President Obama’s top spokesman deflected numerous questions on Monday about the firestorm surrounding
“My lack of independent knowledge about that decision-making prevents me from weighing in,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said during a media briefing.
“I’ll neither defend nor criticize what Director Comey has decided to communicate to the public about this investigation,” he added.
On Friday, Comey
Democrats, including officials in Clinton’s campaign, fiercely criticized Comey for releasing the letter so close to the Nov. 8 Election Day. Some former Department of Justice officials from both George W. Bush’s and Obama’s administrations agreed. Former Attorney General Eric Holder
During a White House briefing Monday, reporters repeatedly pressed Earnest on how President Obama views the controversy. Obama appointed Comey in 2013 to lead the FBI. Earnest insisted that he would not weigh in one way or the other.
“I just don’t have independent knowledge of the decisions that [were] made to release this information. And there are other people that have had the luxury of being able to opine, writing op-eds or serving as as anonymous sources for reporters,” he said. “But when I’m standing here representing the institution of the presidency, I don’t have that luxury.”
Earnest did heap praise on Comey, however. He said Obama believes the FBI director is a “man of integrity, “a man of principle” and “a man of good character.” Earnest also said he did not believe Comey was trying to hurt Clinton’s chances in the November election.
“He’s in a tough spot, and he’s the one who will be in a position to defend his actions in the face of significant criticism,” Earnest said of Comey.