Justice Department officials warned FBI Director James Comey that his letter to Congress about newly discovered emails potentially related to an investigation of Hillary Clinton would contradict the department's long-established election policy, people familiar with the discussions told teh Wall Street Journal.
Comey acted "independently" when he decided to send the letter, the report said.
The FBI is reviewing newly obtained emails linked to its previously closed investigation into Clinton's handling of classified information as secretary of state. Friday's announcement came just days before voters go to the polls to choose a new president.
According to the WSJ, before the letter was sent, the FBI told senior Justice Department officials what Comey planned to do, and those officials warned that doing so would contradict the department's rules against taking steps that could influence — or be seen as trying to influence — an election.
Comey, however, decided it was better to share the information rather than face possibly greater criticism for keeping quiet until after the election, according to the people familiar with the discussions. FBI officials were also concerned that if they didn't act, the information might leak out anyway, in a less controlled manner, these people said.
Four senior Democratic senators Saturday wrote a letter to Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch complaining about the vagueness of Comey's disclosure and asking for more details by Monday, including how many newly discovered emails there are. It isn't clear whether FBI agents have even seen the emails yet, the senators said, nor whether they are duplicates of those already reviewed.
Lynch told Comey not to break DOJ policy, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer reported, also citing DOJ sources.
Comey, a Republican appointed three years ago by President Obama, sent a letter Friday to Republican House Committee chairmen saying that a computer taken from disgraced former New York City Congressman Anthony Weiner, in an investigation into alleged sexual contact with a minor, contained emails between then-Secretary of State Clinton and Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, a longtime top Clinton aide who has since separated from Weiner.
The FBI director would not disclose what was in the Clinton-Abedin emails on the computer, prompting some observers to wonder if they were duplicates of the thousands that have been examined by the FBI to see if Clinton mishandled classified information as Secretary of State.
In July, Comey said Clinton had been careless in using a private server, but there was no basis for recommending a prosecution. The finding enraged House Republicans and GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.