Hillary Clinton’s email saga isn’t over.
The FBI is reviewing a new set of emails “to determine whether they contain classified information,” the bureau’s director, James Comey, told congressional committee chairmen in a letter Friday. Comey wrote the FBI discovered the messages in an unrelated case and “cannot assess whether or not this material may be significant.”
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence or emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Comey wrote in the three-paragraph letter. “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.”
The letter did not specify who sent the emails, who received them, or where they were found. The New York Times on Friday afternoon reported the emails “were discovered after the FBI seized electronic devices belonging to Huma Abedin, an aide to Mrs. Clinton, and her husband, Anthony Weiner.” The FBI last month began investigating whether Weiner, the former New York congressman, had sent inappropriate texts to underage girls in violation of the law.
Comey said he didn’t know how long it would take to review, but the mere announcement the FBI was revisiting a case it appeared to have closed without charges this summer had the potential to shake up a presidential race trending decidedly in Clinton’s favor. The Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, immediately released Comey’s letter publicly and proclaimed the investigation “reopened.”
In New Hampshire, a jubilant Donald Trump immediately seized on the news as a roaring crowd renewed its chant of “Lock her up!”
“I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake they made,” Trump said at the outset. “In all fairness, for all the people who have suffered for doing so much less, including just recently, four-star Gen. James Cartwright, Gen. Petraeus and many others, perhaps finally, justice will be done.”
In a written statement, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta called the timing of Comey’s decision “extraordinary” and demanded the FBI director make public “the full details of what he is now examining.”
Upon completing this investigation more than three months ago, FBI Director Comey 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.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment beyond Comey’s letter and wouldn’t provide further information on what the new emails say or how the FBI acquired them. But with just 11 days until an election—and with more than 10 million votes already cast—that may not matter.
“Yet again, Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement in which he reiterated his call for intelligence officials to stop giving Clinton classified briefings as the Democratic Party nominee.
She was entrusted with some of our nation’s most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information. This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private email server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators. I renew my call for the Director of National Intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved.
The Clinton campaign did not immediately comment. Asked about the news, vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine told reporters, “Got to read more.”
Another top Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, appeared more befuddled than outraged by the timing of Comey’s letter.
“Why is FBI doing this just 11 days before the election,” he asked in a tweet.
In July, Comey announced the government would not bring charges against Clinton over the private email server she maintained as secretary of state, but he called her handling of sensitive information “extremely careless.” NBC’s Pete Williams reported Friday afternoon the new emails were discovered on “another device,” but did not appear to be withheld by Clinton or the State Department from the FBI originally.
An FBI official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, would not confirm NBC’s reporting other than to say Friday’s letter was not related to the hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails.
“It’s not WikiLeaks,” the official said.
Democrats had little to say in the initial aftermath of the report, but those who did comment appeared as shocked as anyone it might be the sudden reemergence of Anthony Weiner, the long-since-disgraced lawmaker, that posed a last-minute threat to Clinton’s candidacy.
While the Clinton campaign implicitly criticized Comey’s decision to take another look at the email case, others rose to the director’s defense, arguing he had no choice but to inform Congress that his previous sworn testimony that the matter was concluded was no long longer operative.
“If you're inclined to be angry with Comey over this, imagine that he had not said something and it emerged after the election that, having testified that the investigation was complete, he authorized additional investigation of a new trove of emails,” wrote Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Comey and the FBI are in a terrible position here, one in which they would be accused of playing politics whatever they ended up doing.”