New email probe tied to Weiner sex­ting case

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Biesecker and Eric Tucker

The FBI is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether there is clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion in new emails un­cov­ered dur­ing the sex­ting in­ves­ti­ga­tion of dis­graced for­mer congressman An­thony Weiner, the es­tranged hus­band of one of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s clos­est aides.

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey told Congress in a let­ter that the emails prompted in­ves­ti­ga­tors to take an­other look at whether clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion had been mis­han­dled, which had been the fo­cus of its re­cently closed, crim­i­nal probe into Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server. Comey couldn’t guar­an­tee that the lat­est fo­cus of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be fin­ished be­fore Elec­tion Day.

Clin­ton said Fri­day that “the Amer­i­can peo­ple de­serve to get the full and com­plete facts im­me­di­ately. She urged the FBI to “ex­plain this is­sue in ques­tion, what­ever it is, with­out any delay.” “Let’s get it out,” she said. Comey did not pro­vide de­tails about the emails, but a U.S. of­fi­cial told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the emails emerged through the FBI’s sep­a­rate sex­ting probe of Weiner, who is sep­a­rated from Clin­ton con­fi­dant Huma Abe­din. She served as deputy chief of staff at the State Depart­ment and is still a key player in Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. The two sep­a­rated ear­lier this year af­ter Weiner was caught in 2011, 2013 and again in 2016 send­ing sex­u­ally ex­plicit text mes­sages and pho­to­graphs of him­self un­dressed to nu­mer­ous women.

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties in New York and North Carolina are in­ves­ti­gat­ing on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Weiner and a 15-yearold girl. The U.S. of­fi­cial was fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion but was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter by name and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The dis­clo­sure came less than two weeks be­fore the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and thrust a po­lit­i­cal li­a­bil­ity for Clin­ton back into the head­lines that her cam­paign thought had been re­solved and had be­gun to re­cede from the minds of vot­ers. The FBI said in July its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pri­vate email server was fin­ished.

Comey stressed in his let­ter that the FBI could not yet as­sess “whether or not this ma­te­rial may be sig­nif­i­cant,” or how long it might take to run down the new in­ves­tiga­tive leads.

“In con­nec­tion with an un­re­lated case, the FBI has learned of the ex­is­tence of emails that ap­pear to be per­ti­nent to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Comey wrote. “I 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.”

Clin­ton, in a brief state­ment to re­porters Fri­day evening, noted: “The di­rec­tor him­self has said he doesn’t know whether the emails ref­er­enced in his let­ter are sig­nif­i­cant or not. I’m con­fi­dent what­ever they are will not change the con­clu­sion reached in July.”

It was un­clear what the emails con­tained, who sent them, or what con­nec­tion they might have to the year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion the FBI closed in July with­out rec­om­mend­ing crim­i­nal charges. The FBI probe fo­cused on whether Clin­ton sent or re­ceived clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion us­ing a server in the base­ment of her New York home, which was not au­tho­rized to han­dle such mes­sages. Abe­din was in­ter­viewed by the FBI as part of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Comey said in July that his agents didn’t find ev­i­dence to sup­port a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion or di­rect ev­i­dence that Clin­ton’s pri­vate server was hacked.

Matthew Miller, a for­mer chief spokesman for the Jus­tice Depart­ment, was dis­mayed by the tim­ing of Comey’s let­ter.

“Long­stand­ing DOJ and FBI prac­tice is you don’t say any­thing pub­licly close to an elec­tion that can pos­si­bly in­flu­ence that elec­tion,” Miller said.

Comey, who has talked of­ten about the FBI’s need to be ac­count­able to the pub­lic, promised ex­tra­or­di­nary trans­parency about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and dur­ing in­ter­ven­ing months has au­tho­rized the re­lease of in­ves­tiga­tive files from the case, which are nor­mally kept con­fi­den­tial.

That stance also left Comey, a ca­reer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor who has served un­der both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions, open to crit­i­cism from lead­ers in both par­ties that he was try­ing to in­flu­ence the out­come of the pres­i­den­tial race.

Clin­ton cam­paign sup­port­ers were al­ready sug­gest­ing the FBI di­rec­tor was putting a thumb on the scale. Had he waited un­til af­ter Nov. 8 to an­nounce the dis­cov­ery of the new emails, how­ever, Comey would surely have faced crit­i­cism for sit­ting on ma­jor news un­til af­ter the new pres­i­dent had been se­lected.

State Depart­ment spokesman Mark Toner said the depart­ment learned about the FBI let­ter from news reports and did not get any no­ti­fi­ca­tion from the FBI. Toner pledged the depart­ment would “co­op­er­ate to the full ex­tent that we can.”

Speak­ing at a Clin­ton rally in Florida, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama also steered clear of the is­sue. White House spokesman Eric Schultz de­clined com­ment beyond re­it­er­at­ing Obama’s con­tin­u­ing sup­port for Clin­ton. As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter Tami Ab­dol­lah con­trib­uted from Wash­ing­ton.

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton speaks with se­nior aide Huma Abe­din aboard her cam­paign plane at Westch­ester County Air­port in White Plains, N.Y., Fri­day, Oct. 28, 2016, be­fore trav­el­ing to Iowa for ral­lies. (AP Photo/An­drew Harnik)

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