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FBI director says agency once again won’t recommend charges over Clinton email

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6/11/2016 By Tom Hamburger

FBI Director James B. Comey notified key members of Congress Sunday afternoon that after reviewing newly discovered Hillary Clinton emails the agency stands by its original findings against recommending charges.

Comey wrote that investigators had worked “around the clock” to review all the emails found on a device used by former congressman Anthony Weiner that had been sent to or from Clinton and that “we have not changed our conclusions expressed in July.”

The conclusion from Comey provided one last twist to the 2016 presidential campaign and came just two days before the election.

Comey had upended the campaign just nine days ago, when he alerted Congress that new emails had been located that were related to Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state.

The announcement effectively revived a controversy that had dogged Clinton since before she launched her presidential campaign and resumed an FBI investigation that had concluded in July. At the time, Comey had criticized Clinton as “extremely careless” with classified information but said,”no reasonable prosecutor” would recommend criminal charges.

Prior to his Oct. 28 announcement, Clinton had opened a significant lead over Republican Donald Trump in most public polling following a string of strong debate performances. But the polls tightened considerably as Clinton’s email practices once again took center stage.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is applauded by the crowd after her speech at a rally, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Waterloo, Iowa. © AP Photo/Jae C. Hong Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is applauded by the crowd after her speech at a rally, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Waterloo, Iowa.

The newly discovered emails came from a laptop owned by Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The computer had been seized by the FBI on Oct. 3 as part of an investigation into lewd text messages Weiner is alleged to have sent to a 15-year-old girl. Abedin has told people close to her that she does not know how her emails ended up on her husband’s laptop.

Comey had come under fire for inserting the FBI into the campaign’s final days with the announcement. Department of Justice policy discourages the agency from taking steps in days before an election, to avoid the perception that the FBI is trying to the influence the outcome of the vote.

A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment beyond Comey’s letter, as did a spokesman for the Department of Justice.

“We were always confident nothing would cause the July decision to be revisited. Now Director Comey has confirmed it ,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted.

The news hit as Clinton and her campaign team flew from Philadelphia to Cleveland for a campaign event. Some aides read the news on a phone passed around the staff cabin before the plane lost satellite wifi ahead of landing.

The three-paragraph letter was sent to the chairman of the Homeland Security, Judiciary, Appropriations and Oversight and Government Reform and was copied to the ranking members of those committees. Comey said the FBI had performed an “extraordinary amount of high quality work” to conduct the review. 

The latest letter comes on the heels of a brutal week for the FBI and its leader, Comey, who just nine days ago told legislators the email investigation had resumed, doing so against the advice of higher-ups at the Department of Justice.

The FBI Director soon faced a torrent of criticism for taking a step that might affect the outcome of the election. People familiar with the situation said he did so over objections from the Department of Justice.

Then, news leaked that agents in the New York Field office had been advocating for a separate investigation of the Clinton Foundation, even though career public integrity prosecutors had told them they had a case.

That fueled the perception that at least some in the bureau, a predominantly white male organization, might have partisan motivations, and Democrats called for the Justice Department Inspector General to look into the matter.

Trump, who had charged for weeks that the FBI investigation had been rigged because it did not result in criminal charges for Clinton, instead announced that he had “great respect” for the FBI. At a rally in Minneapolis Sunday afternoon Trump did not address Comey’s announcement directly but instead claimed, without evidence, that Clinton “will be under investigation for a long, long time...likely concluding in a criminal trial.”

“You have to understand, it’s a rigged system, and she’s protected,” he said, as supporters chanted “Lock her up!”

Asked Sunday to react to Comey’s announcement, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that “he’s mishandled the investigation from the beginning.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said that regardless of Comey’s announcement, “the undisputed finding of the FBI’s investigation is that Secretary Clinton put our nation’s secrets at risk and in doing so compromised our national security.”

“Fortunately, the American people have the opportunity to ensure Secretary Clinton never gets her hands on classified information again. Let’s bring the Clinton era to an end by voting for Donald Trump on Tuesday,” Ryan said in a statement.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, said the “vague” announcement by the FBI failed to provide context, and he was unsure even if the review was over.

“The growing number of unanswered questions demand explanations,” Grassley said. Is the FBI continuing to review the newly-revealed emails? Did the FBI limit its review to email from when Clinton was Secretary of State, leaving out emails that could shed light on possible obstruction of Congress?”

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee said the announcement “affirms and vindicates” the FBI’s decision from July. “Over the past week, Republicans have engaged in wild speculation and launched unsubstantiated accusations, but the FBI has determined—yet again—that they are without merit. Now it is time for the American people to go forward based on the facts,” he said.

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