With 11 days left in the presidential election, the FBI’s decision to launch another investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email system for government business threatens to upend an already volatile race.
At the most, it could turn at least some voters to rival Donald Trump, who has rested much of his pitch on the argument that Clinton is dishonest and who grabbed at the news immediately as a gift to salvage his trailing campaign. With less but still important impact, it could freeze the momentum to Clinton that has helped her pull ahead in past weeks. At a minimum, it could have a nominal effect on an electorate that already had doubts about her honesty, and has already started voting.
FBI Director James Comey set off the late October furor with a letter to Congress on Friday saying the agency was launching another investigation into Clinton’s personal email server after obtaining additional information in an unrelated case Thursday.
“The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Comey wrote in the 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.”
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Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta called the announcement so late in the campaign “extraordinary” and urged the FBI to release all of the details of what it is examining. “We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July,” Podesta said, referring to the FBI decision earlier not to seek any prosecution of Clinton.
His eagerness to address the matter as fast as possible underscored the mysterious nature of the new investigation and the impact it could have.
Even if it doesn’t drive voters to Trump, it could stop any momentum to Clinton.
“Voters who are on the bubble and maybe leaning toward Hillary, this puts the brake on,” said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse.
Now Republicans will work hard in the next few days to use the latest development to drive the argument that Clinton shouldn’t be president.
U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, said in a news release that Clinton is unfit to be president and should be denied access to classified information.
“Hillary Clinton’s conscious decision to run the State Department from an unsecured, home-brew email server in the basement of her house demonstrates both a serious lack of judgment and potential criminality,” Pompeo said. “Hillary’s actions were reckless and put American lives at risk.”
Pompeo said the FBI was wrong when it decided not to pursue charges against Clinton over the summer.
“I hope this decision to reopen the case reflects a new appreciation that every American must be treated equally under the law,” he said. “The FBI should expeditiously share the new information they have that led to this reopening of the case. The American people have the right to know what Director Comey knows before they cast their vote on November 8th.”