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Schumer-Long Debate Focuses on FBI Director Comey's Actions

Nott Memorial Hall at Union college, site of the Schumer - Long debate Sunday night
Nott Memorial Hall at Union college, site of the Schumer - Long debate Sunday night

New York Senior Senator Charles Schumer, in the only debate with his opponent, broadcast on Time Warner Cable, says he’s “appalled” by FBI director James Comey’s actions, including  the decision announced Friday  to re- examine emails from Hillary Clinton’s top aide for evidence of misuse of classified materials.

Schumer says he knows Comey and has worked with him in the past.

“And that’s why what makes what he did all the more surprising and appalling”, said Schumer who said Comey broke with the long standing tradition of prosecutors not  giving “even the appearance of interfering with an election”.  

Schumer says Comey’s issuance of a search warrant to look at Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s emails Sunday only shows that the FBI director does not have solid evidence that there was anything amiss in the messages. Abedin is the estranged wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is under criminal investigation for allegedly sexting a minor.

The incumbent Democratic Senator joined other top Democrats in demanding that Comey make the emails public.

“He owes not only Secretary Clinton but the American people an explanation,” Schumer said.

Schumer would not comment on Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reids’ contention that Comey might have violated the Hatch Act, or whether Comey should step down, but says that he has a big “burden of proof” to explain his actions.

Schumer’s Republican opponent, Wendy Long,  also criticized Comey, saying “much has gone wrong from a prosecutorial standpoint”,  and that she disagreed with Comey’s decision in July. Comey on July 5th  recommended that  Clinton not be prosecuted for what the FBI Director called her “extremely careless” handling of classified information. But Long ultimately blames   Hillary Clinton for the troubles.

“It would be one thing if Hillary Clinton had just come forward in the first place and given all of the evidence that she was required to,” Long said. “We are in this mess because she failed to do that.”

But Long says once Comey found what might be new evidence,  he had a right to pursue it.

Long said afterward that she doesn’t know if the Comey controversy will help or hurt the top of the GOP Presidential ticket, Donald Trump.

“This goes beyond politics,” said Long who said it makes her “physically ill”, to think that the nation’s laws and justice system are being “manipulated” for political purposes.

“Because that’s not America,” Long said.

Long trails Schumer by nearly 40 points in the polls. The event also covered the candidate’s views on appointments to the Supreme Court, the Iran deal,  and the Dodd Frank  Wall Street reform act. 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.