Hillary Clinton’s campaign sought answers on Sunday, two days after FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to members of Congress in which he said, in vague terms, that the FBI had recovered new emails related to the investigation into Clinton’s private email server.
It was the absolute last thing the Clinton campaign wanted to be talking about in the home stretch of the campaign.
But at this stage, there are a number of unanswered questions about the inquiry including whether these emails are simply duplicates of others that have already been reviewed, and if there would in fact be any additional information released before Election Day.
Reports indicated that the emails were not to or from Clinton and that Comey wrote the letter before even having any knowledge as to what the contents of the emails may be, sparking a public rebuke by the Justice Department.
While refusing to acknowledge reports that the emails were recovered on devices belonging to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband Anthony Weiner, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook called on the FBI to release all of the information it has.
The campaign is worried that, nine days from Election Day, voters will draw conclusions about the letter based on an incomplete set of facts.
“All we’re asking for now is: let’s just get the all the information out there on the table,” Mook said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “There’s hypotheticals flying all over the place.”
Campaign chairman John Podesta echoed this sentiment on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“To throw this in the middle of the campaign 11 days out just seemed to break with precedent and be inappropriate at this stage. If they're not significant, they're not significant,” Podesta said. “So, he might have taken the first step of actually having looked at them before he did this in the middle of a presidential campaign so close to the voting.”
An individual familiar with the FBI’s review of the emails told The Daily Beast that it’s not clear whether any of the messages contain classified information. Abedin, meanwhile, swore under oath earlier this year that she had given up all of her devices that contained State Department emails. On “State of the Union,” Podesta said Abedin has been “fully cooperative with the authorities.”
Immediately after Comey announced in July that he would not recommend charges against Clinton for her email setup, Democrats praised him for making what they believed to be the right decision. But they have since changed their tune about Comey.
“I think to inject this kind of uncertainty this late in the day was a terrible lapse in judgment,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “If the director can't clean up this mess, and I hope he will try, I think he ought to acknowledge that he made a serious mistake, and underscore once again that there's nothing that alters that core conclusion he reached in July.”
Reports have indicated that senior-level Justice Department officials were unhappy with Comey’s decision to send the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, citing the department’s long-standing policy against making decisions that could be viewed as influencing the outcome of an election.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign weaponized the issue, hoping to take advantage of it as a lifeline during the last week of a contest that has not been going their way.
“They are re-opening the case into her criminal and illegal conduct that threatens the security of the United States of America,” Trump, somewhat inaccurately, stated on Friday as the news broke. (Clinton was not charged with anything after an extensive investigation.) “Hillary set up an illegal server for the obvious purpose of shielding her criminal conduct from public disclosure and exposure.”
But Trump’s vice presidential candidate Mike Pence struggled to account for the harsh indictments leveled by his running mate. On “Meet the Press,” Pence was asked about the specific, unfounded referenced to “criminal conduct.”
“Well, I think this summer when the director of the FBI gave that press conference where he essentially chronicled that Hillary Clinton had said that there was nothing marked classified on her private server,” Pence began. “He said that was not true. When she said she had never emailed classified email, he said that was not true. He reiterated that before the Congress, but then chose not to proceed with charges. It was just incomprehensible to millions of Americans.”
Pressed by host Chuck Todd as to whether Comey’s vague announcement was fair to American voters, Pence first demurred and went back to Clinton’s private server, but then seemed to agree that the FBI director needs to disclose more information.
“I think he has a duty to move forward professionally and in a timely way on this,” Pence responded. “And certainly, the public has a right to know. But let's be clear. Hillary Clinton, when this story broke, I believe she was travelling with Huma Abedin. I mean, why didn't she just turn to Huma and say, ‘Put these emails out’?”
With nine days left in an already topsy-turvy presidential election, both sides have found common ground in calling for more information to be released about the probe.