Oct 28, 2016
This post may be updated.
Update, 4:30pm EDT:
At his blog Lawfare, Brookings Institution senior fellow Benjamin Wittes offers his take on Friday's news that the FBI is examining new material as part of its probe into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.
The "relevance of" the letter sent by FBI director James Comey to lawmakers on Friday "is likely not that explosive new evidence of Clinton criminality has suddenly emerged," Wittes writes.
It is that Comey made a set of representations to Congress that have been complicated by new information, apparently from the Anthony Weiner sexting case. So he's informing Congress of that fact before the election.
Comey represented to Congress that the Clinton email investigation was "complete." But as the letter relates, new emails have now come to the bureau's attention in that appears relevant to this one. (Weiner's estranged wife is one Clinton's top aides.) Comey has okayed a review of that new information to determine whether the emails contain classified material and also whether they are, in fact, relevant. And this fact, renders his prior statement to Congress no longer true.
The key point here, in other words, is not that he is "reopening" a closed matter investigation because of some bombshell. It is that he is amending his public testimony to Congress that the FBI was done while the bureau examines new material that may or may not have implications for investigative conclusions previously reached.
Update, 3:45pm EDT:
The New York Timesreported Friday that the new emails in the probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server "were discovered after the FBI seized electronic devices belonging to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, and her husband, Anthony Weiner."
The Associated Press had previously reported that the newly discovered emails "did not come from [Clinton's] private server."
Meanwhile, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta issued a statement calling on Comey to "immediately provide the American public more information than is contained in the letter 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," he said. "It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election."
\u201cClinton campaign: FBI Director Comey should immediately provide the American public more information than is contained in the letter he sent\u201d— Bradd Jaffy (@Bradd Jaffy) 1477683986
In a letter to lawmakers released Friday afternoon, FBI director James Comey said investigators are reviewing additional emails that "appear to be pertinent" to the agency's probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server.
The letter sent to eight congressional committee chairmen 11 days before the presidential election reads in part:
In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and 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.
Comey said he "cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work."
A U.S. security source firmly ruled out that the "unrelated case" Comey referred to in his letter was the probe into the digital penetration of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year. US intelligence officials have blamed Russia for hacking the DNC and releasing its internal communications online.
The source, who would not speak on the record, said neither that inquiry nor its adjuncts were related to the new investigative developments related to Clinton.
CNN's Noah Gray further reported online:
\u201cLaw enforcement sources tell @evanperez newly discovered emails not related to WikiLeaks or Clinton Fndtn. They wouldn't describe content\u201d— Noah Gray (@Noah Gray) 1477676756
And Pete Williams of NBC offered additional details:
\u201cNBC's Pete Williams says Clinton email FBI investigation not related to Wikileaks or Russian hacking\u201d— Jesse Rodriguez (@Jesse Rodriguez) 1477677938
\u201cNEW: NBC's Pete Williams reports that the e-mails Comey announced today were NOT originally withheld by Clinton or campaign.\u201d— Tom Winter (@Tom Winter) 1477678276
Because the new information followed his sworn testimony about the case, Comey was obligated by Department of Justice rules to keep the relevant committees apprised.
Under oath Comey had stated that the bureau had completed its review. Once he learned that there were new emails that required examination, Comey had to notify Congress that he had to amend his testimony because it was no longer true.
Comey's letter doesn't say his agents have discovered new witnesses or documents suggesting a criminal act occurred. Rather, he only suggests that evidence that had not yet been examined and, because it was relevant to the case, needs to be reviewed.
There's also a political dimension. Had Comey not told Congress and it emerged after the election that new materials had come into its possession, the director and his entire agency's credibility might have been questioned.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump immediately seized on the news while campaigning in New Hampshire, according to the Guardian.
"I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made," he said to a cheering crowd. "This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understood. And it is everybody's hope that it is about to be corrected."
"I'm very proud that the FBI was willing to do this, actually," he said later.
His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted:
\u201cA great day in our campaign just got even better. FBI reviewing new emails in Clinton probe @CNNPolitics https://t.co/WBltG2lAK6\u201d— Kellyanne Conway (@Kellyanne Conway) 1477675646
In July, Comey announced that his department had completed its investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server and, despite castigating her "extreme carelessness," recommended that the Department of Justice file no charges against her.
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