Emily Kowalik ’18
Assistant Opinions Editor
Election Day is nearly here, but there is one last controversy to wade through before heading to the voting booths. The issue of Hillary Clinton’s private email server has been dredged up once again for discussion. Last week, F.B.I. Director James Comey sent an ambiguous, not to mention unprecedented, letter to Congress stating that new emails, discovered during an investigation of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, might be related to the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server. More than 600,000 emails were found on the computer used by Anthony D. Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin, Clinton’s top aide. Fox News reported that 10,000 emails were “of interest” to the F.B.I.
Comey’s letter should never have been sent before he knew whether any of the new emails had the potential to change the outcome of their investigation—the F.B.I. does not usually communicate information relating to ongoing investigations to Congress. What’s more, Comey did not elaborate on the content of the emails or what their exact implication might be in terms of the investigation. Indeed, he went on to say that the F.B.I. could not, at this point, even tell whether this new material might be significant to their probe.
This new development comes just a few months after the F.B.I. closed its investigation with a decision not to charge Clinton, but there is an indication that the emails have been known to the F.B.I. for weeks.
With less than two weeks left in the election, Clinton’s team was blind-sided by the apparently partisan bomb dropped by Comey. Clinton told reporters she only learned of the newly discovered emails after Comey’s letter to Congress was sent. Trump and his team, on the other hand, found it a welcome relief to be out of the harsh spotlight of their own scandals and furnished with ammunition, which might provide them hope for turning the polls around. At a rally in New Hampshire, an invigorated Trump expressed his satisfaction over the news in his usual brash manner, saying, “Perhaps, finally, justice will be done.” Trump, who for weeks beforehand had been disparaging the F.B.I. with cries of ineptitude and corruption, has now done a complete reversal and is praising this same agency for finally hitting upon the truth.
Even Republicans who have had difficulty supporting Trump over his allegations of a “rigged election” were not averse to seeing the issue of Clinton’s email server rehashed. Some Republican politicians have even used this opportunity to suggest that Clinton be disqualified from the race.
Nevertheless, there has been harsh criticism from both Democrats and Republicans concerning Comey’s decision to write a letter to Congress at this moment, with the election so near.
It is troubling that these emails were released now since even Comey himself noted that the emails, while pertinent, might contain no new classified information. Comey’s announcement could reshape a presidential race when there is no indication that the emails will change the conclusion that the Bureau reached in July.
This so called ‘emailgate’ scandal is being blown out of proportion. Donald Trump’s team even went as far as to tweet “this is bigger than Watergate” just a few hours after the letter was made public. What is even more troubling is the timing of this revelation – with such a short time to go before the election, even the appearance that members of the F.B.I. are attempting to sway the election is disturbing. This agency is under an obligation to remain neutral in political matters; the use of his official position to attempt to influence an election is a violation of the Hatch Act. The FBI should have kept the reopening of their investigation confidential until after the election.