Allies of James Comey have accused the White House of carrying out a smear campaign against the former FBI Director after three days of sustained attacks against him.
Speaking yesterday in the White House’s daily media briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Comey had violated the Privacy Act, a law regulating how personal information can be used and publicized by federal government agencies.
Huckabee Sanders said the Department of Justice (DOJ) should look into prosecuting former FBI Director James Comey.
In response, close Comey confidant Ben Wittes told The Hill the charges against his friend were a “disgusting abuse” by the White House and its press secretary.
“It is, substantially, completely frivolous and it would warrant nothing more than amusement were she not doing it from the White House podium,” Wittes, a legal journalist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution said.
Democrat Representative for California Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee which is investigating the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials, said he believed the White House was engaged in a smear campaign.
“This is not what cooperative, innocent people do,” he said. “Cooperative innocent people work with prosecutors, not against them,” Swalwell added.
The attacks from the White House against Comey began Monday when Huckabee Sanders was asked to comment on statements by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon calling Comey’s firing in May “the biggest mistake in modern political history.”
Bannon, who has resumed his old position as editor in chief of the Breitbart news website since his ejection from frontline politics last month, made the comments speaking to CBS 60 Minutes program.
“[Comey’s] actions were improper and likely could have been illegal. Comey leaked memos to the New York Times ... He politicized an investigation by signaling he would exonerate Hillary Clinton before he ever interviewed her or other key witnesses,” Huckabee Sanders said.
Trump’s shock decision to fire Comey precipitated the appointment of Robert Mueller to the post of special counsel, charged with heading the federal investigation into the allegations of collusion between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia.
The accusations have hung over the first year of the Trump presidency. In his testimony to Congress, Comey said Trump asked him to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had misled White House officials about contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period after the election.
Trump has denied asking Comey for his loyalty or requesting he drop the investigation.
The White House has remained unrepentant of its criticism of Comey. Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s personal lawyers, said no one in the West Wing had instructed anyone at the DOJ to mount an investigation, but added that Huckabee Sanders's position made sense to him: “I think what Sarah said was rather unremarkable, which was that the Department of Justice should look at [a possible prosecution],” he told The Hill.
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