WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch met on Monday for the first time since the disclosure that the director acted against the attorney general's recommendation by notifying Congress of newly discovered emails that could be related to the previously closed Hillary Clinton inquiry, an official said Tuesday.
The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, described the meeting as cordial, saying Comey and Lynch pledged to work together to resolve the new, politically charged review of thousands of emails linked to Clinton top aide Huma Abedin. Investigators are attempting to determine whether the communications, discovered during a separate inquiry into Abedin's estranged husband, former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, might shed new light on Clinton's handling of classified information.
Despite the differences between Comey and Lynch, the official said that the attorney general remained confident in the director and the process being used to complete the ongoing review.
Disclosure of the review Friday, transmitted via a brief letter to Republican and Democrat congressional leaders, rocked the final days of an already-contentious general election campaign and unleashed a firestorm of criticism, primarily leveled at the director for acting so close to next Tuesday's vote.
The meeting Monday between Comey and Lynch, the official said, came at the conclusion of a regularly scheduled national security meeting and before the Justice Department notified Congress that it would work to "expeditiously'' resolve the new review.
What has not been settled is whether Comey will be provided the same latitude and authority he wielded in July when the attorney general pledged to accept the director's recommendation following the conclusion of the probe of Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of State. Lynch made the move after it was disclosed that she had an impromptu meeting with former president Bill Clinton in June when their planes crossed paths on the tarmac of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Former Justice Department officials, including former attorney general Eric Holder, have seized on the airport incident, and the decisions that stemmed from it, as a crucial flaw in the management of the overall investigation.
"If the attorney general determined that she could not participate in the process, the deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, a respected, apolitical, career prosecutor, should have stood in her place,'' Holder wrote earlier this week in a column for the Washington Post. Holder also was one of nearly 100 former Justice officials who signed on to a letter criticizing the Comey decision
The official who described the Monday meeting between Comey and Lynch said it was too early to determine how a final decision will be made following the new review or who will ultimately decide whether the findings will alter the initial conclusion not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton or others.
There also was no definitive timetable on when the new review could be completed, although authorities have not eliminated the possibility that it could be concluded by Election Day.
Lynch and Comey, the official said, discussed the review process and were satisfied that investigators had the resources needed to complete it quickly.
In his first public appearance since the new review was disclosed Friday, Comey gathered Tuesday with Lynch and many of the same former officials who signed on to the scathing critique of his action at a Justice Department memorial service for revered federal prosecutor David Margolis, who many regarded as the conscious of the department during more than a half-century of service.
There was no direct reference to the storm surrounding the new email review, though Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general, spoke pointedly of Margolis' regard for "self-imposed restraint'' when wielding the department's authority.
When it was time for Comey to speak in the cavernous Great Hall, he defused any awkwardness with a self-deprecating reference, musing that Margolis would likely quip that "a smaller room'' might be needed for the FBI director's own service.