Clinton camp turns up the pressure on FBI chief over email probe

By: 
Reuters

WASHINGTON: Top aides to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton angrily condemned FBI Director James Comey on Sunday for revealing the bureau's probe of newly found emails related to her use of a private server, and demanded he quickly release details about the discovery.

Sources familiar with the matter said on Sunday that Comey likely has limited information about what is in the emails because the FBI lacks legal authority to examine their content thoroughly.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook blasted Comey for sending a letter notifying Congress of the email review before he even knew whether they were significant or relevant.

Comey's letter was "long on innuendo, short on facts," Podesta said CNN's "State of the Union" programme, and accused the FBI chief of breaking precedent by disclosing aspects of an investigation so close to the Nov. 8 election.

"We are calling on Mr. Comey to come forward and explain what’s at issue here," Podesta said, adding the significance of the emails was unclear.

"Comey really needs to come forward and explain why he took this unprecedented step, particularly when he said himself in the letter to the (Capitol) Hill that these may not even be significant," Podesta said. "He might have taken the first step of actually having looked at them before he did this in the middle of a presidential campaign, so close to the voting."

Comey's letter, sent over the objections of Justice Department officials, plunged the final days of the White House race between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump into turmoil with Trump focussing on the issue as proof for his argument that Clinton is corrupt and untrustworthy.

Comey, who announced in July that the FBI's long investigation of Clinton's emails during her time as secretary of state was ending without any charges, said in his letter the agency would review the newly surfaced emails to determine their relevance to the investigation of her handling of classified information.

"GET IT ON THE TABLE"

"If there is new information, get it out on the table," Mook said on "Fox News Sunday," adding the emails could be duplicates of previously reviewed emails or completely irrelevant. "Again, it's been reported these emails may not have been sent or received by Secretary Clinton. We don't know anything."

Sources close to the investigation said on Friday the latest emails were discovered as part of a separate probe into Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Weiner, a former Democratic U.S. congressman from New York, is the target of an FBI investigation into illicit text messages he is alleged to have sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.

Sources familiar with the matter said FBI agents working on the Weiner investigation saw material on a laptop belonging to Weiner that led them to believe it might be relevant to the investigation of Clinton's email practices.

But the sources said the FBI concluded it could not thoroughly examine the material without additional legal authorization, likely in the form of a search warrant. A warrant would normally require approval from a judge or magistrate.

Under standard procedures, the FBI would ask a federal prosecutor working for the Justice Department to seek such a warrant. But that scenario may be complicated because the Justice Department has signalled its dismay with Comey’s decision to publicly disclose the bureau’s interest in the newly discovered emails.

FBI officials were unavailable for comment on the status of their investigation.

Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to slam the Democrats as hypocrites for blasting Comey.

"Hillary and the Dems loved and praised FBI Director Comey just a few days ago. Original evidence was overwhelming, should not have delayed!" Trump said.

Clinton had opened up a significant lead over Trump in public opinion polls before the letter surfaced. The most recent polls had shown the lead narrowing slightly.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN’s "State of the Union" and said Comey faced an “impossible” situation.

"Had he sat on the info, one can argue that he would also be interfering with the election by not disclosing to the public that yet again, for the second time in a year, Clinton is under FBI investigation for something of her own doing,” she said.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine said Comey should provide details about the emails so voters can have all the facts.

"These could be duplicates of what's already being analysed," Kaine said in an appearance on ABC’s "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "They could be things that don't have anything to do with Hillary Clinton. You owe the public full information. That's what Hillary Clinton wants and that's what the American public deserves."

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