The FBI just sent a letter to members of the House Judiciary Committee who were looking into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. And how you feel about Clinton will likely determine your response. Republicans claim that the investigation has been “reopened.” Democrats say it’s just a fart in the wind.
Today’s letter, signed by FBI Director James Comey, explains that the FBI has come across new emails that may or may not be important to the investigation into classified emails on Clinton’s private server. The Director hedged and said that he doesn’t know whether anything they’ve found is significant, but he wanted to keep the Committee up to date.
“In previous congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony,” Comey wrote in the letter.
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation,” Comey continued.
“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony,” the letter said.
Only time will tell if these new emails are important. But for the time being you can count on two things: Republicans will use this as political ammunition, and it will change precisely zero votes between now and Election Day. Unless the emails show Clinton emailing the nuclear codes to North Korea, it’s hard to see this changing anyone’s mind about whether her use of a private email server is forgivable.
Update: 2:04pm: NBC News is reporting that Donald Trump just commented on the matter at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire:
“I need to open with a very critical breaking news announcement,” Trump said to cheers that at times drowned out his remarks. “The FBI has just sent a letter to Congress informing them that they have discovered new emails pertaining to the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s investigation.”
“I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and DOJ are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake they made,” said Trump, who had recently been sounding the alarm on the campaign trail to “investigate the investigation” into Clinton’s server.
As I said, this is certainly going to be used as ammunition by the Republicans, but it’s hard to see this having much impact outside of Trump’s base. But you never know! Just 10 more days until Election Day, folks. We can get through this.
Update: 2:16pm: Trump is now calling this “bigger than Watergate,” in typical Trumpian fashion.
Watergate, of course, was the political scandal that brought down Richard Nixon when he went skinny-dipping in a lake behind the White House. Or something. If you don’t know what Watergate is, ask your great-grandparents.
Update 2:54pm: And now Trump’s running mate Mike Pence is calling for the FBI to “immediately release all emails pertinent to their investigation.” Why would Pence call for an investigation like this to be conducted in public? Because “Americans have the right to know before Election Day.”
Pete Williams of NBC has quoted anonymous officials as saying that whatever this isn’t won’t be resolved by Election Day, though they did note that the emails didn’t come from Clinton. But you can bet that the Republicans will use this ambiguity about whatever they contain to their advantage for the next two weeks. And probably beyond.
Update: 3:08pm: According to Rush Limbaugh, today’s FBI announcement is probably a purposeful distraction to take people’s eyes off the Wikileaks revelations.
“The cynical view of the FBI reopening the case in the Hillary Clinton emails goes this way: Comey is just doing this to take everybody’s attention off of the Wikileaks email dump. He’s going to make everybody think for the next three or four days that there’s really something to be forthcoming here,” Limbaugh said.
“The Wikileaks scandal is right now starting to hurt, because it’s exposing the fraud and the collusion at the Clinton Foundation,” he continued. “Everybody understands that you’re not supposed to get rich off a charity.”
“As Hillary starts plummeting in the polls, 8 points down in the Washington Post,” Limbaugh continued. “Riding to the rescue, the Lone Ranger, James Comey announcing that they’re reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Everybody stops talking about what is easily portrayed and what is easily understandable in the Wikileaks story and start speculating about what Comey and the FBI are doing, all the while nobody knows.”
Update 3:18pm: According to the New York Times, the FBI’s new emails came from the agency’s investigation into Anthony Weiner. The FBI is investigating allegations that he was sexting with a minor. The device that was seized reportedly belongs to Weiner, who is currently separated from his wife Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide.
Update 3:14pm: John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, has issued a statement. And he’s not happy.
Upon completing this investigation more than three months ago, FBI Director Comet’ declared no reasonable prosecutor would move forward with a case like this and added that it was not even a close call. In the months since, Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been baselessly second-guessing the FBI and, in both public and private, browbeating the career officials there to revisit their conclusion in a desperate attempt to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
FBI Director Comey should immediately provide the American public more information than is contained in the letter he sent to eight Republican committee chairmen. Already, we have seen characterizations that the FBI is ‘reopening’ an investigation but Comey’s words do not match that characterization. Director Comey’s letter refers to emails that have come to light in an unrelated case, but we have no idea what those emails are and the Director himself notes they may not even be significant.
It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election.
The Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.
Update 7:05pm: Clinton is holding a press conference right now and says that she hasn’t heard from the FBI yet. She says that she thinks the American people have already “made up their minds about the emails” and encourages people to go out to vote.
You can watch video from the short press conference below.