Cedar Rapids, United States, Oct 28, 2016 (AFP) -The FBI dealt Hillary Clinton’s seemingly unstoppable White House campaign a stunning blow Friday by reviving suspicions about her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
With just 11 days to go until America votes, Clinton’s Republican rival Donald Trump seized triumphantly on news that the agency is investigating a newly discovered batch of emails linked to the inquiry.
Campaigning in New Hampshire, Trump declared his Democratic opponent unfit for office as a jubilant crowd chanted: “Lock her up!”
Clinton was on a flight when the news broke and made no mention of the FBI probe — which had been declared complete three months earlier — in her own campaign speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
FBI director James Comey dropped the bombshell in a letter to congressional committees investigating allegations that Clinton put US secrets at risk during her time as secretary of state.
In July, Comey told lawmakers the FBI probe into Clinton’s unusual decision to use a private server instead of a government email account while in office had concluded without finding wrongdoing.
But, writing Friday to “supplement” this decision, he said that “in connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.”
The FBI will thus take “appropriate investigative steps” to decide whether a new batch of mails contains classified information “as well as to assess their importance to the investigation.”
Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta responded furiously to Comey’s letter, demanding that he provide more information to allow voters to judge for themselves.
“It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election,” he declared, accusing Trump’s camp of “browbeating” FBI investigators.
“The director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining,” Podesta added.
“We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.”
According to the New York Times, the newly discovered mails emerged after agents seized electronic devices belonging to Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, and her husband, Anthony Weiner.
Weiner — a Democratic politician whose bid to become mayor of New York foundered when he was exposed for sending explicit online messages — is under FBI investigation over allegations that he sent sexual messages to a 15-year-old girl.
Officials at President Barack Obama’s White House said they had learned of Comey’s letter and the issues it raises in news reports.
“I don’t think anything has surfaced to change the president’s opinions and views,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.
Meanwhile, the 70-year-old Trump, trailing in opinion polls both nationally and in the key swing states he must win to secure the White House, seized triumphantly on the news.
“We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office,” he told cheering crowds at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire.
“I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made,” he added.
The news took the shine off what should have been a good day for Clinton, with Obama’s Democratic administration announcing stronger than expected economic growth numbers.
While the 69-year-old former first lady holds an overall poll lead and remains on course to become America’s first female president, a handful of states — including Iowa — could be close-fought.
Both candidates were to be in the battleground of Iowa within hours of each other as they vie to drum up support across the rolling plains of the Midwest.
From Cedar Rapids, Clinton was to head to the state capital Des Moines to rally voters.
Trump kicked off the day in New Hampshire, jetting to Maine and was to wrap up with a rally for 5,000 people in an open-air amphitheater in Cedar Rapids.
While Trump draws the biggest crowds, he is failing to pull in donations to match. Contributions to his campaign slumped in October.
Both camps filed campaign accounts Thursday for the period leading up to October 19, confirming the Democrats’ overpowering lead in the money game.
For the home stretch, Clinton has at her disposal a party war chest almost four times that of her rival: $62 million against $16 million.
When secondary sources of funding are taken into account, the Clinton war chest holds $172 million against $73 million for the Republican.
Trump’s White House bid was sent into a tailspin this month by the release of a 2005 video capturing him bragging about the ability to grope women with impunity, followed by a string of accusations of sexual misconduct — which he denies.
As his campaign faltered, the nominee piled on the defiant rhetoric, claiming the allegations were part of a plot to rig the election, and threatening not to recognize the outcome if he loses.