The FBI is reopening its inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state, a politically explosive development less than two weeks before the presidential election.
“In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Director James Comey said in a letter to eight committee chairmen in Congress. “I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information.”
U.S. stocks erased gains as news of the FBI probe raised speculation of a Clinton defeat. The S&P 500 Index fell 0.4 percent in New York, erasing earlier gains. The Mexican peso dropped, a reflection of Republican candidate Donald J. Trump’s plan to renegotiate trade pacts with the country and reduce immigration.
Clinton had appeared to be cruising toward a dominant win in the election. She held an average four-point lead over Republican Trump in polls that include independent candidates as of Friday, according to Real Clear Politics. Some recent polls have been far worse for Trump; the Associated Press said on Oct. 26 that its poll showed Clinton with a 14-point lead. The election projection site FiveThirtyEight.com assessed her odds of a win at 82 percent on Friday.
Trump celebrated the FBI’s decision during an appearance with supporters in New Hampshire.
“I have great respect that the FBI and Department of Justice have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made,” Trump said. “This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understood.”
“A great day in our campaign just got even better,” Trump campaign manager KellyAnne Conway said on Twitter.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in a statement that “This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private email server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators.”
When the original investigation was closed in July, Comey faulted Clinton and her aides for “extremely careless” handing of classified information, but said the evidence was not sufficient to warrant prosecution. Attorney General Loretta Lynch subsequently announced that no charges would “be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation.”
Comey on Friday gave lawmakers no indication in his letter about the importance of the new information or the nature of the unrelated case. FBI spokeswoman Carol Cratty declined to comment.
“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your committees about our efforts,” Comey wrote.