FBI hur­ries to re­view emails po­ten­tially tied to Clin­ton aide

Agency can’t say if it will be fin­ished by Elec­tion Day

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Del Quentin Wil­ber and Noah Bier­man

WASH­ING­TON — The FBI ac­cel­er­ated its time­line for re­view­ing emails po­ten­tially linked to Hil­lary Clin­ton on Mon­day amid grow­ing pub­lic pres­sure over the agency’s sur­prise an­nounce­ment that it had found them in an un­re­lated case.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors had planned to con­duct the re­view over sev­eral weeks, but af­ter a tor­rent of crit­i­cism over the week­end, be­gan scram­bling to ex­am­ine a trove of emails, ac­cord­ing to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials. The FBI hoped to com­plete a pre­lim­i­nary as­sess­ment in the com­ing days, but agency of­fi­cials have not de­cided how, or whether, they will dis­close the re­sults of it pub­licly, and of­fi­cials also could not say whether the en­tire re­view would be com­pleted by Elec­tion Day.

The un­cer­tainty did not stop Don­ald Trump from charg­ing into the vac­uum

with omi­nous spec­u­la­tion that a Clin­ton vic­tory would spark na­tional up­heaval. Clin­ton re­peated that she was con­fi­dent the FBI had no case against her and that vot­ers had al­ready made up their mind on her use of a pri­vate server while she was sec­re­tary of state.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of emails were dis­cov­ered in an un­re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether for­mer Rep. An­thony Weiner, the es­tranged hus­band of top Clin­ton aide Huma Abe­din, vi­o­lated fed­eral laws while ex­chang­ing sex­u­ally ex­plicit texts with a 15-year-old. Most of the emails were Weiner’s, in­ves­ti­ga­tors say. Hun­dreds, per­haps thou­sands, be­longed to Abe­din, one of­fi­cial said.

FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey, a for­mer Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial ap­pointed to run the bureau three years ago by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, has come un­der heavy crit­i­cism from Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike for dis­clos­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to Congress so close to the elec­tion.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, a Repub­li­can who heads the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, de­manded that Comey re­lease more in­for­ma­tion about the probe by Fri­day.

“While I dis­agree with those who sug­gest you should have kept the FBI’s dis­cov­ery se­cret un­til af­ter the elec­tion, I agree that your dis­clo­sure did not go far enough,” Grass­ley wrote to Comey. “Un­for­tu­nately, your let­ter failed to give Congress and the Amer­i­can peo­ple enough con­text to eval­u­ate the sig­nif­i­cance or full mean­ing of this de­vel­op­ment.

“With­out ad­di­tional con­text, your dis­clo­sure is not fair to Congress, the Amer­i­can peo­ple, or Sec­re­tary Clin­ton,” Grass­ley added. He also re­newed con­cerns that the FBI’s ini­tial email in­ves­ti­ga­tion may have been ham­pered “by po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees at the Jus­tice De­part­ment.”

For­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder, at one time Comey’s boss, wrote in The Wash­ing­ton Post that he was “deeply con­cerned” about Comey’s move to re­veal the new email re­view be­cause it vi­o­lated guide­lines “lay­ing out the proper way to con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tions dur­ing an elec­tion sea­son.”

“I fear he has un­in­ten­tion­ally and neg­a­tively af­fected pub­lic trust in both the Jus­tice De­part­ment and the FBI,” Holder wrote.

He was joined in his crit­i­cism by Al­berto Gon­za­lez, who served as at­tor­ney gen­eral un­der Repub­li­can Ge­orge W. Bush.

Gon­za­lez, who has sparred with Comey in the past, told CNN that the FBI di­rec­tor made “an er­ror in judg­ment.”

The White House largely stood by Comey but re­fused to de­fend his ac­tion and clearly wasn’t happy that he broke with White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Mon­day that the pres­i­dent doesn’t be­lieve FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey is try­ing to in­flu­ence the out­come of the elec­tion. decades of law en­force­ment prac­tice by dis­cussing an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion in pub­lic.

“The pres­i­dent doesn’t be­lieve that Di­rec­tor Comey is in­ten­tion­ally try­ing to in­flu­ence the out­come of an elec­tion,” White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest said. “The pres­i­dent doesn’t be­lieve that he’s se­cretly strate­giz­ing to ben­e­fit one can­di­date or one po­lit­i­cal party. He’s in a tough spot. And he’s the one who will be in a po­si­tion to de­fend his ac­tions.”

The Jus­tice De­part­ment promised law­mak­ers that it would “ded­i­cate all nec­es­sary re­sources and take ap­pro­pri­ate steps as ex­pe­di­tiously as pos­si­ble.”

To work faster, agents are us­ing a com­puter pro­gram to de­ter­mine which emails need to be in­di­vid­u­ally in­spected, a fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cial said. A pla­toon of FBI agents, as­sisted by the Jus­tice De­part­ment, has been dis­patched to pore over the emails. But two law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said the full ex­am­i­na­tion of the emails is still ex­pected to take weeks.

