WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) — The White House professed its neutrality Monday in the growing debate over FBI Director James Comey's decision to notify Congress that the law enforcement agency had resumed its investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails.
"I’ll neither defend nor criticize what Director Comey has decided to communicate to the public about his decision," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters after speaking to Obama about the issue, He described Obama as "pretty even-keeled" about the news, even in the midst of his aggressive campaign schedule on Clinton's behalf..
Earnest's statement came amid growing criticism of Comey's handling of the investigation, both from Democrats and some Republicans.
"Director Comey is a man of integrity, he;s a man of principle, and he;s a man of good character," Earnest said. "He's in a tough spot. And he;s the one who will be in a position to defend his actions in the face of significant criticism."
Earnest also said President Obama does not believe that Comey intended to influence the election, or that he was "secretly strategizing" to benefit Clinton's opponent, Donald Trump. That would suggest that Obama does not believe Comey violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from using their office to intentionally influence an election, and which would give Obama grounds to remove Comey from office.
Obama nominated Comey as FBI director in 2013.