Former White House ethics lawyer: FBI Director Comey broke the law with 'highly unusual' public statement

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Former White House ethics lawyer Richard W. Painter contended in a New York Times opinion piece published Sunday that the FBI director broke the law with his letter to congress announcing the FBI was examining new emails related to its probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

Painter argued that FBI Director James Comey violated the Hatch Act, which ensures "that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion," by making "highly unusual public statements about an FBI investigation concerning a candidate in the election."

Painter said he brought those concerns to the Office of Special Counsel and the Office of Government Ethics with a a complaint against the FBI.

"The letter was sent in violation of a longstanding Justice Department policy of not discussing specifics about pending investigations with others, including members of Congress," wrote Painter.

He also referred to such a disclosure on the eve of a general election as an "abuse of power."

Painter served as an ethics lawyer for George W. Bush's administration from 2005-2007. In the piece Painter discloses that he supported GOP candidates during the primaries, but eventually pivoted to Hillary Clinton.

Read Painter's full piece at the New York Times here

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Hillary Clinton addresses FBI email probe

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a news conference at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. The FBI dropped what amounts to a political bomb on the Clinton campaign on Friday when it announced it was investigating whether new emails involving the Democratic presidential nominee contain classified information.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, right, accompanied by campaign manager Robby Mook, second from right, and traveling press secretary Nick Merrill, second from left, departs after speaking at a news conference at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Clinton is calling on the FBI to release more information about its review of emails that may be related to its investigation into her private server.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

DES MOINES, IA - OCTOBER 28: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to reporters following a campaign rally at Roosevelt High School on October 28, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. With less than two weeks to go until election day, Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Iowa.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, center, accompanied by traveling press secretary Nick Merrill, left, arrives to speak at a news conference at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. The FBI dropped what amounts to a political bomb on the Clinton campaign on Friday when it announced it was investigating whether new emails involving the Democratic presidential nominee contain classified information.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton holds an unscheduled news conference to talk about FBI inquiries into her emails after a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. October 28, 2016.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leaves after an unscheduled news conference on FBI inquiries about her emails after a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. October 28, 2016.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question during a press conference about the FBI's reopening of a probe into her use of a private email server while secretary of State, in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 28, 2016. The FBI dealt Hillary Clinton's seemingly unstoppable White House campaign a stunning blow Friday by reopening a probe into her use of a private email server while secretary of state. / AFP / JEWEL SAMAD

(JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, accompanied by traveling press secretary Nick Merrill, center, departs after speaking at a news conference at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Clinton is calling on the FBI to release more information about its review of emails that may be related to its investigation into her private server.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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