House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that FBI Director James B. Comey’s decision to reveal possible new evidence in the Hillary Clinton email probe likely cost Democrats seats in the House.
“He became the leading Republican political operative in the country, wittingly or unwittingly,” she told reporters during a brief appearance at Democratic National Committee headquarters Tuesday afternoon.
Comey disclosed the new evidence in a letter to congressional leaders 11 days before the election. He told those leaders Sunday that the new materials did not change the FBI’s conclusion that Clinton had committed no crimes.
But Clinton’s lead in published polls dipped after the revelation, and because House results are highly correlated to the presidential results, Pelosi said the news had a “definite impact” on the congressional battle.
“This is like a Molotov cocktail thrown into a very explosive arena,” she said.
Pelosi stopped short of calling for Comey’s dismissal or resignation. But she suggested that he wilted under pressure from Republicans.
“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” she said.
Pelosi had suggested in late September that Democrats were on track to pick up at least 20 seats toward the 30 necessary to flip the majority away from Republicans. Now, Democratic strategists say, Democrats are more in line to pick up about a dozen seats.
There is evidence, however, that the presidential race was tightening even before Comey made his disclosure, making it difficult to gauge the impact of his intervention.
Pelosi’s comments Tuesday stand in contrast to her praise of Comey in July, when he testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Clinton’s use of a private email server and recommended against charges. At the time, Pelosi described the FBI director as “a great man” that Americans “are very privileged” to have leading the federal agency, according to Politico.