The Washington Post Sunday

Clinton: ‘It’s unpreceden­ted, and it’s deeply troubling’

- BY JOHN WAGNER, SEAN SULLIVAN AND ANNE GEARAN

daytona beach, fla. — With just days to go until the election, a fiercely defiant Hillary Clinton demanded answers Saturday about what she suggested is a politicall­y motivated renewal of a previously shuttered federal inquiry into her use of a private email server at the State Department.

As her campaign scrambled Saturday to respond to FBI Director James B. Comey’s decision to notify Congress about renewing the email investigat­ion, Clinton and her top aides characteri­zed the action as inappropri­ate and irresponsi­ble.

“It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little informatio­n right before an election,” Clinton said as a supportive crowd cheered her on and booed Cruz control Ignoring Trump, Ted Cruz makes a case for the GOP in Colorado. A4 when she referred to Comey. “In fact, it’s not just strange. It’s unpreceden­ted, and it’s deeply troubling.”

Clinton’s Republican rival, Donald Trump, seized on Comey’s letter in an apparent effort to shift focus from his own controvers­ies and score a last-minute surge in a race that even his staff has admitted he has been losing.

The Democratic nominee’s strongly worded response to the new inquiry signaled a decision to go fully on offense against Comey and confront the email issue and Republican attacks head-on. It signaled clearly the havoc wrought by Comey’s announceme­nt — and Democrats’ strategy to head off game-changing politi-

damage from a developmen­t that had left them sputtering inside and outside the campaign.

The campaign’s internal panic over the renewed FBI scrutiny was evident almost immediatel­y after the news broke Friday.

On Saturday morning, the campaign hastily arranged a telephone briefing with Clinton’s top two aides — campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook. The briefing took place on just over 20 minutes’ notice. In addition to the unusual firepower — Podesta does not brief the media regularly — the campaign took the additional step of providing a transcript after the fact, the better to reap any benefit from Podesta’s strong language.

Podesta, a longtime Clinton family confidant, sounded agitated and angry during the call with reporters early Saturday afternoon as he described Comey’s surprise announceme­nt Friday as “long on innuendo and short on facts,” allowing Republican­s to “distort and exaggerate” its message. Podesta also sent a strongly worded letter to supporters.

In her appearance Saturday, Clinton stopped just short of accusing Comey, once a registered Republican, of partisan interferen­ce in the Nov. 8 election. But she did not attempt to conceal her anger.

Other Democrats went much further, issuing scathing assessment­s of Comey’s motives and timing, as the potential for new legal jeopardy involving the Democratic nominee roiled an already tumultuous campaign.

On Saturday afternoon, the Clinton campaign sent an email with urgent talking points for its high-level surrogates about Comey’s “controvers­ial action.”

Among them was to demand that Comey “immediatel­y provide the American people with more informatio­n.”

The congressio­nal black and Hispanic caucuses organized a news conference to denounce Comey, at least three Democratic senators drafted a letter of complaint Saturday, and the Democratic National Committee issued a sharply worded statement.

The approach was notable given the kid-glove treatment accorded Comey by Clinton and her campaign before now and the long silence that followed the initial news about Comey’s letter on Friday. Several hours passed before Clinton or anyone on her staff weighed in on the issue, at which point Podesta called on Comey to provide more informatio­n about what he was after.

Of chief concern to Democrats is whether the developmen­t, and the uncertaint­y surroundin­g it, will cause supporters to disengage or stay home. Meanwhile, the developmen­t has been a political gift to Trump, who drew huge applause Saturday when he called Clinton corrupt and untrustwor­thy.

Trump said he thinks that some of the thousands of emails that Clinton deleted “were captured yesterday,” even though officials do not yet know what is in the emails. He also suggested, without evidence, that there was “a revolt” in the FBI that led to the letter being sent.

Trump devoted most of a noontime rally in Golden, Colo., on Saturday to telling his supporters about the FBI letter and detailing the controvers­y.

“As you have heard, it was just announced yesterday that the FBI is reopening their investigat­ion in the criminal and illegal conduct of Hillary Clinton,” Trump said about 10 minutes into the rally. He then walked away from his lectern and applauded the news along with his supporters, who began chanting: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

“This is the biggest political scandal since Watergate, and it’s everybody’s deepest hope that justice, at last, can be properly delivered,” Trump said to more cheers. “Hillary has nobody to blame but herself for her mounting legal troubles. Her criminal action was willful, deliberate, intentiona­l and purposeful.”

While Trump has repeatedly claimed that Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state was illegal, Comey earlier this year said that the FBI found nothing that would lead to a criminal charge.

Comey’s letter, sent to eight congressio­nal committee chairmen and ranking Democrats, states that “the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigat­ion” into the potential mishandlin­g of classified informatio­n when Clinton was secretary of state.

That inquiry ended in July without criminal charges, which Clinton’s campaign hoped would sweep away some of the cloud of suspicion around the candidate over her decision to use a private communicat­ion system for her government work.

Voters continue to tell pollsters that they disapprove of her handling of the email issue, with many doubting that she has been fully truthful.

But until now, the issue seemed to be receding, and Clinton had sounded increasing­ly confident as she maintained a lead in most national polls over the past sevcal eral weeks.

In his letter, Comey said, “The FBI should take appropriat­e investigat­ive steps designed to allow investigat­ors to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified informatio­n.” Comey said it is unknown whether the informatio­n “may be significan­t.”

According to two people familiar with the matter, the newly discovered emails were found on a computer seized during an investigat­ion of former U.S. congressma­n Anthony Weiner. Weiner is separated from his wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Both Podesta and Mook cited news coverage of the developmen­t in which government officials and others have said Comey’s actions were unusual or inconsiste­nt with Justice Department practice in an election year.

Podesta said that the emails now at issue may be duplicates of those already reviewed by the FBI as part of its inquiry into Clinton’s use of a private email system or that they may be irrelevant to the investigat­ion.

In the call, Podesta also criticized House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (RUtah) for characteri­zing the letter as the FBI reopening the investigat­ion of Clinton’s private email server.

“This is someone who has already promised to launch years of new Hillary Clinton investigat­ions when she’s president,” Podesta said.

 ?? EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Democratic presidenti­al nominee Hillary Clinton went on offense over FBI Director James B. Comey’s letter to Congress about the investigat­ion into her private email server. Her rival, Donald Trump, said he thought the letter was the result of “a...
EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS Democratic presidenti­al nominee Hillary Clinton went on offense over FBI Director James B. Comey’s letter to Congress about the investigat­ion into her private email server. Her rival, Donald Trump, said he thought the letter was the result of “a...
 ?? MELINA MARA/THE WASHINGTON POST ??
MELINA MARA/THE WASHINGTON POST

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States