Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid set off a firestorm of criticism Sunday after he said that FBI Director James Comey “may have broken” a federal law when he disclosed on Friday that his office was pursuing potential new evidence related to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server less than two weeks before the presidential election.
The Senate minority leader from Nevada wrote in a letter that Comey may have violated the Hatch Act, which bars government officials from using their position to influence an election.
“I am writing to inform you that my office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election,” Reid wrote. “Through your partisan actions, you may have broken the law.”
Reid, who is retiring from the Senate at the end of his term, added that Comey’s “highly selective approach to publicizing information, along with your timing, was intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group.”
The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment about Reid’s letter.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Rep. Jason Caffetz, R-Utah, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, disputed Reid’s claims about Comey.
“Director Comey is updating his previous testimony, and he should do that,” Chaffetz told the newspaper. “Hillary Clinton can only blame herself for this mess. She created this problem, not Director Comey.”
Other Republicans also reacted to Reid’s letter.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., called Reid a “disgrace to American politics.”
“Harry Reid is a disgrace to American politics, among worst men ever in Senate. He can’t go soon enough, & many Democrats privately agree,” Cotton posted on Twitter.
In an interview Sunday night on “Special Report with Bret Baier,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. called Reid “a hack.”
“Thank god he’s leaving is my initial reaction,” he said, adding that “anyone capable of sending that press release has to be under the influence of something.”
Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said that the American people “have to have confidence in the FBI and Department of Justice.”