WASHINGTON — President Obama sharply criticized the decision by his F.B.I. director to alert Congress on Friday about the discovery of new emails related to the Hillary Clinton server case, implying that it violated investigative norms and trafficked in innuendo.
“We don’t operate on incomplete information,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with NowThis News, broadcast Wednesday. “We don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”
“When this was investigated thoroughly the last time, the conclusion of the F.B.I., the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was that she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable,” Mr. Obama said.
Declaring that he had “made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don’t look like I’m meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes for making these assessments,” Mr. Obama nonetheless expressed confidence in Mrs. Clinton and her integrity.
Mr. Obama’s comments were somewhat surprising since he weighed in on the investigation last year before the F.B.I. had determined that neither Mrs. Clinton nor her aides would face charges for mishandling classified information that was found on the secretary of state’s private email server. The president’s comments angered F.B.I. agents.
“I don’t think it posed a national security problem,” Mr. Obama said on “60 Minutes” on CBS in October 2015. He said it had been a mistake for Mrs. Clinton to use a private email account when she was secretary of state, but his conclusion was unmistakable: “This is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”
Mr. Obama took a sharper tone than his press secretary, Josh Earnest, who said on Tuesday that the White House did not have an official position on whether the decision by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to alert Congress about the F.B.I.’s pending analysis of a new cache of emails related to the use by Mrs. Clinton of a private email server when she was secretary of state.