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

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - 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 re­volt” in the FBI.

MELINA MARA/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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