FBI Director James Comey sends a letter to eight Congressional committees, informing them that emails relevant to the Clinton email investigation have surfaced in another unrelated case, causing at least a partial reopening of the investigation. This is a major political shock and an unprecedented action, since it comes just 11 days before the US presidential election.
Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s longtime close aides and her deputy chief of staff during her tenure as secretary of state, is married to Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic Congressperson. However, she is estranged from him and began divorce proceedings against him two months earlier, due to his repeated sex scandals. In his most recent scandal, it is alleged he sent illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl. This led to an FBI investigation, and his computer and electronic devices were seized by the FBI on October 3, 2016. When his computer was examined, it was determined that it had been used by both Abedin and Weiner, and thousands of Abedin’s emails were found that could be relevant to the Clinton email investigation. That discovery in turn led to Comey being briefed on October 27, 2016, and then his surprise announcement one day later.
The New York Times reports calls Comey’s letter an “October surprise” that has “rocked” the 2016 presidential race. It has “left Mrs. Clinton’s team furious and scrambling for explanations while bolstering the spirits of Donald J. Trump after a wave of controversies and Republican defections had led many to write him off.”
Comey writes a very short letter that fails to mention many details. It states, in full: “In previous Congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony.”
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigation 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 access their importance to our investigation.
“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.” (The New York Times, 10/28/2016) (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)
Later the same day, Comey also sends a short letter to all FBI officials, explaining his decision to send the letter. It is immediately leaked to the public. In it, he says, “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.” (The Washington Post, 10/28/2016)
The New York Times further reveals that Comey was only briefed about the emails the day before, and they have not yet been closely examined. “A senior law enforcement official said that tens of thousands of emails belonging to Ms. Abedin were on Mr. Weiner’s laptop…” However, “Senior law enforcement officials said that it was unclear if any of the emails were from Mrs. Clinton’s private server.” It is also unknown how many could be duplicates of previously known emails. (The New York Times, 10/28/2016)
The Washington Post reports, “The correspondence included emails between Abedin and Clinton, according to a law enforcement official.” (The Washington Post, 10/28/2016)