At a time when it looked like Hillary Clinton was going to enjoy smooth sailing between now and the presidential election on November 8, a new and sudden storm has blown up, threatening to damage if not actually sink her campaign.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey on Friday issued a letter to members of Congress informing them that he had authorized what amounts to a reopening of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state. In it, he wrote:
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. … 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.”
The letter went on to warn that the agency “cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.”
The FBI had previously concluded that, despite her claims to the contrary, Clinton had sent and received classified information over that system. However, Comey made the controversial decision over the summer not to recommend that she be prosecuted.
The appearance of still more emails not only requires investigators to assess whether or not any of them are classified, but reinforces with the public that Clinton apparently did not turn over all of the emails from her private account.
Ahead in almost all major polls and contesting with Trump even for traditionally Republican states, the last thing Clinton and her campaign wanted to see 11 days away from the election was the reemergence of the single biggest distraction they have faced all year.
Her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, took only minutes to pounce on the story. At a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, he was interrupted by 20 seconds of cheering and calls of “lock her up!” when he started to address the news.
“They are reopening the case into her criminal and illegal conduct that threatens the security of the United States of America,” he announced, to more cheers. “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.”
He praised the FBI for taking steps to correct what he insisted was a “horrible mistake” in not charging Clinton in the first place.
“I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made,” he said. “This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understood. And it is everybody’s hope that it is about to be corrected.”
Other Republicans had no hesitation about piling on.
“Yet again, Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame,” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said in a statement. “She was entrusted with some of our nation’s most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information. This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private email server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators. I renew my call for the Director of National Intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved.”
Clinton and her campaign staff were en route to Iowa when the news broke. The candidate exited her plane and made no statement about the FBI letter before driving away. However, Clinton is scheduled to speak in Cedar Rapids this afternoon. It was unknown at this writing whether she would address the investigation.