October 28, 2016

11 days prior to presidential election FBI re-opens investigation in Clinton private email server probe. By Josh Gerstein and Madeline Conway 10/28/16






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From: politico

The FBI on Friday dropped a bombshell on Hillary Clinton’s campaign less than two weeks before Election Day, with director James Comey telling lawmakers that the agency is reviewing new evidence in its investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
In a letter to several congressional committee chairmen, Comey wrote, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to this investigation.”

Comey said he was briefed on those emails on Thursday and that he “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.”
He wrote that the FBI does not yet know if the new material is “significant” and did not provide a timeframe for investigating in the letter, which overall contained sparse details.
He also did not specify where the additional emails came from, but a U.S. official said the new information arose out of the probe into Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin who is under investigation for allegedly sexting a teenage girl. The New York Times reported on Friday afternoon that the FBI had seized devices from Abedin and Weiner as part of the probe.

NBC News justice correspondent Peter Williams, citing senior officials familiar with the thinking behind Comey’s letter, reported that the new emails are not messages from Clinton herself and that investigators do not believe this is a matter of Clinton or her aides withholding evidence.

An FBI spokeswoman said in a statement, "At this time we can confirm the letter and can tell you that the newly discovered emails are not related to the WikiLeaks or any hacks. We cannot comment further."

While it’s not yet clear how damaging the FBI’s review of new evidence will be for Clinton, it comes as a rude surprise for her campaign, and has the potential to change the dynamic of the race, just as Clinton had been pulling away from Donald Trump.
Several former DOJ officials told POLITICO that there is no way the matter will be resolved by Election Day.

John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman, on Friday afternoon called on Comey to immediately release more details about the new evidence it is reviewing and expressed frustration at the timing of his letter.
"It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election,” he wrote, adding, “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."

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon also blasted Comey's move. "It boggles the mind why this step was taken today," Fallon said on MSNBC. "As it is, we now have the worst of all worlds here. He aired this in an extraordinary step and the public doesn't have any way to judge the significance of this and what it has to do with Hillary Clinton."
Trump was hit by his own October surprise with the release of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape in which the billionaire was caught boasting about being able to get away with grabbing women by the genitals because he’s “a star.” At a rally in New Hampshire on Friday, the Republican nominee immediately celebrated the FBI’s decision to pursue new evidence.

"I need to open with a very critical, breaking news announcement," Trump said at the start of his event. "Hillary Clinton's corruption is on a scale that we have never seen before. We must not let her take her are criminal scheme into the Oval Office. 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 that they made."
"This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understood," he continued. "And it is everybody's hope that it is about to be corrected."

In July, Comey said the FBI was not recommending charges against Clinton, saying “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring such a case. But he did chastise her for being “extremely careless” in her handling of sensitive information. The controversy over Clinton’s use of the server, reported for the first time by The New York Times in March 2015, has dogged her presidential run since its beginning.
While Clinton said her decision to use a private email server was a “mistake,” she has steadfastly said that she violated no laws.

The news broke as Clinton was en route to a campaign event in Iowa. As she got off the plane, she smiled and waved — and ignored all questions by the press around her.
At the rally, she also avoided the news swirling around her, but warned that Trump could still win the White House, noting that in presidential elections “anything can happen.”
“We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas,” Clinton said.

Clinton’s campaign appeared blindsided by the development. When asked by NBC News to respond to the revelation, a top Clinton campaign spokesperson said, "No idea."
Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine dodged when asked about the FBI investigation during a campaign stop in Florida during the afternoon. “I've got to read more. I've got to read a little more,” he said.

A spokesman from the Senate Judiciary panel said they only learned of the new evidence on Friday from Comey’s letter. They were unsure what emails the FBI had discovered and did not know what the “unrelated case” pertained to. However, the aide said the panels will likely seek to find out more in the coming days.
Republicans, many of whom had become increasingly resigned to the idea that Clinton was running away with the election, appeared buoyed by the FBI’s decision to take another look at Clinton’s handling of classified materials.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the FBI's move "long overdue." "Yet again, Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame," he said in a statement. "She was entrusted with some of our nation's most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information."

