Barack Obama delivers stinging critique of FBI: ‘We don’t operate on leaks’

President censures James Comey’s decision to announce review related to Hillary Clinton days before election as campaigning reaches fever pitch. Barack Obama has criticised the way the FBI revealed a new investigation of emails possibly linked to Hillary Clinton’s private server, a move that has rocked the US presidential election in its final stretch.

Opinion polls show the race between Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump tightening since FBI director James Comey’s bombshell announcement last Friday. One even gave Trump a one-point lead, though the Democrat remains the clear favourite.

In his first public comments on the controversial decision, Obama told the online outlet NowThisNews: “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. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.

“When this was investigated thoroughly the last time, the conclusion of the FBI, the conclusion of the justice department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was that she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable.”

Comey said it was unclear whether the emails – reportedly found on the laptop of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband Anthony Weiner – are significant. His letter to Congress triggered a fierce backlash from Democrats and even some Republicans.

Obama said Clinton made an “honest mistake” by using a private email server as his secretary of state, something that was now “being blown up into just some crazy thing”. New voters hear “all that noise” and wonder whether they should be worried about Clinton’s conduct, he added, but he said he had absolute confidence in her.

Campaigning reached a new frenzy on Wednesday with less than a week until election day and early voting far in excess of the same stage in 2012. Trump was due to hold three rallies in Florida, the biggest prize, while Clinton was in Florida and Arizona, traditionally a Republican bastion. Other surrogates of both candidates were spread through the battleground states that will determine who wins the White House.

Speaking in Miami, Trump repeated familiar attacks on the media, this time singling out reporter Katy Tur of NBC, naming her four times. “These people are among the most dishonest people I’ve ever met, spoken to, done business with,” the celebrity businessman said. “There has never been anywhere near the media dishonesty like we’ve seen in this election.”

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