FBI clears Clin­ton on lat­est batch of emails

Democrats hope sur­prise move will ease some vot­ers’ sus­pi­cions, but harm may have been done

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - DANIEL DALE WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF

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.

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