FBI’s Oc­to­ber sur­prise com­pli­cates race for Clin­ton

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Lisa Lerer and Kath­leen Hennessey

DES MOINES, IOWA >> A new shock hit Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign Fri­day in the un­pre­dictable and of­ten un­be­liev­able pres­i­den­tial race: The FBI is look­ing into whether there was clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion on a de­vice be­long­ing to the es­tranged hus­band of one of her clos­est aides.

Adding to the drama of the stun­ning rev­e­la­tion: The FBI un­cov­ered the emails dur­ing a sex­ting in­ves­ti­ga­tion of An­thony Weiner, the dis­graced ex­con­gress­man who is sep­a­rated from long­time Clin­ton aide Huma Abe­din.

The Demo­crat said late Fri­day she was con­fi­dent what­ever the FBI may find would not change its con­clu­sion from ear­lier this year — that her use of a pri­vate email sys­tem as sec­re­tary of state did not merit pros­e­cu­tion.

“We don’t know the facts, which is why we are call­ing on the FBI to re­lease all the in­for­ma­tion that it has,” Clin­ton said. “Even (FBI) Di­rec­tor (James) Comey noted that this new in­for­ma­tion might not be sig­nif­i­cant, so let’s get it out.”

The news ar­rived with Clin­ton hold­ing a solid ad­van­tage in the pres­i­den­tial race. Early voting has been un­der­way for weeks, and she has a steady lead in pref­er­ence polls. But the devel­op­ment all but en­sures that, even should she win the White House, the Demo­crat and sev­eral of her clos­est aides would cel­e­brate vic­tory un­der a cloud of in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

It was a day that thrilled Repub­li­cans ea­ger to change the tra­jec­tory of the race, none moreso than GOP nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump.

“Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cor­rup­tion is on a scale we have never seen be­fore,” Trump said while cam­paign­ing in bat­tle­ground New Hamp­shire. “We must not let her take her crim­i­nal scheme into the Oval Of­fice.”

Democrats, still con­fi­dent Clin­ton will pre­vail in 11 days, were en­raged by Comey’s de­ci­sion to dis­close the ex­is­tence of the fresh in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a vaguely worded let­ter to sev­eral con­gres­sional lead­ers.

“The FBI has a his­tory of ex­treme cau­tion near Elec­tion Day so as not to in­flu­ence the re­sults,” said Cal­i­for­nia Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein. She added, ac­cus­ingly, “To­day’s break from that tra­di­tion is ap­palling.”

It wasn’t un­til hours af­ter Comey’s let­ter emerged that word came that the source of the new emails was Weiner, the for­mer congressman un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for send­ing sex­u­ally ex­plicit text mes­sages to a teenage girl.

“We don’t know what to be­lieve,” Clin­ton said, adding, “Right now, your guess is as good as mine, and I don’t think that’s good enough.”

The devel­op­ment also reignited per­sis­tent wor­ries among Democrats that elect­ing the for­mer first lady will restart a cy­cle of scan­dal and in­ves­ti­ga­tion that could ri­val the fi­nal por­tion of her hus­band’s term in of­fice.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have al­ready promised years of in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Clin­ton’s pri­vate email sys­tem. And that’s only one of the email-re­lated con­tro­ver­sies fac­ing her. The tens of thou­sands of con­fi­den­tial emails from Clin­ton cam­paign in­sid­ers that were hacked — she and the gov­ern­ment say by Rus­sia — and then re­leased by Wik­iLeaks have pro­vided a steady stream of ques­tions about her pol­icy po­si­tions, per­son­nel choices and ties with her hus­band’s sprawl­ing char­i­ta­ble net­work and post­pres­i­den­tial pur­suits.

In his Fri­day let­ter to con­gres­sional lead­ers, Comey wrote only that new emails have emerged, prompt­ing the agency to “take ap­pro­pri­ate in­ves­tiga­tive steps” to re­view the in­for­ma­tion that may be per­ti­nent to its pre­vi­ously closed in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Clin­ton’s pri­vate email sys­tem.

The FBI ended that in­ves­ti­ga­tion in July with­out fil­ing charges, al­though Comey said then that Clin­ton and her aides had been “ex­tremely care­less” in us­ing the sys­tem for com­mu­ni­ca­tions about gov­ern­ment busi­ness.

The agency, which did not re­spond to ques­tions about Comey’s let­ter and did not lay out a time­line for the re­view, is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the re­cent hacks of the emails of John Podesta, Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man.

As Clin­ton and her cam­paign have been pounded by al­le­ga­tions and em­bar­rass­ing rev­e­la­tions re­lated to the hacked emails, they’ve largely avoided en­gag­ing in the de­tails. In­stead, they’ve fo­cused on blam­ing the Rus­sians.

“These are il­le­gally stolen doc­u­ments,” Clin­ton cam­paign man­ager Robby Mook said ear­lier in the day on her cam­paign plane. “We’re not go­ing to spend our cam­paign fight­ing back what the Rus­sians want this to be about.”

That may be be­cause Clin­ton hasn’t yet felt the po­lit­i­cal pres­sure. Re­cent sur­veys show her re­tain­ing her lead in na­tional polls and mak­ing gains in some swing states. In fact, her cam­paign an­nounced plans to hold a rally in Ari­zona next Wed­nes­day, a tra­di­tion­ally red state put in play by Trump’s deep un­pop­u­lar­ity among mi­nor­ity vot­ers, Mor­mons and busi­ness lead­ers.

To the frus­tra­tion of many in his party, Trump has strug­gled to con­sis­tently drive an at­tack against Clin­ton, of­ten turn­ing to per­sonal de­nun­ci­a­tions of pri­vate cit­i­zens he feels have wronged him, like the Gold Star fam­ily of Cap­tain Hu­mayun Khan, a Mus­lim-Amer­i­can sol­dier killed in ac­tion.

That may be chang­ing. He quickly pounced on the email news, see­ing an op­por­tu­nity to press the ar­gu­ment he’s long tried to make against Clin­ton: that she thinks she’s above the law and that she put U.S. se­cu­rity at risk by us­ing her per­sonal email.

Af­ter weeks of declar­ing the race “rigged” in fa­vor of his op­po­nent, Trump de­clared Fri­day he has “great re­spect” for the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment, now that they are “will­ing to have the courage to right the hor­ri­ble mis­take that they made” in con­clud­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion ear­lier.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz urged the FBI to “fol­low the facts, wher­ever they lead.” Pres­i­dent Barack Obama plans to travel to sup­port Clin­ton nearly ev­ery day that’s left in the cam­paign.

“He’s go­ing to be proud to sup­port her from now un­til Elec­tion Day,” Schultz said.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton pauses Fri­day while speak­ing at a news con­fer­ence at Theodore Roo­sevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa. The FBI dropped what amounts to a po­lit­i­cal bomb on the Clin­ton cam­paign on Fri­day when it an­nounced it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether new emails in­volv­ing the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee con­tain clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

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