FBI Investigates New Emails Related To Clinton Private Server Case
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon, this week from the studios of WBEZ in Chicago. The 2016 presidential campaign has taken another astonishing turn. The director of the FBI has told Congress that agents have found a batch of emails that could relate to their investigation of Hillary Clinton's personal email server. And he said investigators would dig through them to figure out whether they contain any government secrets. There is no timetable for the FBI's work. And the presidential election is only 10 days away. NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson joins us. Carrie, thanks so much for being with us.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: How did this new information get to the FBI?
JOHNSON: Well, agents are investigating unrelated allegations that the husband of one of Hillary Clinton's close aides had allegedly exchanged illicit messages and photos with an underage girl who lived in another state. The FBI seized some electronic devices that belonged to Anthony Weiner, and on them they found emails from his wife and the close aide to Hillary Clinton, Huma Abiden. Now, the key question for investigators is whether any of those messages include classified information and whether most of the emails are things the FBI already reviewed this year.
SIMON: I mean, the FBI director said the investigation was closed, I guess, more than three months ago when there were no criminal charges. Is it possible that's no longer true?
JOHNSON: Scott, there's an outside chance, but it's unlikely. And it's definitely not going to happen before the presidential election takes place. It's going to take a long time for the FBI to go through all these messages, get through all the red tape with intelligence agencies to decide what may be classified or not.
And the FBI director, James Comey, has already told Congress Hillary Clinton didn't lie to agents when she was interviewed - same for her aides. He found no efforts to obstruct justice, no desire to betray the country here. So unless something really huge emerges, it's hard to see the legal analysis changing or any criminal prosecution at all.
SIMON: And Hillary Clinton had a swift response, didn't she?
JOHNSON: Yeah, she came out in Iowa, did an impromptu news conference. She said she didn't know anything about this. She found out through media reports. She's demanding the FBI director release a lot more information and explain the facts here. Some of Clinton's close allies, including California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, went even stronger. She said the FBI move was appalling and that the bureau was playing into the campaign slogans of Donald Trump.
Now, Scott, the Justice Department does have guidelines in place - in fact a very strong tradition - that prosecutors and investigators don't take steps to influence the outcome of any political campaign or race. But the FBI director apparently decided he needed to tell Congress the situation had changed. And he decided it was better to tell congressional overseers now than have them find out later after the election.
SIMON: Carrie, this is not an original question, but I mean it more urgently than ever - what happens next?
JOHNSON: Oh, my goodness, Scott, my email has been burning up with messages from former prosecutors, former DOJ officials, who are furious about this. They don't understand why this is happening now and why the FBI was unclear about what it was investigating exactly. They said if the goal was to instill confidence in the justice system and the bureau of investigation - these lawyers say the whole episode amounts to a big backfire. And Republicans in Congress are talking about bringing the FBI director in for a closed-door briefing just days before the election. But it's not clear that's going to happen. Scott, this investigation could go on for a long time - weeks and weeks - way past the inauguration of the next president.
SIMON: NPR's Carrie Johnson, thanks so much.
JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.