D.C. Councilman-elect Vincent Gray recalls when the Department of Justice foiled his re-election campaign in 2014. /Courtesy photo

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FBI Director James Comey has turned the presidential election on its head with his "October Surprise." /Courtesy photo
FBI Director James Comey has turned the presidential election on its head with his “October Surprise.” /Courtesy photo

If there’s one person who knows exactly what Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is going through, it’s D.C. Councilman-elect Vincent Gray.

On Friday, just 11 days before the November general election, FBI Director James Comey informed Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress that the bureau was again reviewing emails related to Clinton’s personal server after learning of additional information that might be relevant to the case.

This revelation set off a barrage of criticism with members of Congress and both presidential campaigns calling on the FBI to release additional information on the emails.
It’s a situation Gray can all too easily identify with. The former D.C. mayor had been accused of campaign finance shenanigans — allegations that derailed his re-election bid in 2014.

“The timing of the FBI’s ‘October Surprise’ about Clinton’s emails is reckless and undermines our democracy,” Gray told The Washington Informer this week. “It is no different [from] what the feds did to me during my re-election [campaign].”

In early spring 2014 and just weeks prior to the primary elections, Gray held a comfortable lead over his top challenger Muriel Bowser and appeared headed towards an easy path back to mayor’s office. However, as Gray prepared to deliver his State of the District address in March, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen identified him as the specific target of a corruption allegation, all but promising that he’d indict the mayor.

Gray lost the election to Bowser, but Machen never did return an indictment.

“I had to change the beginning of my State of the District Address to talk about this because on the same day as the address was Machen’s press conference,” Gray said. “I was outraged and this was shameful on the part of Machen. Prosecutors have a code of ethics which include not interfering with an election. I don’t know how you can’t interfere more than what he did.”

Until now.

The Clinton bombshell came nearly four months after Comey announced that no charges would be filed over Clinton’s use of a private emails server during her time as secretary of state. The revelation of new emails came as federal prosecutors were looking at whether disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner sent an explicit text message to an underage girl in North Carolina.

“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Comey wrote in a letter to Congress.

There is no evidence that Clinton or her team withheld information from the FBI during the original investigation and it is still unclear whether any of these emails have been sent from Clinton.

Since the revelation, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has either closed a once-widening gap or even taken the lead in some national polls.

“There are Justice Department rules and guidelines designed specifically to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections,” Gray said. “Nonetheless, we are witnessing another ‘bombshell’ in the final days of a campaign. When the Justice Department meddled in my re-election, the result was that many voters simply stayed home.”

The proper response to what the FBI is doing to Hillary Clinton is for people to vote, Gray said.
“The FBI and prosecutors do not decide the outcome of our elections — we do,” he said.

Many journalists, editorial writers and public figures are decrying the FBI’s timing and its potential impact on Clinton’s campaign. They are right to do so, Gray said, but many of the same people sat silently or, worse, banged an accusatory drum when he was “dealt a similar injustice during my re-election campaign.”

The point wasn’t lost on Gray campaign manager and spokesman Chuck Thies, who wondered aloud whether race was a factor.

“Could it be that a black man is presumed guilty and a white woman is presumed innocent?” Thies said.

Stacey Brown photo

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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