WASHINGTON ― Hillary Clinton’s campaign fired back at the director of the FBI Friday for once again digging into the investigation of her private email server, demanding explanations and calling the announcement 11 days before the election “extraordinary.”
FBI Director James Comey revealed the new activity in the case in a letter to Republican chairmen of several congressional committees.
“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.
The information, which Comey did not disclose, comes from devices used by disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner, according to The New York Times. Weiner is being investigated for allegedly texting explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl.
The news of the the FBI’s move immediately roiled the presidential contest, with numerous Republicans jumping on the news and using it against Clinton.
Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta fired off a statement questioning the timing and downplaying the news. He also demanded that the bureau release full details of the information it has uncovered.
“Upon completing this investigation more than three months ago, FBI Director Comey declared no reasonable prosecutor would move forward with a case like this and added that it was not even a close call. In the months since, Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been baselessly second-guessing the FBI and, in both public and private, browbeating the career officials there to revisit their conclusion in a desperate attempt to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“FBI Director Comey should immediately provide the American public more information than is contained in the letter he sent to eight Republican committee chairmen. Already, we have seen characterizations that the FBI is ‘reopening’ an investigation but Comey’s words do not match that characterization. Director Comey’s letter refers to emails that have come to light in an unrelated case, but we have no idea what those emails are and the Director himself notes they may not even be significant.
“It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election.
“The Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.”
Clinton did not address the matter herself at a rally in Iowa, and did not take questions from reporters as she left her plane.
Clinton wound up under investigation because she routed all her State Department email through a private server in her New York home while she was secretary of state.
That information was revealed in the investigation by the Republican-led Select Committee on Benghazi, and prompted a yearlong probe by the FBI. At issue was whether Clinton’s unusual arrangement violated the law, primarily the Espionage Act.
Comey declared in July that it had not because, unlike in many similar-looking cases, there was no way to prove any intent on Clinton’s part to break the law. He also said it was possible her system could have been hacked, but that there was no evidence a foreign power had done so.
The director reaffirmed that conclusion just last month when Republicans again quizzed him over Clinton’s email.
“As painful as it is for people sometimes, this was not a close call,” Comey said in September.
Although Clinton’s opponents have seized on the information and declared the the FBI has re-opened a criminal investigation, Comey did not characterize it that way in the letter explaining that new emails had been discovered.
“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 their importance to the investigation,” Comey wrote.
He specified that he does not yet know whether the new material is significant. And he explained the timing by noting that the investigators on the case briefed him of the new developments Thursday, and he felt that in light of his previous testimony, it was important to update Congress on the new developments.
Nevertheless, Podesta was not alone in hammering the FBI. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, denounced the move as “appalling” considering the timing, how little the FBI appears to know about the emails, and how little Comey said.
“Without knowing how many emails are involved, who wrote them, when they were written or their subject matter, it’s impossible to make any informed judgment on this development,” Feinstein said. “However, one thing is clear: Director Comey’s announcement played right into the political campaign of Donald Trump, who is already using the letter for political purposes. And all of this just 11 days before the election.”
“It’s too bad Director Comey didn’t take those gaping holes into consideration when he decided to send this letter,” Feinstein added. “The FBI has a history of extreme caution near Election Day so as not to influence the results. Today’s break from that tradition is appalling.”
Feinstein’s Democratic counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), also offered harsh criticism of Comey, saying the vagueness of the statement calls into question the reasons for releasing it.
“The deliberately ambiguous nature of the Director’s most recent disclosure ― the emails could be significant or insignificant, relevant or irrelevant ― contributes nothing to the public’s understanding,” Schiff said. “When coupled with the acknowledgment that more information will take an indeterminate period of time, it is difficult to see how this latest departure from Department policy has served the public interest.”
This story was breaking and has been updated throughout.