The FBI says it will investigate whether there is classified information in newly discovered emails related to Hillary Clinton’s private servers, reinjecting one of the most toxic political issues into the presidential campaign less than two weeks before election day.
The FBI had announced in July that its investigation into the Democratic presidential candidate’s email practices had concluded with a recommendation of no criminal charges in the matter.
But in a letter sent to members of Congress on Friday, James Comey, the FBI’s director, said new emails had been discovered in an “unrelated” case.
It was not clear from Comey’s letter where the new emails came from or who sent or received them. He said he did not know how long it would take to review the emails, or whether the new information was significant.
Officials speaking to US media said the new trove of emails that will be examined by the FBI emerged from a sexting investigation of Anthony Weiner, a former congressman who is the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
Officials told NBC News the emails were found on a laptop that Weiner allegedly used to send inappropriate text messages and pictures to an underage girl.
Investigators also discovered that Abedin had used the same laptop to send emails to Clinton and now they are checking those messages to see if there was any classified information on them, the sources said.
Within minutes of the news, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used Comey’s letter to attack Clinton on the campaign trail.
He said the political system “might not be as rigged as I thought” now that the FBI has decided to investigate new emails found.
At a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump praised the FBI, saying: “I think they are going to right the ship, folks.”
That is a new tune for Trump, who has repeatedly complained that the Washington establishment has rigged the political system against him.
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from the Trump rally, said there was an “absolute roar of approval” from his supporters as Trump told them about the FBI announcement.
“It really touches on a central theme of Trump’s campaign,” our correspondent said. “I spoke to several people here who said they hope this eventually leads to Clinton ending up in jail.”
In response to the news, Clinton called on the FBI to release all new information in its probe and said she did not think the agency would change its conclusion in July not to prosecute her.
“The American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately. The director himself has said he doesn’t know whether the emails referenced in his letter are significant or not. I’m confident whatever they are will not change the conclusion reached in July,” she told reporters.
A year-long investigation by the FBI focused on whether Clinton sent or received classified information using the private server located in the basement of her New York home, which was not authorised to handle such messages.
“This is a damaging bombshell from the FBI that she will have to cope with until election day and, potentially, into the White House,” Al Jazeera’s John Hendren reported from a Clinton rally on Friday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where she made no reference to the emails.
“She’s already getting negative ratings in polls on the issue of being trusted.”
A new poll, conducted before Friday’s news, gave Clinton a lead of 6 percentage points over Trump.
The Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll suggested Trump is losing support among women.
The October 21-27 opinion poll found 42 percent of people who either voted already or expect to vote in the November 8 election supporting Clinton, versus 36 percent backing Trump. Clinton’s lead a week ago was 4 points.