Le­gal ex­perts and for­mer agents said they would be sur­prised if in­ves­ti­ga­tors dis­cov­ered any­thing in­crim­i­nat­ing that would force Comey and pros­e­cu­tors to seek charges against Clin­ton. Agents had al­ready taken ex­haus­tive steps to track down the emails from her pri­vate ac­count, so it was un­likely that undis­cov­ered ones would be found now, they said. Agents would also have to find ev­i­dence that Clin­ton in­ten­tion­ally vi­o­lated clas­si­fi­ca­tion laws, which

Trump cam­paign dis­tances from Manafort

Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign sought to dis­tance him from his for­mer cam­paign chief Paul Manafort on Mon­day night fol­low­ing re­ports that the FBI is look­ing into the ex-aide’s for­eign busi­ness ties.

“Mr. Trump sev­ered ties with Mr. Manafort many months ago. Mr. Trump has no knowl­edge of any of his past or present ac­tiv­i­ties,” cam­paign spokes­woman Hope Hicks said in an email.

NBC News re­ported Mon­day that fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors had be­gun a pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry into Manafort’s ties to Rus­sian in­ter­ests.

Manafort, who left the cam­paign in Au­gust, told NBC that he was aware of no FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion and de­nied he had ties to Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin or other pro-Rus­sian in­ter­ests.

The re­port comes one day af­ter Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid al­leged that FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey was con­ceal­ing known con­nec­tions be­tween the Trump cam­paign and the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment. He ac­cused Comey of a dou­ble stan­dard by pub­licly re­veal­ing new lines of in­quiry into the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pri­vate email server.

The Clin­ton cam­paign fol­lowed suit Mon­day, call­ing Comey’s ac­tions “noth­ing short of jaw-drop­ping.” Comey said they did not find in their in­ves­ti­ga­tion that con­cluded in July.

“I don’t en­vi­sion a cir­cum­stance where this changes dra­mat­i­cally” for Clin­ton, said Ron­ald Hosko, a for­mer top FBI of­fi­cial.

Hosko wasn’t as sure about Abe­din, de­pend­ing on what she told in­ves­ti­ga­tors and what they find. The emails might even pro­vide an av­enue for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to pur­sue ques­tions about the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion, he said; Abe­din worked si­mul­ta­ne­ously for the foun­da­tion and the State De­part­ment.

Trump is hop­ing the late-break­ing con­tro­versy helps his cam­paign make up a deficit in polls that shows him los­ing the pop­u­lar vote and in key bat­tle­ground states. Early ev­i­dence sug­gested that re­mains a dif­fi­cult un­der­tak­ing.

Clin­ton main­tained a 47 per­cent-41 per­cent lead in an NBC News/Sur­veyMon­key weekly track­ing sur­vey taken af­ter Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment, vir­tu­ally un­changed from last week’s poll. Still, 55 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they thought the new­est email is­sue was im­por­tant.

“We will be fac­ing the very real pos­si­bil­ity of a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis,” Trump warned at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., point­ing to dire warn­ings by for­mer Bill Clin­ton aide Doug Schoen, who pub­licly re­nounced the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee this week and in 2010 called on Obama to re­sign.

“She would be un­der pro­tracted crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and prob­a­bly a crim­i­nal trial,” Trump said, while hastily adding that he didn’t think a Clin­ton vic­tory would hap­pen.

Other de­vel­op­ments Mon­day, though, rekin­dled unan­swered ques­tions about Trump. His for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort, is the sub­ject of a pre­lim­i­nary FBI in­quiry into any con­nec­tions to Rus­sia, NBC re­ported, cit­ing un­named law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials. Manafort, who re­port­edly had fi­nan­cial ties to a pro-Rus­sia party in Ukraine, where he once worked as a po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive, de­nied the re­port to the net­work. Trump’s cam­paign said that he had no knowl­edge of Manafort’s “past or present ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Trump has re­peat­edly ex­pressed his ad­mi­ra­tion for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, whose strong­man tac­tics the U.S. has dis­avowed. The White House ac­cused Rus­sia last month of leak­ing Demo­cratic emails, which Putin has de­nied.

Though the void of in­for­ma­tion about the new email re­view may hurt Clin­ton, Trump’s re­ac­tion car­ried the risk of over­play­ing the con­tro­versy, es­pe­cially with un­com­mit­ted vot­ers who may not loathe Clin­ton as pas­sion­ately as Trump’s core sup­port­ers do.

But even those who do not har­bor Trump’s view may nonethe­less be re­minded of Clin­ton’s and her hus­band’s pro­tracted bat­tles with Repub­li­cans in the 1990’s and the un­end­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions that en­sued.

“I’m sure a lot of you may be ask­ing what this new email story is about and why in the world the FBI would de­cide to jump into an elec­tion with no ev­i­dence of any wrong­do­ing with just days to go,” she said in Kent, Ohio. “That’s a good ques­tion.”

She again called her use of pri­vate email a mis­take and said she had no prob­lem with the FBI look­ing at the new­est batch.

“I am sure they will reach the same con­clu­sion they did when they looked at my emails for the last year,” she said. “There is no case here.”

Comey ini­tially de­cided against rec­om­mend­ing pros­e­cu­tion of Clin­ton, which drew heavy crit­i­cism from Trump and his al­lies and praise from Democrats. Now the ta­bles are turned.

“It took guts for Di­rec­tor Comey to make the move that he made,” Trump said in Michi­gan.

NI­CHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

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