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Ex-GOP attorney general: FBI director "made an error in judgment"

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday said that FBI Director James Comey breached protocol by talking about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private emails servers publicly.

In an interview on CNN’s “At This Hour,” Gonzales argued that Comey “breached” that protocol when he announced in July his recommendation to the Justice Department not to pursue charges against Clinton.

“I really worry that the FBI director has made an error in judgment in terms of releasing a letter that really says nothing,” said Gonzales, who served as attorney general under President George W. Bush.

He was referring to the letter Comey sent to GOP committee chairmen on Capitol Hill last Friday, notifying them that the FBI had found new emails that were potentially related to its investigation of Clinton’s email servers. In a separate investigation into sexually explicit emails Anthony Weiner allegedly exchanged with a 15-year-old girl, the new emails were found on a laptop used by Weiner, and investigators obtained a warrant to search them on Sunday. 

Gonzales, who served as Bush’s attorney general from 2005 to 2007, argued that the Justice Department operates under a policy whereby it doesn’t comment on investigations or file cases within 60 days of an election because he explained indictments often cannot be resolved in that time frame.

“In my judgment, it’s a very wise policy because at the end of the day, if you delay the announcement, hopefully it’s not going to jeopardize an investigation” or the pursuit of justice, Gonzales said.

“It appears that this was an error…,” he added. “It was a mistake. As a general matter, you would not comment on an investigation.”

Gonzales pointed out that Comey previously served as his deputy.

“He is a man of integrity,” he said, but added, “We all make mistakes.”

He added that Comey might further “jeopardize” the investigation by releasing more information on the matter, which Clinton’s campaign is demanding happen before the election next Tuesday.

Asked if the situation can be cleared up by Election Day, Gonzales said, “It could be, but of course, the damage may have already been done.”

James Comey under fire for handling of Clinton email investigation 04:45

He added that it might have “some kind of impact rightly or wrongly” and while he said it won’t have an effect on some voters, it might have one on others.

Gonzales is not the only Republican critical of Comey’s actions. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who served under Bush from 2007 to 2009, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about what he described as Comey’s missteps.

“Mr. Comey’s authority extends only to supervising the gathering of facts to be presented to Justice Department lawyers,” he wrote, adding that Comey also “acceded to the apparent wish of President Obama that no charges be brought.”

Eric Holder, President Obama’s former attorney general, wrote a blistering editorial in The Washington Post, blasting Comey for his decision to send a vague letter to Congress late last week about the FBI’s discovery.

“That decision was incorrect. It violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition. And it ran counter to guidance that I put in place four years ago laying out the proper way to conduct investigations during an election season,” Holder wrote.

Holder was among dozens of former federal prosecutors who signed a letter over the weekend critical of Comey’s decision, according to the Associated Press.

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