FBI clears Clinton on latest batch of emails
Democrats hope surprise move will ease some voters’ suspicions, but harm may have been done
WASHINGTON— The cloud that had suddenly arrived over Hillary Clinton’s campaign vanished Sunday with just as little warning.
Nine days after he roiled the U.S. presidential election by announcing an additional investigation into the emails of the Democratic presidential candidate, FBI director James Comey announced two days before election day that the investigation had found nothing.
“Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” he wrote to congressional leaders.
In translation: Clinton will, again, not face charges for anything related to her private email server or her handling of classified information while using it.
“Comey’s letter indicates that the FBI’s review is over,” NBC’s Pete Williams reported.
A senior law enforcement official, Williams reported, said almost all of the emails that investigators had stumbled upon — as part of a probe into the sexting of former congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of a Clinton aide — were duplicates of ones already reviewed by the FBI.
Clinton now heads into the final day of campaigning with both fresh vindication and an advantage in the polls. The final NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had her up 44 per cent to 40 per cent over Republican Donald Trump.
Comey’s surprise move makes Clinton’s email controversy front-page news on the day before the vote.
But by clearing her a second time, Comey eased some voters’ suspicions and undercut Trump’s oftrepeated recent argument that a President Clinton would probably face a criminal trial that would produce a “constitutional crisis.”
“Trump’s hopes of using Comey to distract the voters in closing days of the campaign just went up in smoke,” Brian Fallon, a Clinton spokesperson, wrote on Twitter.
Comey’s letter came as Trump criss-crossed the country searching for the elusive electoral votes that would allow him an upset. His fiverally day took him not only to Iowa and Pennsylvania, which he has long considered crucial, but Michigan, where no Republican has won since 1988, and Minnesota, where no Republican has won since 1972. He finished his night in Virginia, which analysts consider out of reach for him.
In Minnesota, he returned to immigrant-bashing and Muslim-bashing, singling out the local Somali community as a security threat. The state, he said, has “suffered enough.”
“She wants virtually unlimited immigration and refugee admissions,” he said falsely of Clinton, “from the most dangerous regions of the world, to come into our country and to come into Minnesota, and you know it better than anybody.” Without mentioning Comey, Trump said Clinton is “protected by a rigged system.”
Clinton went back to Ohio, where she appeared Friday with Beyoncé and her husband, Jay-Z, in an attempt to motivate younger voters and black voters. This time, she was accompanied by basketball star LeBron James.
“Everything you care about, everything that I care about and I’ve worked for is at stake,” she said at a black church in Philadelphia. “This election is about doing everything we can to stop the movement to destroy President Obama’s legacy. In fact, it is about building on the gains and the progress we’ve made in the last eight years. It is about choosing hope over fear, unity over division, and love over hate.”
Ohio has long seemed like Trump’s best major swing state. But the respected Columbus Dispatch poll, released Sunday, found Clinton with a 48-47 lead.
The poll was one of a number of hopeful signs for her. The most important: an apparent boom in Hispanic voting. In Florida, without which Trump almost certainly cannot win, twice as many Hispanics have voted this time than at the same point in 2012.
Comey had faced a firestorm of criticism, from Clinton allies but also independent experts and some Republicans, for inserting himself into the end of a campaign without proof of wrongdoing.
Democrats lamented that this second letter did not come early enough to avoid harm.
The effect of the first letter was particularly acute because of the United States’ long early-voting periods. More than 40 million Americans have already voted. In some key states, such as Nevada and Colorado, a majority of ballots are already in.
Comey’s initial letter did not make clear what FBI sources later told reporters: He had not even seen the emails in question. But many voters took the letter as an indication that Clinton must have done something wrong.
In a YouGov poll of Florida released Sunday, 50 per cent of respondents said they expected any new emails found by the FBI to include “information that could be more damaging to Hillary Clinton,” versus 50 per cent who said “more of the same things we already know.”
Trump had gone from suggesting Comey was corrupt to praising him, saying his first letter had salvaged his reputation. But Trump allies reacted with fury to Comey’s latest move — while ignoring the existence of computers. “IMPOSSIBLE: There (are) 691,200 seconds in 8 days. (Director) Comey has thoroughly reviewed 650,000 emails in 8 days? An email/ second? IMPOSSIBLE,” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote on Twitter.
Both candidates hold their final rallies Monday. Clinton is visiting Grand Rapids, Mich., then doing a rally in Philadelphia with her husband, the Obamas, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. She will finish in Raleigh, N.C.
Trump’s final sprint will take him from North Carolina to Pennsylvania to New Hampshire to Michigan. Both will hold a “victory” party in New York City on Tuesday night.