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Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin. Wikipedia, Thomas Good / NLN
Washington

FBI reopens its investigation into Clinton’s private email server

Emails that could potentially prove disastrous for Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, from a computer seized during an investigation, thrust the use of a private server back into the presidential campaign less than two weeks before perhaps the most contested election in the US in recent times.

Published: October 29, 2016, 3:16 pm

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    The latest emails came to light after the computer of the disgraced “sexter” former congressman Anthony Weiner, and estranged husband of Clinton’s top aid Huma Abedin, was seized in separate inquiry.

    Devices belonging to both Abedin and Weiner were removed in an investigation into whether he sent sexually explicit emails to a minor, in this case a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.

    Authorities said the discovery prompted a surprise announcement Friday afternoon by FBI Director James B. Comey that the agency would re-examine emails related to Clinton’s time as secretary of state.

    In a letter to lawmakers, Comey said the FBI would take “appropriate investigative steps” to determine whether the newly discovered emails contain classified information and to assess whether they are relevant to the Clinton server probe.

    More than a thousand emails were found on the computer in question according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the inquiry who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity. The correspondence included emails between Abedin and Clinton, according to a law enforcement official.

    Comey’s announcement would indicate a continutation of the FBI’s probe of Clinton’s server, which previously ended with no charges.

    “Clinton’s apparent effort to blunt scrutiny by means of that private server has only led to far more damaging scrutiny and suspicion, with no end in sight,” the New York Times commented on the FBI’s move.

    The announcement could influence a presidential race in which Clinton has had a series of setbacks already. The announcement was immediately hailed by Republican nominee Trump, who told supporters at a New Hampshire rally that “perhaps, finally, justice will be done.” The crowd responded by chanting: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

    Clinton’s Republican rival described the FBI investigation as “the biggest political scandal since Watergate”, referring to the 1970s scandal that engulfed Republican President Richard Nixon.

    Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein seemed to agree that the FBI’s shocking announcement that they are reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email server, is quite propably because new evidence has come to light.

    “Well, there’s no question that the e-mails have always been the greatest threat to her candidacy for president, that her conduct in regard to the emails is really indefensible and if there was going to be more information that came out, it was the one thing, as I said on the air last night, actually that could really perhaps affect this election.”

    Comey would not be drawn into the speculation that this could spell the end for Hillary. In his letter, sent to congressional committee chairmen, he stated that the FBI “cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.” The letter, which was three paragraphs long, contained few details however.

    He confirmed that the FBI, in connection with an “unrelated case,” had recently “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the Clinton investigation.”

    Comey was briefed on the new material Thursday according to his letter. “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,” he wrote.

    The FBI had already established the Democratic candidate had classified information on a private email server in July, and scoulded her for the handling of sensitive material during her 2009-13 tenure as secretary of state as “extremely careless”, but cleared her of any criminal wrongdoing.

    The revelation that she handled sensitive information while breaking federal rules by running her own email server out of her upstate New York home has dogged her campaign since last year.

    Clinton appeared blindsided by the news, as she and her inner circle were all on board a plane and without Internet access when Comey’s letter emerged. Her staff maintain they were unaware of the news before landing in Iowa for a rally, where she declined to mention the re-opened investigation during her speech.

    Chris Gibson, a BBC correspondent was on the campaign plane from Westchester, New York, with Hillary but learned the news only after they had landed. The journalists on her plane had to wait for wifi internet to be restored. According to the Telegraph, Abedin was on the plane with Hillary.

    When asked by a reporter whether the latest controversy would sink her presidential campaign, Clinton just laughed. Despite it being a devastating blow, Hillary walked off the plane, smiled and ignored shouted questions from the media on the tarmac, pretending to be deaf.

    The top Democrat on the ­Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, issued a livid statement on Friday, saying the FBI’s “appalling” announcement “played right into the political campaign of Donald Trump”.

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

    The Democratic Coalition Against Trump accused Comey of breaching the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from political activity.

    “It is absolutely absurd that FBI Director Comey would support Donald Trump like this with only 11 days to go before the election,” said Scott Dworkin, Senior Advisor to the Democratic Coalition Against Trump.

    Some lawmakers were hopeful that the information contained in the emails could spell a potential game-changer for the election. “A total bombshell,” said Republican Peter T. King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

    Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett held out little hope for Clinton: “If past is prologue, and it usually is, then a Hillary Clinton presidency may be engulfed and disabled by scandal. As a consequence, she is likely to accomplish little on behalf of the American people. In other words, her presidency could be dead on arrival.”

    karin@praag.org

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