FBI Absolves Clinton Again, Two Days Ahead of U.S. Election

  • Bureau’s director sends second letter to Congress before vote
  • Clinton campaign was ‘confident’ in review, spokesman says

FBI Says Clinton's Use of Email Not a Crime

The FBI’s decision to stick by its finding that Hillary Clinton didn’t commit a crime in her handling of e-mails as secretary of state again roiled the U.S. presidential race and markets, two days before the election. Rival Donald Trump implored his followers to overcome a “rigged system” that he said protected Clinton from prosecution.

FBI Director James Comey informed Congress in a letter on Oct. 28 that the agency, which had ended its probe in July, was examining new e-mails potentially related to its investigation of Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. Since then, “the FBI investigative team has been working around the clock to process and review” the material, Comey said in a second letter to members of Congress, dated Sunday. The letter was released by Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat.

“During that process, we reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State,” Comey wrote. “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.”

Comey’s initial announcement breathed new life into Trump’s candidacy at a time most polls showed Clinton with a wide lead. The race has since tightened, though Clinton maintains a 2.2 percentage-point lead, according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics.

Trump Mum on E-Mails

Clinton’s not expected to address Comey’s new letter on Sunday, said a campaign official who asked not be identified discussing the candidate’s approach to the matter. The Democrat headed to Manchester, New Hampshire, for a rally after an event in Cleveland.

Trump, campaigning in Minneapolis minutes after Comey’s announcement was reported, didn’t mention the FBI for the first time in five days. Later at a rally in Michigan he urged his supporters to punish Clinton at the polls.

"The rank-and-file special agents at the FBI won’t let her get away with her terrible crimes," he said. "Right now she is being protected by a rigged system. You can’t review 650,000 new e-mails in eight days. You can’t do it, folks. Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it, the FBI knows it, the people know it. And now it’s up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box on Nov. 8."

U.S. stock futures jumped 1.3 percent at Sunday evening’s open as Clinton’s prospects brightened. Stocks were roiled by Comey’s October surprise, and by Friday the benchmark S&P 500 index had run its streak of daily losses to the longest since 1980. The dollar rose against G-10 currencies and the Mexican peso soared in early Asian trading. The peso is considered a barometer for investors’ views on the U.S. election, because of Trump’s anti-Mexico rhetoric, and had fallen recently on prospects for a Trump win.

The new e-mails were discovered during an FBI investigation of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s closest aides. He’s accused of sending lewd text messages to a then-15-year-old North Carolina girl.

Abedin only learned of the e-mails’ existence on Weiner’s laptop from press reports after Comey’s initial letter, her lawyer, Karen Dunn, said in a statement.

‘Always Confident’

“We were always confident nothing would cause the July decision to be revisited,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on Twitter. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, tweeted in response, “Then why did you, your colleagues, and your candidate attack Comey and his credibility?”

An FBI spokesman declined to elaborate on Comey’s letter. Characteristically terse but precise, the letter didn’t address the number or mix of personal correspondence, previously disclosed federal records and new government work messages that investigators found on a computer belonging to Weiner. In saying that the FBI “reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of State,” Comey left open the question of whether any messages sent after that period were scrutinized during the hurried review.

“He has confirmed the conclusions that were reached in July and we’re glad that this matter is resolved,” Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told reporters.

‘Irreponsible Speculation’

Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that “the original letter should never have been sent so close to an election” but that “the expeditious review of these e-mails should put to rest -- once and for all -- the irresponsible speculation indulged in by the Trump campaign and others.”

Comey’s earlier letter to Congress, 11 days before the election, prompted widespread condemnation by Democrats, some Republicans, and former Department of Justice and FBI officials. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had advised Comey against the announcement. President Barack Obama has since offered oblique criticism of the man he appointed to the FBI job, saying that government investigators should conform to “norms and traditions” under which the details of ongoing investigations are not publicly discussed.

Democrats largely applauded Comey on Sunday for concluding the review without offering additional criticism of the director, perhaps out of concern the story may be prolonged. As it is, Comey’s second letter means that the issue of Clinton’s e-mails will lead newspapers and news websites across the country a day before voters go to the polls.

Turning Point

Millions of votes have already been cast, though, and if Clinton loses on Tuesday, Comey’s decision to inform Congress of his agency’s review of Abedin’s e-mails will be singled out as a turning point.

Republicans have questioned whether Clinton and aides such as Abedin may have obstructed justice by failing to turn over all devices that had e-mails to and from Clinton -- such as Weiner’s laptop -- and whether they provided all work-related e-mails from her time as secretary of state. Tens of thousands of messages from Clinton’s private server that her lawyers deemed personal in nature were destroyed.

“Regardless of this decision, the undisputed finding of the FBI’s investigation is that Secretary Clinton put our nation’s secrets at risk and in doing so compromised our national security,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. “Fortunately, the American people have the opportunity to ensure Secretary Clinton never gets her hands on classified information again.”

“Let’s bring the Clinton era to an end by voting for Donald Trump on Tuesday,” said Ryan.

Clinton Foundation

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement that the FBI’s original findings on Clinton “were a damning and unprecedented indictment” of the former New York senator’s judgment. “None of this changes the fact that the FBI continues to investigate the Clinton Foundation for corruption,” Priebus added.

The FBI’s New York field office opened an inquiry into the Clinton Foundation, a step short of a formal investigation. FBI agents sought approval in February to advance the inquiry further, with tools such as subpoenas and wiretaps, but the Justice Department declined to grant the request because officials found the evidence too weak, according to a law enforcement official.

Trump has repeatedly said on the campaign trail that Clinton is the subject of a broad FBI criminal investigation and that her election would trigger a “constitutional crisis.” He said at a rally in Iowa earlier on Sunday that there is “little doubt that FBI Director Comey and the great special agents at the FBI will be able to garner enough evidence” for indictments against Clinton and her aides.

Comey said in July that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” in handling sensitive information on her private e-mail server but that no prosecutor would pursue criminal charges in the case.

— With assistance by Billy House, Jennifer Epstein, Kevin Cirilli, and Chris Strohm

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