Stunned by FBI’s decision to re-open its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, her campaign has raised serious doubt over the agency’s move just days before the presidential elections and sought more information about the probe.
“It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election. The Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July,” the Clinton Campaign chairman John Podesta said in a strongly worded statement Friday afternoon.
The Clinton Campaign was taken aback when it learned from the US media that the FBI Director James Comey has written a letter to top Congressional leaders informing that it has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to its investigation in to the use of private server and personal emails by Clinton, when she was the Secretary of State from 2009-2012, in the first term of the Obama Administration.
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to this investigation,” Comey wrote in a letter to several House committee chairmen. Comey was briefed on the issue on Thursday.
“I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and 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,” he said.
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Neither the State Department or the White House knew about the latest move by the FBI, until the letter was leaked to the media by a Republican leader in the Congress who was one of its recipient.
However, Clinton’s Republican rival Donald Trump, who has been trailing in the elections, declared the development as a “Big Day” and bigger than “Watergate” scandal.
It took a few hours for Clinton Campaign to respond to the FBI’s decision, which more than three months ago had determined that there is no need to file a legal case against the former Secretary of State.
“Upon completing this investigation more than three months ago, FBI Director Comey declared no reasonable prosecutor would move forward with a case like this and added that it was not even a close call,” Podesta said.
“In the months since, Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been baselessly second-guessing the FBI and, in both public and private, browbeating the career officials there to revisit their conclusion in a desperate attempt to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign,” he alleged.
“FBI Director Comey should immediately provide the American public more information than is contained in the letter he sent to eight Republican committee chairmen,” Podesta demanded.
There has been no comment from FBI so far.
“Already, we have seen characterisations that the FBI is ‘reopening’ an investigation but Comey’s words do not match that characterisation,” the Clinton Campaign chairman said in an apparent accusation to the media about allegedly twisting the story.
“Director Comey’s letter refers to emails that have come to light in an unrelated case, but we have no idea what those emails are and the Director himself notes they may not even be significant,” Podesta said as political pundits and analyst conceded that the latest FBI move would have an adverse impact in the remaining 11 days of the presidential elections, which is scheduled for November 8.
Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein said the FBI would not re-open its investigation until it found something very serious.
“We don’t know what this means yet except that it’s a real bombshell. And it is unthinkable that the Director of the FBI would take this action lightly, that he would put this letter forth to the Congress of the United States saying there is more information out there about classified e-mails and call it to the attention of congress unless it was something requiring serious investigation,” he told CNN in an interview.
Top Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joined Podesta in asking FBI to release more information about its move.
“The Director of the FBI himself stated that ‘the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant’. Furthermore, there is not any indication that this review involves Secretary Clinton’s own use of emails.
The public interest would be served by the FBI providing the facts, rather than allowing Republicans to stoke innuendo and falsehoods 11 days away from a presidential election,” she said.
Senator Dianne Feinstein alleged that this was direct interference to influence the elections. “The FBI has a history of extreme caution near Election Day so as not to influence the results. Today’s break from that tradition is appalling,” she said.
“I was shocked to read Director Comey’s letter in which he indicated ‘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 important to our investigation,” she said.
“This is particularly troubling since so many questions are unanswered. It’s unclear whether these emails have already been reviewed or if Secretary Clinton sent or received them.
In fact, we don’t even know if the FBI has these emails in its possession,” Feinstein said.
The Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile said FBI sending such a vague letter 11 days before the elections is an “an irresponsible action” and, unsurprisingly, Trump and Republicans are rushing to politicise this episode without any of the facts.
“The FBI has a solemn obligation to remain neutral in political matters…,” Brazile said.