It was around midday last Friday when FBI Director James Comey unveiled the October surprise no one expected — a letter to Congress announcing that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state. The FBI discovered more relevant emails — over 650,000 — during an investigation that was “unrelated.”
Later that afternoon, officials said the “unrelated” investigation was of Anthony Weiner — former congressman, estranged husband to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, and currently undergoing investigation for allegedly sexting a 15-year-old girl. They found the new emails on his laptop.
The bombshell ignited bipartisan backlash against Comey, whom Democrats formerly praised for recommending no criminal charges against Clinton in July. It also revealed rifts between the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ), sparking speculation about Comey’s motivations and whether his letter would ultimately harm Clinton’s bid for the White House (a recent poll shows Trump and Clinton now virtually tied.)
Here’s the latest.
FBI Obtains Warrant to Search Newly Discovered Emails
The Wall Street Journal reported that the new emails were discovered weeks ago at the beginning of October while FBI investigators searched Weiner’s device for child pornography. Investigators couldn’t search the emails further without a warrant, since their current warrant only extended to materials relevant to the Weiner investigation. When it became clear that the emails were from Abedin’s accounts and sent to or from Clinton’s private server, investigators were given permission to dig deeper.
But last week, sources told the Journal, when officials asked for an update on the “Weiner laptop,” they “realized that no one had acted to obtain a warrant.” Investigators then allegedly confirmed that the emails could be relevant to the Clinton investigation and updated Comey, who sent the controversial letter to Congress on Friday.
Comey stated in the letter that investigators would be searching the new emails for classified information, though he did not know yet whether the emails contained anything “significant” (they could be duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI).
The FBI officially obtained a warrant to search the newly discovered emails late Sunday.
Comey Draws Criticism from Democrats and Some Republicans
From Clinton herself to GOP vice presidential pick Mike Pence, people across the aisle are calling on the FBI to release more information immediately.
On Sunday, a bipartisan group of nearly 100 Justice Department officials and former federal prosecutors wrote an open letter calling Comey’s judgment into question, stating that his announcement just 11 days before Election Day undermined the nonpartisanship that makes the U.S. justice system “exceptional throughout the world.”
The letter writers note that Comey’s decision — while not a breach of law — defies “prevailing Department policy.”
The letter ended with a call for more information:
[W]e believe the American people deserve all the facts, and fairness dictates releasing information that provides a full and complete picture regarding the material at issue.
Since Friday, Abedin — who has worked closely with Clinton since she was 19 — and her estranged husband have come under scrutiny, with commentators wondering what role, if any, Abedin will have if Clinton is elected.
Others have noted that earlier this year, Abedin swore under oath that all her devices containing documents relevant to the FBI’s investigation of Clinton had been turned over — a claim that now seems questionable. Abedin now claims she does not know how her emails got on Weiner’s laptop.
While some have postulated how awkward it must be for Abedin to be involved in a political scandal so potentially detrimental to Clinton’s campaign given their longtime working relationship, others have asserted that the responsibility falls on none other than Clinton herself.
“The reason they’re in this fix is because Hillary Clinton inexplicably chose to have a private email server as secretary of state,” Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. She also said Bill Clinton’s private meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch earlier this year has proved problematic.
The Clintons and Lynch were criticized in June after Mr. Clinton and Lynch met on Lynch’s plane in Phoenix. Though Lynch claimed their conversation consisted of “grandchildren” and other “social” topics, it looked suspicious when the House Benghazi Committee’s report on the 2012 attack was released just days later. The FBI’s initial investigation into Clinton’s private email server was also ongoing at the time.
Lynch later admitted that the meeting had appeared questionable and recused herself from that investigation, saying that she would follow Comey’s recommendations regarding the outcome. Comey announced in early July that the FBI recommended the DOJ bring no criminal charges against Clinton.
Page said on Sunday that Mr. Clinton’s meeting with Lynch “made it impossible” for Lynch to stop Comey from going public with the reopening of the investigation, even though “we know from news reports that she was opposed.”
FBI vs. DOJ
Lynch wasn’t the only one who advised against Comey’s actions. According to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal, the DOJ and the FBI have long been at odds when it comes to investigating the Clintons.
Before Comey alerted Congress of the reopened investigation, senior DOJ officials warned that it would “violate policies against overt actions that could affect an election,” the Journal reported Sunday, adding that DOJ officials previously clashed with Comey over his public statements regarding the FBI’s Clinton investigation.
Sources also told the Journal that there was conflict between the DOJ and the FBI regarding how to investigate the Clinton Foundation.
Is Comey Getting Political?
Thought some of have accused Comey of playing politics, in a press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest claimed that President Barack Obama considers Comey to be a man of “integrity” and “doesn’t believe that he’s secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party.”
Why did Comey make the renewed investigation public? John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary Magazine hypothesizes that the alleged disagreements between the DOJ and the FBI could have contributed to Comey’s decision. Perhaps, Podhoretz speculates, Comey wanted to cover all his bases lest he be “accused of complicity in a cover-up by the Republicans in Congress,” should the newly-discovered emails prove truly incriminating for Clinton.
Whatever Comey’s intentions, and regardless of whether the new emails contain anything “significant,” the ramifications of Comey’s letter to Congress are proving significant. With only eight days to go until November 8, the reopened investigation of the Democratic presidential nominee is dominating election coverage. (For more from the author of “New Clinton Emails: The Latest on the FBI’s Reopened Investigation” please click HERE)