Nearly four months ago, FBI director James Comey brought his bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton to an end, concluding that the former secretary of State had been “extremely careless” in sending classified information over a private email server, but that there was, nonetheless, insufficient evidence to support criminal charges against her.
And that was, ostensibly, the beginning of the end of Clinton’s email woes.
But on Friday, less than two weeks before Election Day, Comey informed Congress that the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” and it would therefore be taking new “investigative steps” to determine whether classified information was contained in those missives. According to the New York Times, those new emails appear to be linked to electronic devices belonging to former New York congressman Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Federal investigators allegedly seized the devices in connection to Weiner’s recent sexting scandal involving a 15-year-old girl, which were reportedly subpoenaed, along with other records, in September.
In other words, if the Times reporting is correct, this whole snafu could have been avoided, if Anthony Weiner had developed healthier hobbies.
Comey noted that his team has not yet been able to assess the significance of the new emails and could not predict how long it would take for them to do so.
At first, the stock market, along with most of the political world, was panicked by Comey’s letter.
But as reporting on the letter progressed, it’s import came into question. NBC’s Pete Williams suggested that the new investigation was not the result of Clinton’s deliberately withholding emails from the FBI. In fact, per Williams, the emails were not even sent by Clinton.
As Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare explains, Comey’s letter does not constitute a “reopening” of Clinton’s case, which was, in fact, never “closed.” Rather, Comey had testified to Congress that the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s emails was “complete.” With the discovery of potentially relevant emails on Weiner’s devices, that statement was no longer true and Comey had a legal obligation to amend it.
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.
Clinton campaign chair John Podesta was not pleased with how this amendment was handled.
The stock market has calmed down a bit.