On Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s secret email server and her deleted emails.
Having announced in July that “our investigation has been sufficient,” FBI director James Comey has now informed the Senate and the world that the FBI recently discovered new emails pertinent to the previously closed investigation and is now taking “appropriate investigative steps” to review the new emails.
Mr. Comey’s Friday revelation has the potential to upend conventional wisdom on the dynamics of the cage match that is the 2016 presidential contest, which so far has seen unprecedented vituperations, allegations, and outbreaks of violence. Fortunately, the candidates have yet to resort to dueling, which remains illegal even for consenting adults.
Since Donald Trump’s initial descent down the escalator to announce his campaign last June at Fifth Avenue’s Trump Tower, the smart set on both coasts discounted Mr. Trump’s ability to win the Republican nomination, let alone the general election.
After Mr. Trump carried away the Republican nomination, media elites and a cadre of establishment Republicans have continued a relentless fusillade against him. The conventional wisdom has steadfastly held that, despite Mrs. Clinton’s astonishingly negative polling on trust and likability, she presents the “safe choice” versus Mr. Trump.
Before Mr. Comey’s new announcement, there were already signs indicating independents leaned towards Trump. Millions of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country.
Millions of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country.
Unpopular Obama administration policies have given Mr. Trump an opportunity to make inroads with independents who care about healthcare, national security, reducing the $20 trillion national debt, and increasing the anemic rate of economic growth. The news of another federal investigatory cloud over Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy could be just enough to push independents in favor of Mr. Trump.
It could also drive some Democrats toward him. Many primary voters who supported Bernie Sanders could rethink their intentions to pull the lever for Mrs. Clinton, lest she and her husband go down in history as the first married couple to be impeached.
The possibility is far from fanciful with the Democratic nominee again under federal investigation before election day. Although party loyalists of conscience and prudence might even call for Mrs. Clinton’s removal from the ticket, that alternative is infeasible.
In any case, the news undermines Mrs. Clinton’s message that the FBI and Department of Justice have exonerated her of any wrongdoing. With the now inevitable wall-to-wall, 24/7 coverage of the additional “investigative steps,” the Clinton campaign can no longer claim there is nothing to see here.
All that said, it is unclear whether there is enough time for this to affect the race in a decisive way. One thing is certain, though. You can be sure that the Clinton campaign will continue to unleash all available anti-Trump distractions. But it will take more than boorish behavior and intemperate remarks to counter the overhang of a newly continuing FBI investigation.
Previously, Mr. Trump had criticized Mrs. Clinton’s connection to Anthony Weiner, whose sexting apparently led the FBI to the new emails that led to the newly reopened investigation. “Think of it,” Mr. Trump said in August, pointing out that Huma Abedin “is getting classified secrets,” is “married to Anthony Weiner” and had not “even a 5 percent chance” of restraining herself from sharing classified secrets with Mr. Weiner.
At the time, Mr. Trump’s allegation brought a swift rebuke from Mrs. Clinton’s camp. “Lots of married men worked at State, why is Huma (Abedin) the one who would pass on secrets to (a) spouse?” wrote Jennifer Palmieri of Hillary for America.
Setting aside the unfortunate questions surrounding Mr. Weiner and Ms. Abedin, undecided voters may now rethink — rightly — Mrs. Clinton’s qualifications for the presidency.
First published in The Hill in October 2016