should be treated the same way before the law regardless of their political influence, regardless of their political party, regardless of their political stature, and regardless of what political figure has endorsed them."

The next day, Hillary Clinton herself repeated that there was no chance she would be indicted for her misuse of personal email and a personal email server to conduct government business.

On Tuesday, Earnest told reporters that the FBI has examined Clinton's email use "in excruciating detail."

"So as I alluded to last week, the president's views are irrelevant."

As it turns out, FBI Director Comey agreed with the president that Hillary Clinton's use of a personal server to receive and send "very sensitive, highly classified information" was "extremely careless."

But Comey nevertheless concluded that the evidence does not support a criminal prosecution.

Although Hillary Clinton flew to North Carolina with President Obama on Air Force One, Earnest told reporters he is "confident that the President and Secretary Clinton are not discussing the FBI investigation that is being completed.

"I'm confident that they are not discussing the findings of the investigation that were disclosed by Director Comey today. I'm confident that they are not discussing the recommendation that Director Comey is making to the Department of Justice."

Earnest repeated that Obama "believes deeply in the principle of keeping independent Department of Justice investigations separate from politics. And that's a principle that the President believes is not just worth upholding, but one that's worth fighting for."

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