In a presidential election that has seen just about everything, FBI Director James Comey has muddied the waters even further by releasing to members of Congress information updating them on developments in the agency's investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails. And, it seems, the first members of Congress to receive that information were Republicans — just 12 days before the election.
Whether the release of that data was intentional or not, it is a breach of the Hatch Act and government ethics rules on misuse of one's official position to interfere in an election, according to Richard Painter, a former chief White House Ethics Lawyer in the George W. Bush Administration.
In an Op-Ed published in the New York Times on Sunday, October 30, Painter said Comey's letter was sent in violation of a longstanding Justice Department policy of not discussing specifics about pending investigations with others, including members of Congress. He said that, absent highly extraordinary circumstances, Comey's conduct rises to the level of a Hatch Act violation and also may violate a prosecutor's obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Painter has filed a Complaint against Comey with the FBI's Office of Special Counsel, which investigates possible ethical violations within the Bureau.