Democratic candidate says sudden announcement with no explanation is ‘not good enough’ after FBI director notifies Congress of ‘pertinent’ discovery
Hillary Clinton called on the FBI to “immediately” explain its review of a new batch of emails the agency said appeared to be pertinent to the previous investigation into her use of a private server.
Addressing reporters on Friday, the Democratic presidential nominee said it was “imperative” for American voters to have all of the information with just 11 days remaining before the presidential election.
“The American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately,” Clinton said during a press conference in Des Moines, Iowa. “It’s imperative that the bureau explain this issue in question, whatever it is, without further delay.”
“We are 11 days out from perhaps the most important national election of our lifetimes.”
The FBI director, James Comey, announced the discovery of the new emails in a letter to Congress, which did not offer any specifics other than to disclose that federal investigators would review whether they contained classified information.
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Comey wrote. “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.”
In July, Comey announced that the bureau had closed its investigation into Clinton’s emails and recommended prosecutors not seek charges in the case. But Comey rebuked Clinton and her aides for the “extremely careless” manner in which the emails were handled.
Clinton told reporters that she and her team had been given no advance warning and learned of the email investigation through news reports when Comey’s letter was made public. But seeking to mitigate the political ramifications of the announcement, which was immediately seized upon by her Republican opponent, Clinton urged the FBI to provide a clearer picture of its findings.
“Even director Comey noted that this new information may not be significant, so let’s get it out,” Clinton said, adding she had not been contacted by the FBI in relation to the matter.
Federal law enforcement officials said the emails were discovered on a laptop shared by Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton. Weiner, a former congressman from New York, has been the subject of an unrelated investigation after it was revealed he sent illicit messages and photos to an underage girl.
Clinton would not confirm the link to Weiner and Abedin, who remains with her on the campaign trail, stating: “We’ve heard these rumors. We don’t know what to believe.
“That’s why it is incumbent upon the FBI to tell us what they’re talking about. Right now your guess is as good as mine, and I don’t think that’s good enough.”
“We’ve made it very clear that if they’re going to be sending this kind of letter that is only going originally to Republican members of the House, that they need to share whatever facts they claim to have with the American people,” she added, “and that’s what I expect to happen.” The letter was sent to both Republican and Democratic leaders of relevant committees in Congress.
A letter sent by Comey to his employees on Friday, and reported by the Washington Post, provided a glimpse into his thinking. The FBI director said he “felt an obligation” to inform Congress of the new review, based on his prior testimony before federal lawmakers that the investigation into Clinton’s emails was complete.
“At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression,” Comey wrote.
Clinton has been dogged by questions over the use of her private email server since it was discovered weeks before she formally launched her presidential bid, and polling suggests the controversy has damaged her image among voters. Just 34% of Americans find Clinton honest and trustworthy, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC poll.
Sensing an opportunity to revive the email controversy despite the FBI’s vaguely worded statement, the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump said during a rally in New Hampshire on Friday: “Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before – we must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.” At a later rally in Lisbon, Maine, he called her use of private emails the “biggest political scandal since Watergate”.
At a later rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he abandoned his weeks of accusing the FBI of collusion with the Clinton campaign. “I give them great credit for having the courage to right this horrible wrong,” he said. “Justice will prevail.”
Clinton, whose lead over Trump has widened in recent weeks as the real estate mogul’s campaign unraveled in the wake of a tape in which he bragged about being able to grope women, said she believed the email issue was already factored into how the American public thinks.
“I think people a long time ago made up their minds about the emails,” Clinton said. “And now they are choosing a president.”
The Clinton campaign expressed its frustration with the FBI’s handling of the latest development, criticizing the way in which the news was disseminated.
After maintaining silence in order to allow for Clinton to first address the matter, Democrats quickly went on the offensive following her press conference with a series of statements calling on Comey to come forward with more details.
“The deliberately ambiguous nature of the director’s most recent disclosure – the emails could be significant or insignificant, relevant or irrelevant – contributes nothing to the public’s understanding,” Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said in a statement.
“When coupled with the acknowledgment that more information will take an indeterminate period of time, it is difficult to see how this latest departure from department policy has served the public interest.”
Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, a group that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women to public office, said the developments “have sent Republicans into an ignorant and irresponsible frenzy”.
“That is why director Comey must release all of the facts – anything less is just fodder for Donald Trump’s rightwing smear machine,” she said in a statement.
Some top Clinton surrogates did, however, refrain from wading into the issue for now.
Speaking with CNN on Friday, vice-president Joe Biden simply offered: “Oh God. Anthony Weiner. I should not comment on Anthony Weiner. I’m not a big fan.”