The FBI has determined that a new batch of emails apparently related to Hillary Clinton’s private email server “have not changed our conclusion” that she committed no criminal wrongdoing, FBI director James Comey told congressional leaders in a letter on Sunday.
On 28 October, only 11 days before the presidential election, Comey sent those leaders a letter informing them that agents had discovered emails “that appear pertinent” to the bureau’s months-long investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state.
The move, so close to an election, proved tremendously controversial. In July, Comey had announced that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” but that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against them.
Writing to Congress on Sunday, Comey said: “Since my letter, 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.
“During that process, we reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state.”
He concluded: “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.
“I am grateful to the professionals at the FBI for doing an extraordinary amount of high-quality work in a short period of time.”
Clinton was aboard her campaign plane when the news broke, as was the case with Comey’s initial letter nine days ago. Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman for the campaign, made a brief statement to reporters.
“We are glad to see that [Comey] has found, as we were confident he would, that he has confirmed the conclusions that he reached in July and we are glad that this matter is resolved.”
Aides could be seen huddling toward the front of the plane and reading from an iPad as reports of Comey’s letter came through. Palmieri was spotted entering Clinton’s cabin at very front, shielded by a curtain, moments before she spoke to the press.
The new emails were discovered on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, a former congressman and New York mayoral candidate who is the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a close aide to Clinton. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly exchanging sexually explicit messages with a minor.
Comey’s first letter, sent so soon before the presidential election between Clinton and the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, surprised both campaigns and cast the FBI into the middle of an acrimonious and volatile race.
Senior Democrats accused Comey of political meddling, Clinton said she found the letter “deeply troubling” and Trump gleefully predicted the emails would reveal a corruption scandal “bigger than Watergate”.
Department of Justice officials expressed surprise that Comey would break with decades of policy about investigations and elections.
Leaks from within the agency revealed acrimony and political rifts within the FBI, and Comey’s letter appeared to reinvigorate Republican opposition to Clinton.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat in the House intelligence committee, said on Sunday Comey’s letter should end “once and for all” accusations that Clinton had committed any crimes.
“While the original letter should never have been sent so close to an election,” Schiff said, “the expeditious review of these emails should put to rest the irresponsible speculation indulged in by the Trump campaign and others.”