Can The FBI Investigate Hillary Clinton's Emails Now? There's Talk Of Political Interference
The latest chapter in the Hillary Clinton email debacle began on Friday when a letter from FBI director James Comey was published online, stating his intent to review new emails despite the investigation having been resolved, in light of new evidence. The news had an immediate and massive effect on the campaign, reigniting concerns about Clinton's trustworthiness and allegedly illegal communications, but this time, part of the blame is being placed on the investigators themselves. Is the FBI interfering with the election by reopening this investigation so close to Election Day? Podesta seems to think so, at least on some level.
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta argued on Sunday's edition of State of the Union that Comey should not have released this information yet, precisely because voting in the presidential election is so imminent.
"To throw this in the middle of the campaign, 11 days out, just seems to break with precedent and be inappropriate at this stage. If [the emails are] not significant, they're not significant. He might have taken the first step of actually having looked at them before he did this in the middle of the campaign, so close to voting," Podesta said Sunday during his interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.
The new emails under investigation are related to the most recent Anthony Weiner scandal, which allegedly relates to Clinton's investigation through her longtime aide and Weiner's now-separated wife, Huma Abedin. The FBI has not yet released more information about the specific connection between the two investigations, or what in the emails prompted the agency to reopen Clinton's case. “The director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining,” Podesta said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.”
There is some evidence to support Podesta's claim that the letter should not have been published, or even sent, right away. According to The Washington Post, Loretta Lynch and other senior members of the Department of Justice warned Comey that he was breaking department policy by alerting Congress of the ongoing investigation.
"We don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” one Justice Department official told The Post under conditions of anonymity. There's also the fact that the FBI hasn't released anything else yet, leaving the voters to potentially conflate the FBI's announcement, with a little help from Donald Trump.
No one is alleging direct interference in the election — Comey hasn't yet been accused of reopening the investigation just to hurt Clinton's chances in the polls. The primary concern here, and the reason this is so morally ambiguous, is that this the bureaucratic pace of information release could sway voters before they really have all the facts. Comey and the FBI appear to be erring on the side of absolute transparency, which is certainly admirable, but if the accusations from the Clinton camp are true, it may have been a more self-serving action than motivated by the public good.
Comey got thoroughly slammed when he initially closed the investigation because many people thought he was burying a legitimate case in support of Clinton. It's understandable if he jumped to action a little quickly this time to avoid any appearance of impropriety, but ultimately, it could give Trump the edge in this election that's once again come down to the margin of error.
It's unlikely that substantial answers will be forthcoming before the election, so this issue may stay frozen in campaign limbo until the campaigns are actually over. Comey's allegedly unilateral actions may place him in hot water as the investigation progresses, but the primary concern now is how this email scandal, which was once thought to be a thing of the past, still may end up determining who becomes the next president.