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte asserted that the development shows Clinton and her aides committed wrongdoing, despite that the FBI has not made such a contention. “Now that the FBI has reopened the matter, it must conduct the investigation with impartiality and thoroughness,” he said. “The American people deserve no less and no one should be above the law.”

The Republican National Committee also sounded alarm bells early Friday afternoon, saying the FBI’s decision to release the news just 11 days before the election shows how serious the discovery must be. “This alone should be disqualifying for anyone seeking the presidency, a job that is supposed to begin each morning with a top secret intelligence briefing,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said.

Republicans joined with Democrats in urging the FBI to quickly offer up more details about what its new review is yielding, though with the two sides obviously hoping for different results. "While I am pleased that the FBI is re-opening this case in light of new information, it is imperative that the Bureau immediately evaluate the material to complete this investigation," Sen. Richard Shelby wrote in a letter to Comey on Friday. "The American people are electing their next Commander-in-Chief only days from now, and they deserve to know the conclusion of your review prior to Election Day. Let me be clear: This should be your utmost priority."

The FBI investigation began in July 2015, when the Justice Department received an official referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General about the potential compromise of classified information in her account.
Agents spent months trying to obtain all the devices that might have held Clinton’s email correspondence. In short order, they obtained thumb drives from Clinton’s lawyers, a back-up server from a Colorado firm that handled Clinton’s email system after she left the State Department. They also contacted the State Department, her former aides, and other former government officials who were in correspondence with her.

Eventually, the FBI found more than 10,000 email messages they believed could be work-related and at least somewhat different than the ones Clinton turned over to State in December 2014. However, State officials have said many of the newly-found messages are identical or nearly identical to emails State already had from Clinton or elsewhere.
While Comey has maintained the Clinton email investigation was handled similarly to others into mishandling of classified information and that the same standards were applied to Clinton and her aides as in other cases, he has acknowledged being more public in describing the FBI’s conclusions.

In early July of this year, Comey made a highly unusual press statement announcing that the FBI wasn’t recommending any charges in connection with the Clinton email probe. He also made a pair of appearances on Capitol Hill, engaging in contentious exchanges with Republican lawmakers who said Comey’s decision defied logic.
Many GOP House members said there was ample basis to charge Clinton with “gross negligence” in handling classified information, but the FBI director said that charge has been brought only once in nearly 100 years in a case involving an FBI agent who regularly left classified information in an open briefcase while having an affair with a woman working as a double agent for the U.S. and China.
Comey, in all likelihood, had an obligation to notify Congress of the FBI’s most recent move on the Clinton emails, after he testified over the summer that the investigation was essentially finished.
When a witness tells Congress something under oath that turns out to be untrue, or the facts and circumstances around the testimony change after the fact, he or she is supposed to notify lawmakers right away to correct the record.

But some questioned the wisdom of Comey issuing such a vague letter at a critical stretch of the presidential campaign.
“@FBI director Comey covering institutional butt /today's announcement, but it's really irresponsible not to clarify what it means,” David Axelrod, a former senior adviser for President Barack Obama, tweeted.
Matthew Miller, who served at the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder, blasted Comey's move in a 14-post spree on Twitter Friday afternoon, ripping the FBI director for his practices throughout the entire Clinton investigation.
In a later interview with POLITICO, Miller again ripped Comey, saying, “The Justice Department’s longstanding practice is don’t do anything seen as trying to influence an election. That’s usually interpreted as 60 days, let alone 11."
Annie Karni, Gabriel Debenedetti, Louis Nelson, Darren Samuelsohn, Eric Geller, Nolan D. McCaskill, Tim Starks and Rachael Bade contributed to this report.

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