FBI Director James Comey informed key lawmakers on Sunday that he still does not believe that Hillary Clinton should face criminal prosecution over her use of private email servers during her time as secretary of state. Comey said his conclusion came after FBI agents reviewed all of the newly discovered messages to or from Clinton found on electronic devices that belonged to her top aide’s estranged husband, disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner.
“The FBI investigative team has been working around the clock to process and review a large volume of emails from a device obtained in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation,” Comey said in his letter.
“During that process we reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State. Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” he continued.
A top aide to Clinton, communications director Jennifer Palmieri, told reporters that their team welcomed the news. “We’re glad to have this matter resolved,” Palmieri said.
Four months ago, the FBI chief had accused Clinton and top aides of being “extremely careless” with classified information, but concluded that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring criminal charges against her. On Oct. 28, Comey released a follow-up letter announcing that his agency had found emails potentially relevant to their initial investigation. Officials later confirmed that the new messages had been found on electronic devices that belonged to Weiner. The FBI has reportedly been investigating text messages the former lawmaker allegedly sent to a 15-year-old girl.
Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, speaking Sunday on MSNBC, focused on Comey’s July declaration that Clinton and her staffers had been reckless in their handling of classified information.
“The reason that so many Americans have a problem with Hillary Clinton’s honesty, trustworthiness and veracity does not change,” Conway said. “She was reckless and careless in her handling of information.”
The news broke as the Democratic presidential candidate traveled from Philadelphia to Cleveland, for a rally with NBA star LeBron James. Reporters informed a Clinton staffer of the news, who then walked up to the front of the cabin to tell other staffers. Palmieri walked to the section where Clinton sits. And then later, Clinton’s press secretary Nick Merrill was spotted reading something out loud to the group on an iPad — presumably Comey’s letter.
Weiner’s estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is perhaps Hillary Clinton’s closest aide. Abedin announced earlier this year that the couple would divorce.
Comey’s letter went to the Republican leaders and Democratic ranking members of eight key Senate and House Committees with oversight over the FBI. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, made the letter public.
The new Comey letter quickly drew criticism from Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He called it “another vague announcement” that failed to provide enough context, including whether the bureau limited its review to Clinton’s emails from when she was secretary of state, “leaving out emails that could shed light on possible obstruction of Congress.”
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook had insisted to reporters on Saturday that Comey’s late-October bombshell had not negatively affected Clinton’s campaign, attributing the recent tightening in polls of the race to other factors. But Clinton and her surrogates have been strongly criticizing Comey’s decision to inform Congress he was looking into the emails so close to Election Day. Earlier Sunday, Sen. Cory Booker referenced the incident at a black church in Philadelphia, where he appeared with Clinton.
“We saw what the FBI did in Martin Luther King’s day,” Booker said. “People trying to chill turnout, people trying to dampen enthusiasm. People throwing slings and arrows at our standard-bearer that are unacceptable to us.”
Additional reporting by Liz Goodwin in Philadelphia and on the Clinton campaign plane.
View the Sunday letter below: