Will 15,000 New Emails Be Clinton’s ‘October Surprise’?
Policy + Politics

Will 15,000 New Emails Be Clinton’s ‘October Surprise’?

Brian Snyder

In the latest chapter of the long saga of Hillary Clinton’s woeful mishandling of highly sensitive government documents and email, the government confirmed on Monday that the FBI uncovered nearly 15,000 previously undisclosed documents that Clinton sent or received during her four years as secretary of state.

The 14,900 Clinton documents that the Justice Department revealed in federal court are nearly half again as many as the roughly 30,000 emails that Clinton’s lawyers assessed as “work related” and delivered to State in December 2014 as part of a federal probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server in her home.

Related: Clinton’s Staff Ignored Investigators as They Looked Into Her Emails

FBI Director James Comey said in July that investigators found “several thousand” more emails that were not included in the December batch. There’s no way of knowing how many of those new emails were related to official business or overlap with previously released emails. However, they are almost certain to add more fuel to the controversy over Clinton’s trustworthiness and bolster Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s assertion that she was incompetent and criminal in her conduct.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently warned her colleagues that Russian hackers might release fake or doctored documents in a move to embarrass Clinton and the Democrats in October. But now there’s a chance that more damaging information about Clinton could leak out in the form of these newly discovered emails. That – at least potentially -- could provide a real “October Surprise” that could tip the scales in a very close election November 8.

Republicans are desperate for scraps of information to help them make a case they were unable to make after spending millions of dollars and years investigating Clinton for her role in the run-up to a terrorist attack the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012 that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. That she intentionally misled the families of the victims and the public about the cause of the terrorist attack. And that she somehow impeded U.S. forces from responding to the attacks – all assertions that thus far have been proven groundless.

They are also looking for further evidence to suggest that Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were trading on her role as secretary of state to attract tens of millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Family Foundation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other foreign countries and wealthy individuals. Several other recently released Clinton emails provided tantalizing evidence of what Republicans call a “pay for play” environment in which foreign powers donated to the global family foundation to buy influence within the administration.

Related: We Now Know Hillary Lied Multiple Times About Her Email Server

“The email scandal has such a huge dripping effect over the news cycle that to have these emails made public in October couldn’t be worse possible timing for the Clinton campaign,” Ron Bonjean, a Republican Washington policy adviser and a former congressional aide said on Monday.

At the very time she will be making the case for why she should be president and try to overcome widespread public perception that she is not trustworthy or honest, the release of the newly revealed emails could further undercut her arguments, Bonjean said in an interview. “This is very unhelpful for their campaign, and something that they’re going to have to try to figure out how to manage, especially if these email releases happen around a presidential debate,” Bonjean said.

Trump has yet to agree to a final schedule for the crucial presidential debates this fall, but the first one, for now, is scheduled for Monday, Sept., 26, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The second will be held Sunday, Oct. 9, at Washington University in St. Louis, and the final one is currently set for Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg signaled an urgency to release the newly discovered documents and ordered the State Department to provide a status update by Sept. 22 on how many of the documents it has reviewed to determine whether they may be produced under a Freedom of Information Act request made by Judicial Watch. He rejected a proposal by State Department officials to begin releasing batches of the newly discovered emails starting in mid-October.

Related: Another Batch of Clinton State Dept. Emails Included ‘Top Secret’ Material

FBI Director James Comey announced July 5 that while no criminal charges would be brought against Clinton following a one-year federal investigation by his agency and the Justice Department, the presidential candidate had been “extremely careless” in the way she handled email and risked having top secrets and other highly sensitive material hacked by foreign agents.

Although Clinton had repeatedly insisted that she never knowingly transmitted secret information on her personal email, two thousand of the email were upgraded to classified status, according to Comey, while the FBI concluded that 110 emails contained information that had been classified as secret at the time Clinton sent or received them.

House Republicans were the first to uncover the fact that Clinton had used a private server for all her email correspondence as Secretary instead of relying on a government server that assured greater security.

Outraged that Comey had decided against prosecuting Clinton for mishandling her email, House Republican leaders last month formally requested that the Justice Department probe into whether Clinton may have perjured herself during her testimony before a House Committee and during an interview with the FBI. The request from the chairs of the House Oversight Committee and Judiciary Committee noted that Clinton testified that she never received or sent emails marked classified and had turned over all her work-related emails to the State Department when that wasn’t the case.

Related: If Clinton Loses Her Security Clearance, Could She Still Be President?

The email case has haunted Clinton practically from the first day it was revealed she had relied on a private email server. And she has been chastised by critics in both parties and the media for often offering conflicting or incredulous explanations for why she had done that.

The New York Times reported last Friday that Clinton told FBI investigators that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had advised her early in her tenure at State to use a personal email account, except for transmitting classified information. Powell told PEOPLE magazine over the weekend that “Her people have been trying to pin it on me.”

"The truth is, she was using [the private email server] for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did," Powell added.

Related: Former U.S. Secretary of State Powell brushes off Clinton over emails

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said yesterday, in the wake of the revelation about the additional emails, that Clinton provided the State Department with all the work-relate emails she had in her possession in 2014. “We are not sure what additional materials the Justice Department may have located, but if the State Department determines any of them to be work-related, then obviously we support those documents being released publicly as well,” he said.