The presidential election may not be as clear cut as it was a week ago. The FBI’s renewed look into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s controversial email practices re-opens what could be a dangerous scandal to Clinton’s presidential candidacy.
Additionally, the Justice Department has obtained a warrant to search through the emails, after facing extraordinary public pressure to assess their significance ahead of the November 8 election date.
Many of these emails already passed through Clinton’s private server, which means it is likely the FBI has already seen them. Officials caution that to date they have not changed their stance that Clinton nor her aides should be charged.
Many Democrat supporters and advisers to Clinton are concerned the return of FBI and media attention to the email scandal will turn votes against her, especially in certain key states where the race is close. Additionally, other Democrats sharing the ballot with Clinton come election day are worried their chances could be in jeopardy.
The Clinton campaign’s strategy thus far has been to launch an offensive against James B. Comey, the FBI director. They accused him of violating Justice Department rules by making an ambiguous announcement so late into the presidential race, therefore providing significant leverage for Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump.
The campaign remains optimistic. Clinton leads Trump in all early polls, but by a small margin. They have announced there will be no significant changes in campaigning strategy, advertising or travel plans to try and counter the news of the FBI inquiry.
On Monday Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight election forecast hasd Hillary Clinton at an 77 per cent chance to win the election, the lowest it has been since October 5. Her chances have been steadily declining after a high point immediately following the third presidential debate.
The FBI had been investigating whether Clinton broke any laws by using a private email server while serving as secretary of state. The servers housed classified information and were detached from the secure government network. Comey has said the former secretary had been “extremely careless” by using an unsecure private server to discuss sensitive material. Eventually the FBI decided Clinton had not committed a crime, and the investigation was closed.
Last week the FBI director announced the agency may have discovered additional emails relevant to the previous investigation. The emails were found on the computer of Anthony D. Weiner, whose estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is one of Clinton’s top aides. The emails were found during a separate investigation into Weiner’s alleged exchange of sexually explicit messages with a minor.
Clinton has allegedly asked her advisors to operate the campaign normally, while pressuring Comey to make it clear she was not under any legal threat. Trump, meanwhile, has seized the new information, calling for his supporters to oppose Clinton’s “criminal actions” which were “willful, deliberate, intentional and purposeful.”
“This is like an 18 wheeler smacking into us, and it just becomes a huge distraction at the worst possible time,” said Donna Brazile, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “The campaign is trying to cut through the noise as best it can, we don’t want it to knock us off our game. But on the second-to-last weekend of the race, we find ourselves having to tell voters, ‘Keep your focus, keep your eyes on the prize’.”
The Clinton campaign has been hammering out that the Justice Department strongly discouraged FBI director Comey from making the announcement, and that by doing so he would be breaking a longstanding policy of not disclosing details of ongoing investigations.