WASHINGTON, U.S. - The FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has created more turmoil for the bureau than any other matter in recent history and embattled director James ...
• Obama expresses confidence in FBI Director Comey
• Democrats and Republican both critical of the FBI director
• Final appeals by Clinton, Trump ahead of Election Day
WASHINGTON, U.S. - The FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has created more turmoil for the bureau than any other matter in recent history and embattled director James Comey faces harsh criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over his handling of the controversy and the timing of his two letters so close to the elections.
There are reports that the bureau head could be sacked by the next occupant of the White House, although that could trigger political backlash. Comey is only three years into his ten year term as head of the FBI and only one of his predecessors has been sacked.
On Sunday, two days before the election, Comey said the investigation has been closed because the bureau found no merit in the case.
Just nine days earlier, he had announced a revival of the investigation after fresh emails were discovered.
The timing of his two announcements thrust the FBI into the thick of an already fractious presidential race, entangled in a way that strained its independence and cracked its prized reputation for silence about its work.
Questions were raised on how the bureau could investigate 650,000 emails so quickly.
The public clearly wasn't done discussing the fiasco: Lawmakers, too, demanded answers to questions left unresolved by the two vague and ambiguous letters.
Clinton and her aides felt wronged by the curiously timed disclosure.
And ex-prosecutors of both parties were concerned the bureau’s actions strayed from its mandate to remain politically neutral.
Bill Burton, a former aide to Barack Obama, warned that there is “bi-partisan agreement that he is a catastrophe.”
Newt Gingrich, a former Republican house speaker and adviser to Trump, said, “The destruction of James Comey by political pressure is painful to watch. He is being twisted into an indefensible pretzel of contradictions."
Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, also pressed Comey on Monday on his bureau's nine-day review of the emails that prompted the FBI to reopen, and subsequently close, its inquiry into Clinton’s treatment of classified material.
The FBI head's actions also met the disapproval of his own agents.
Some were critical of Comey’s handling of the investigation and believed he should resign, while others supported him, but did not appreciate the agency being caught in a political crossfire.
A spokesman for the FBI Agents Association said the more than 13,000 active and former special agents it represents have become the victims of “unwarranted attacks” on their integrity.
And in some questionable timing, the FBI director was honored on Monday night by a group whose board includes several people with longtime ties to Donald Trump, including the CEO of the National Enquirer and a convicted felon who goes by the nickname "Joey No Socks."
Comey was accepting the lifetime achievement award from the non-profit Federal Drug Agents Foundation.
However, there is one person who continues to remain confident in the embattled FBI director, and that is President Obama.
"The president views Director Comey as a man of integrity, a man of principle," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in a briefing on Monday. "The president's views of him have not changed. ... He continues to have confidence in his ability to run the FBI."
Meanwhile, signs of Comey's political affiliations emerged yet again when pictures emerged of a Trump-Pence sign on the front lawn of the FBI director’s mansion in upscale Westport, Connecticut.
The pictures were posted by neighbours on Facebook.
The local newspaper, Westport News, reported the sign had been removed after images of it “went viral.”
The paper wrote, “The home, currently on the market for $2.5 million, is located on Westway Road and it is unclear if the controversial FBI head is living there."
But no matter how the Trump-Pence sign got on Comey’s lawn, it underscores that his tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement officer may not last long.
Final day of campaigning
With the highly volatile and turbulent election campaign finally reaching its climax, both presidential candidates are making pit stops in the key swing states hoping to energise voters.
Clinton, backed by an emotional appeal from Barack Obama, urged voters to embrace a "hopeful, inclusive, bighearted America," while Trump vowed to "beat the corrupt system."
Clinton closed her campaign alongside the current president, former president Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama.
"We know enough about my opponent, we know who he is," Clinton said, addressing tens of thousands of people sprawled across Philadelphia's Independence Mall. "The real question for us is what kind of country we want to be."
Rockers Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen also performed at the Democrat nominee's star-studded rally, which, according to the city's fire department, drew a crowd of about 33,000.
And at New York's Washington Square Park, singer Madonna staged an intimate, acoustic Election Day eve concert in support of Hillary Clinton. In recent months, Madonna has ramped up her support for Clinton on social media.
Trump, meanwhile, during his final round of rallies recalled the rivals he'd vanquished and how far he's come.
As he surveyed the crowd in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he declared, "It's been a long journey."
Till the very end, he continued to pick on Clinton, calling her the "face of failure."
Having made the new FBI review a centerpiece of his closing case to voters, he argued that the Democrat was being protected by a "totally rigged system."
"You have one magnificent chance to beat the corrupt system and deliver justice," Trump said. "Do not let this opportunity slip away."
For Trump, who is closely trailing behind Clinton, without victories in Florida and Nevada, the path to 270 electoral votes would be exceedingly narrow.
He already must win nearly all of the roughly dozen battleground states.
Both candidates, thus, put their final messages across in starkly different ways – Clinton, seeking to strike a conciliatory, positive tone - and Trump, the underdog, warning of "disaster" if he loses.