The Federal Bureau of Investigations has completed its review of a new batch of emails related to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and is still not recommending charges against her, according to a letter written by director James Comey and sent to members of Congress.
This new letter comes just over a week after Comey alerted the House Judiciary Committee that the FBI was looking into more emails, reportedly found on Anthony Weiner’s computer during an investigation into his sexting scandal. Because Weiner’s estranged wife Huma Abedin is Clinton’s top aide, some of those emails were written to and from Clinton.
That letter, vague in its description, set off more than a week of speculation and assumptions about what the emails contained—even as millions of voters cast early ballots in swing states that could decide the election. The Clinton campaign—and intelligence officials on both sides of the aisle—condemned Comey for leaving so much to voters’ imaginations with just 11 days to go before the election. It was a somewhat unprecedented move for Comey, considering government officials aren’t supposed to do anything that could influence the results of an election.
But according to Comey’s new letter, the FBI has reviewed all of those communications and has reached the same conclusion. As Comey put it in July, while Clinton may have been “extremely careless” in setting up her own server, it doesn’t warrant criminal charges.
Clinton’s emails have dominated the public conversation since last March when the news was first reported. At rallies across the country, Donald Trump supporters call for her to be locked up for her supposed misdeeds. But the FBI’s conclusion, now reiterated twice over, seems to indicate that the chief scandal that has plagued Clinton’s campaign and has eroded trust among voters, well, just hasn’t amounted to much. And yet, according to The Tyndall Report, which studies news broadcasts, the three major news networks have devoted about three times as much nightly news coverage to Clinton’s emails as they have to all issue-related coverage.
The Clinton campaign has yet to release a formal statement, but Clinton’s press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted his reaction:
We were always confident nothing would cause the July decision to be revisited. Now Director Comey has confirmed ithttps://t.co/BMQQx9eRzw
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) November 6, 2016
While the Clinton camp is likely relieved the investigation isn’t dragging on into Tuesday, Comey’s initial letter may have already done damage. Across the country, more than 40 million early votes have been cast so far, more than 17 million of them between October 28, the day the Comey letter was released, and today, according to Laura Quinn, CEO of Catalist, a D.C.-based polling firm. More than 2.5 million people have already voted in North Carolina. Another 5.25 million plus have cast a vote in the make or break state of Florida. More than 360,000 voters in Nevada cast in-person ballots between the release of Comey’s first letter and now, according to state election officials. About 23,000 people sent in absentee ballots there, too. And Colorado voters have returned more than 1.5 million ballots as of Friday.
Meanwhile, though polls have continued to show Clinton ahead, the blog FiveThirtyEight has downgraded her chances of clinching the presidency from 81.5 percent on October 28, the day Comey released his initial letter, to 64.9 percent today.
It initially seemed that the FBI’s investigation wouldn’t be completed before Election Day, and it’s unclear how the bureau managed to speed through the review. It’s possible that the bulk of the emails were duplicates, which had already been reviewed after Clinton turned over her trove of emails. The Department of Justice said in a statement, “The Department of Justice and the FBI dedicated all necessary resources to conduct this review expeditiously.” The FBI didn’t respond to WIRED’s request for comment.
As for the Trump campaign, it seems the Republican nominee was unaware of the new Comey letter when he spoke to voters in Minnesota this afternoon.
It appears Trump has no idea about Comey’s letter. He just told supporters in Minnesota that FBI investigation will lead to criminal trial
— Gabby Morrongiello (@gabriellahope_) November 6, 2016
The Republican National Committee, however, continues to cast Clinton’s use of the private server in a sinister light. In a statement following Comey’s letter, RNC chairman Reince Preibus wrote, that the FBI’s findings “were a damning and unprecedented indictment of her judgment.”
On Tuesday, we’ll see what voters have to say.