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FBI’s Comey defuses his bombshell — after how much damage?

FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill

FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 28, 2016, before the House Judiciary Committee. Photo Credit: AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

FBI: Nothing to see there

Nine days after becoming the unexpected source of an October surprise, FBI Director James Comey said never mind.

Turns out there was nothing on Anthony Weiner’s laptop that changes the bureau’s decision that Hillary Clinton did not cross the line into criminality by using a private email server while secretary of state.

Investigators who examined the device that was used both by Weiner and his now-estranged wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, determined the emails were either duplicates of correspondence they had already seen or personal emails that did not pertain to State Department business, The Washington Post reported.

The big unknowns: How much was Clinton hurt and Donald Trump helped in the interim, when early voting was underway in many states — and how much will it undercut Trump’s argument that a Clinton presidency would be mired in perpetual scandal.

Trump: Back to ‘rigged’

Trump, who had cheered Comey for reviving the investigation on Oct. 28, said at a Minnesota rally after Sunday’s news: “She’s protected by a rigged system” — and also stuck to his prediction of further investigations of Clinton “likely concluding in a criminal trial.”

Political experts differed on whether Clinton gets a boost or voters’ attitudes are already baked in. See Michael Gormley’s story for Newsday.

The subject changes for Clinton

Clinton made no direct mention of Comey’s finding Sunday, leaving it to a spokeswoman to say, “We’re glad that this matter is resolved.” The campaign got the news en route to Cleveland, where Clinton was joined at a rally by LeBron James and J.R. Smith of the champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

In New Hampshire, she sought to project confidence during her final sprint to Election Day, describing a vision to unify the country. “We will have some work to do to bring about healing and reconciliation after this election,” she said after a concert for her supporters by James Taylor. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

State of the race

National polls Sunday showed Clinton leading by 4 points (NBC/Wall Street Journal) and 5 points (ABC/Washington Post.) A CBS News-YouGov poll found Florida and Ohio essentially tied.

Ohio is a state where Clinton is being hurt by what election forecaster Nate Silver describes as Trump’s enduring strength with white, non-college-educated voters. But Clinton seems to be running strong with Latino voters in Florida and Nevada.

North Carolina is as close as can be at 44 to 44 percent, reports the NY Times Upshot / Siena College Research Institute poll of likely voters there.

Here’s where the candidates are set to go Monday:

Clinton: Pennsylvania (two stops); Michigan; North Carolina.

Trump: Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan.

Five things to watch

The battles in up to a dozen swing states will decide who wins the election. Newsday’s Yancey Roy writes on why close races in about a dozen states make it too close to call, even as some analysts see Clinton as the likelier victor.

The take-away: What-ifs

One thing we’ll never know for sure, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison, is whether Clinton and Trump were the strongest candidates their parties could offer.

They won the primaries, but matchup polls suggested back then that Bernie Sanders was doing better versus Trump and John Kasich was a more formidable foe for Clinton.

On message, offline

Trump’s handlers scored a big success recently in trying to keep him on message: They got him to surrender direct access to his Twitter account, The New York Times reported.

“All my quotes are coming from my speeches,” he said of news stories about his campaign the other day. “And that’s a good thing.”

What else is happening

  • The Anti-Defamation League said that “whether intentional or not,” a Trump ad that portrays an “elite” of “global special interests” arrayed against Americans invoked images and rhetoric used by anti-Semites. The Trump campaign called the criticism baseless.
  • Chelsea Clinton's husband Marc Mezvinsky used his connections with the Clinton family and their charitable foundation to raise money for his hedge fund, according to the latest WikiLeaks dump.
  • Newsday’s 2016 Voters Guide is online with profiles of every candidate and proposition on Long Island ballots.
  • Russia's full role in hacking remains less than fully documented. But what's certain is, this year brought the first full bloom of cyber-disruption in a U.S. election.
  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo joined a rally in Melville to call on Democrats to give Clinton an overwhelming victory in New York and help elect the party’s state Senate candidates, Newsday’s David M. Schwartz reports.
  • Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi will perform at Clinton’s rally Monday night at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Also to appear: President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton.
  • Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have paid at least $1.8 million to Nathan Sproul, a political operative whose roster of companies includes several that have been repeatedly investigated for voter registration fraud, The Associated Press reported.
  • Running mate Mike Pence said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will still lead Trump’s transition team despite the conviction of two former aides Friday in the Bridgegate scandal.
  • Last-minute falsehoods from Trump and spins from Clinton are rounded up in this Washington Post piece.
  • Somali immigrants in Minnesota pose the threat of a "disaster" for the U.S., Trump said.
  • Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Reince Priebus, who all looked like had-beens a few months ago, are now  hyped as top appointees in a Trump administration.

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