Comey defends actions during 'challenging' U.S. election year

FBI Director James Comey is sworn in before testifying at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the "Oversight of the State Department" in Washington U.S. on July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - FBI Director James Comey on Thursday defended his handling of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email investigation during the contentious U.S. presidential election, according to a message to FBI staff reported by ABC News.

Comey and the Federal Bureau of Investigation came under criticism from Republicans and Democrats amid its investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server while U.S. secretary of state.

“I would be lying if I said the external criticism doesn’t bother me at all, but the truth is, it doesn’t bother me much because of the way we made the decision,” Comey said in the New Year’s message, ABC reported. “At every turn last year, we were faced with choosing among bad options and making decisions we knew would bring a torrent of criticism.”

The most furious criticism came after Comey disclosed that the FBI was examining a trove of newly discovered Clinton emails just 11 days before the Nov. 8 vote.

The new trove did not change the FBI’s decision not to recommend criminal charges against Clinton, Comey said a week later. But Clinton cited his decision as a turning point that cost her the election to Republican businessman Donald Trump.

Reporting by Washington newsroom; Editing by Bernadette Baum