For Democrats singing his praises just months ago, FBI Director James Comey is no longer the paragon of impartiality.
The bureau boss is now the target of barbed Democratic attacks for his decision to notify lawmakers Friday that investigators were reviewing newly discovered emails related to the Hillary Clinton server case. And some of the same Democrats who over the summer defended Comey in the face of Republican pressure have emerged as his toughest critics.
Topping that list is Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader who fired off a letter over the weekend to Comey informing him his actions may have violated a federal law known as the Hatch Act, “which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election.”
Reid accused Comey of a “double-standard” in his treatment of sensitive information, saying: “Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.”
But Republicans argue it is Democrats showing a double-standard. Reid, after the bureau announced no criminal charges in the Clinton case back in July, previously called Comey a “fair, impartial director.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., told Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” that whoever wrote the latest Reid statement had to be “under the influence.”
“Senator Reid is a political hack. Jim Comey is a law enforcement officer,” Gowdy said Sunday.
Reid noted in his letter to Comey that he has indeed supported Comey in the past, including by helping get him confirmed to the post because he believed he was a “principled public servant.”
Reid pointedly concluded, “With the deepest regret, I now see that I was wrong.”
On the House side, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also applied pressure to Comey on Friday to provide more details, suggesting the format of his brief letter to Congress has stoked false claims.
“The public interest would be served by the FBI providing the facts, rather than allowing Republicans to stoke innuendo and falsehoods 11 days away from a presidential election,” she said in a statement.
On July 7, Pelosi called Comey a “great man.”
“We are very privileged in our country to have him be director of the FBI,” she said at the time.
The White House, meanwhile, defended Comey on Monday.
“The president doesn’t believe Director Comey is intentionally trying to influence the outcome of an election,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
The Clinton campaign, though, has challenged Comey to release more details, questioning the handling of Friday’s notification to Congress.
“What's disturbing about this again is that a three paragraph letter with no information whatsoever about what the FBI is talking about was sent to the individuals named on the letter,” Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook told “Fox News Sunday.” “Director Comey owes it to the American people, releasing this just a matter of days before the election to provide all the information.”
Back in July, Clinton herself told PBS she was “grateful for the professionalism of the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
Interim Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile also has kept the pressure on, tweeting and retweeting a series of articles over the weekend that criticized Comey’s decision to go forward with this information now, days before the presidential election.
Yet on July 7, Brazile defended Comey on Twitter against Republican questions.
“Pathetic. Simply pathetic to watch members of Congress grill Director Comey because he's not playing their game of gotcha. #Overreach,” she wrote.
Republicans, too, have adopted a much different tone toward Comey in the past three days than they did in the wake of the bureau’s July announcement on the Clinton case.
Donald Trump for weeks had been pointing to the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton case to further his claims that the election is “rigged” against him.
But within minutes of the FBI’s announcement that it was reviewing newly discovered emails, Trump backed off his criticism of the bureau.
He told supporters on Friday he has great respect for the FBI and praised the bureau for having the “courage” to “right the horrible mistake that they made.”