WASHINGTON — Newly discovered emails found on a computer seized during an investigation of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner thrust the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server back into the presidential campaign less than two weeks before Election Day.
Officials said the discovery prompted a surprise announcement Friday by FBI Director James Comey that the agency would once again be examining emails related to Clinton’s time as secretary of state.
In a three-paragraph letter to congressional committee chairmen, Comey said the FBI would take “appropriate investigative steps” to determine whether the newly discovered emails, which the bureau found while investigating an “unrelated case,” contain classified information and to assess whether they are relevant to the Clinton server probe, which previously ended in July with no charges. He provided no details about the unrelated case.
The emails, numbering more than 1,000, were found on a computer used by both Weiner, who represented parts of Queens and Brooklyn from 1999 to June 2011, and his wife, senior Clinton aide Huma Abedin, according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the inquiry who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Weiner and Abedin are separated.
The correspondence included emails between Abedin and Clinton, according to a law enforcement official.
Federal officials have been examining sexually suggestive online messages that Weiner allegedly exchanged with a teenage girl, following a September report in the Daily Mail tabloid. The newly discovered emails’ link to the Weiner investigation was first reported by The New York Times.
The announcement could reshape a presidential race that Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has been leading in most public polls. It was immediately hailed by Republican nominee Donald Trump, who told supporters at a New Hampshire rally that “perhaps, finally, justice will be done.” The crowd responded with pumped fists and chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Clinton told reporters last night in Iowa that she learned of the newly discovered emails only after the letter to Congress was made public. She called on the FBI to release more information about the review, saying, “Let’s get it out.”
“I’m confident whatever [the emails] are will not change the conclusion reached in July,” she said. “Therefore, it’s imperative that the bureau explain this issue in question, whatever it is, without any delay.”
Asked about the connection to Weiner, Clinton said, “We’ve heard these rumors. We don’t know what to believe.”
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta called it “extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election.”
An FBI spokesman declined to elaborate. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch declined to comment.
Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman in President Barack Obama’s administration, said the FBI rarely releases info about ongoing criminal investigations and does not release federal investigation data this close to political elections.