Federal law enforcement is again investigating emails that could prove damning to the Democratic presidential nominee.
The probe centers around the laptop of a disgraced congressman and his wife, top aide to Hillary Clinton. An untold number of emails were discovered on the laptop, and the FBI set the world on fire with an unexpected announcement of the renewed investigation.
If the emails are connected to Clinton, it’s a turn in the election Republican Donald Trump may use to grind out an election win. From The New York Times:
Federal investigators have obtained a warrant to begin searching a large cache of emails belonging to a top aide to Hillary Clinton, law enforcement officials said on Sunday, as prosecutors and F.B.I. agents scrambled under intense public pressure to assess their significance before Election Day.
It remains unclear whether they can finish their work by then. “The process has begun,” a federal law enforcement official said.
The hurried pace at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. raises the prospect that law enforcement officials will again publicly discuss a continuing investigation involving a presidential candidate in the final days of the campaign. The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, has faced extraordinary criticism since he sent an ambiguous letter to congressional leaders telling them that agents had discovered new emails.
The emails in question are tied to an investigation outside the original Clinton email scandal.
Agents in an unrelated investigation of Anthony D. Weiner, the disgraced former congressman, found the emails, belonging to his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, the aide to Mrs. Clinton, this month. That prompted a renewed interest among agents who had investigated Mrs. Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state. That investigation centered on whether Mrs. Clinton or her aides had mishandled classified information. Prosecutors concluded that case in July without bringing charges.
A federal law enforcement official said agents had discovered hundreds of thousands of emails on Mr. Weiner’s computer, but investigators expected to examine only part of the total. Agents will have probable cause to search only the messages related to the Clinton investigation. Some of Ms. Abedin’s emails passed through Mrs. Clinton’s private server, officials said, which means there is a high likelihood that the F.B.I. has already read them.
Officials have been overly cautious as to the content of the emails.
Officials cautioned that there was no evidence to date that changed the Justice Department’s conclusion that neither Mrs. Clinton nor her aides should be charged. They said it was possible that the review would turn up nothing, but said investigators felt obligated to check.
Since making the announcement about the renewed investigation, Comey has been under public attack by Democrats who repeatedly praised him for essentially acquitting Clinton of crimes.
Mr. Comey has faced widespread criticism since his announcement on Friday, and senior Justice Department and F.B.I. officials have been under tremendous pressure to review the emails quickly and assess their importance. Both Mrs. Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald J. Trump, have called for the F.B.I. to say publicly what it knows before Election Day.
The Clinton campaign kept up the pressure on Mr. Comey on Sunday by releasing a letter signed by nearly 100 former senior Justice Department officials who sharply criticized the F.B.I. director. Among the officials who signed the letter was former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., with whom Mr. Comey often clashed before Mr. Holder left office in 2015.
Comey’s announcement lighted a fire under federal officials to dive into the new vein of emails.
Over the weekend, senior Justice Department officials, some of whom advised Mr. Comey not to make any public announcement about the emails, said that they would make all resources available to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible, and that the timing of the letter — just days before the election — gave the matter an unprecedented urgency.
Late Friday and early Saturday, law enforcement officials said there was no chance the email review could be completed before Election Day. By Sunday, officials said they would spare no resources in the investigation and try to determine whether the new emails changed the Justice Department’s conclusion not to charge Mrs. Clinton or her aides.
The emails will be reviewed by the same counterintelligence team in Washington that handled the Clinton investigation from the beginning. The review will focus on whether there is evidence in the emails that Ms. Abedin mishandled classified information or impeded the F.B.I.’s original email investigation.
Another wrinkle with the Weiner emails is whether Abedin lied to investigators to save herself and shield Clinton.
Investigators will also want to know whether the new trove includes messages that Ms. Abedin did not turn over to the F.B.I. months ago. Ms. Abedin has said she did not routinely delete emails, and people close to her said she did not know these emails were on Mr. Weiner’s computers. It is not clear how they got there, but it is possible they were automatically backed up.
The Justice Department efforts were described by three federal law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.
Republicans will also want to know whey Comey’s announcement didn’t come earlier since investigators knew about Weiner’s emails and the potential to affect the Clinton case.
The F.B.I. knew weeks ago that its investigation into whether Mr. Weiner sent illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina had the potential to reignite the Clinton case. After agents seized Mr. Weiner’s laptop, phone and tablet on Oct. 3, they quickly learned the computer contained a trove of Ms. Abedin’s emails.
The assistant F.B.I. director in charge of the New York field office then notified the deputy director in Washington about the discovery, according to one senior law enforcement official. Agents in the Weiner case were not allowed to widely search Ms. Abedin’s emails, but were told to conduct a cursory review of the metadata — the “to” and “from” information on each message — to see if any of the emails could be relevant to the Clinton investigation.
Once it became clear that the emails were potentially significant, lawyers at the Justice Department and the F.B.I. conducted a legal analysis of how to proceed, officials said. Because Ms. Abedin’s emails were not directly related to the investigation of her husband, criminal agents could neither read the contents of the emails nor pass them to their colleagues in Washington.
Late last week, the authorities decided to seek a search warrant to examine the emails. Mr. Comey’s letter gave that effort a tremendous sense of urgency. Suddenly, a follow-up inquiry that was expected to take weeks or months now needed to be rushed ahead of Election Day.
Democrats couldn’t stop attacking Comey for his actions.
Mr. Comey’s letter also opened him up to criticism from Democrats that he seemed willing to disclose every investigative wrinkle related to the Clinton investigation, but has not said anything about the scope of an F.B.I. investigation into Russian meddling in American elections. Democrats have repeatedly asked the F.B.I. to investigate Mr. Trump and his aides as part of that case. Mr. Comey has never said if he would.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, increased the pressure on Mr. Comey late Sunday, criticizing the director for a “disturbing double standard.”
“In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers and the Russian government,” Mr. Reid wrote in a letter to Mr. Comey. “The public has a right to know this information.”
It was unclear what Mr. Reid was referring to. A spokesman said in a telephone interview Sunday that Mr. Reid did not believe it was his place to disclose national security information, which had been told to him in confidential briefings with senior intelligence and law enforcement officials.
“The exact information is at the discretion of the national security community, but it is Senator Reid’s view that there is much more that can be said publicly than has been so far,” said the spokesman, Adam Jentleson.
Mr. Comey and his allies have defended his handling of the Clinton case, calling the circumstances “exceptional.”
Though Justice Department guidelines discourage making public comments about continuing investigations or doing anything that could influence an election, Mr. Comey has said he believed that he was obligated to reveal the existence of the new emails. Not telling Congress, he told colleagues, would have opened up the F.B.I. to criticism and created a cloud that would have hung over the bureau for years.
Such a cache of new emails couldn’t be ignored by the FBI which has lost credibility with much of America after failing to indict Clinton and her underlings – all lying to protect the candidate for political purposes. Comey saw a chance to attempt regaining credibility, and took it.
Democrats now must continue battling the reality that Clinton’s email mess is a scourge that should immediately disqualify her from a presidential candidacy. Trump has a renewed opening to beat down Clinton, and should take every opportunity to take down the most corrupt candidate in American history.