The presidential campaign is entering its final full week amid high drama and volatility, as both sides grapple with the fallout from the FBI’s announcement that it is examining newly discovered emails that “appear to be pertinent” to an earlier investigation of Hillary Clinton.
From The Hill
The shock announcement came on Friday and sucked up political oxygen throughout the weekend, dominating cable news networks and the Sunday talk shows.
Democrats are furious about what they see as political meddling on the part of the bureau and its director, James Comey.
The Clinton campaign sent a release late Sunday evening signed by nearly 100 former prosecutors and and Department of Justice officials questioning Comey’s “break with longstanding practices” by making public statements about an ongoing investigation or even acknowledging the existence of one.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested on Sunday that Comey may have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal government officials from using their authority to influence an election.
Republicans, including presidential nominee Donald Trump, have commended the bureau. Behind the scenes, GOP activists are gleeful about the prospect of the FBI announcement helping to shift down-ballot races, as well as the presidential contest, in their favor.
GOP control of the Senate has looked in serious danger, and Republicans will try to stave off the possibility of losing their majority by pressing Democrats onto the defensive. One endangered GOP senator, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, told a Philadelphia radio station soon after the news broke that “it looks to me like Hillary Clinton is in a world of hot water.”
Uncertainty on several key points is fueling the feverish atmosphere that has gripped the political world.
The impact of the Comey announcement on public opinion cannot be reliably assessed because no major opinion polls have yet emerged that were conducted wholly in its aftermath.
But a Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll released on Sunday, which included data from both before and after the revelation, carried ominous news for Clinton.
The poll found that 34 percent of likely voters said they were “less likely” to vote for the Democratic nominee as a result of Comey’s announcement. A clear majority of those people were Republican or Republican leaning, the Post reported, and therefore may never have intended to vote for Clinton.
But 17 percent of those who said they had been deterred from backing Clinton leaned Democratic, and a further 9 percent were self-described independents. Any shift in their ranks could be pivotal in an election that appeared to be tightening even before the Comey bombshell.
Also unknown is whether the FBI will make further comment on the matter before Election Day.
Many experts believe such comment is unlikely given that agents only obtained a search warrant to look through the relevant emails — some 650,000 — on Sunday.
The ultimate conclusion to the matter could fall anywhere on a very broad spectrum.
The emails, apparently found on a laptop once shared by close Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), could be mere duplicates of messages already examined by the FBI. If that were the case, Clinton might benefit from a perception that she had been smeared — and criticism of Comey would reach a new level.
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