WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — FBI Director James Comey has informed members of Congress that the FBI is reviewing new emails related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information as secretary of state.
In a letter to lawmakers Friday, Comey said “emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” were found “in connection with an unrelated case.” Multiple media outlets reported that the "unrelated case" is the investigation of former Rep. Anthony Weiner for sexting with a teenage girl.
Comey said he was briefed on the new information Thursday and the FBI is taking steps to allow investigators to determine whether the emails contain classified information.
Clinton addressed Comey's letter to Congress following a rally in Des Moines, Iowa.
“We are 11 days out from perhaps the most important national election of our lifetimes," Clinton began. "Voting is already underway in our country. So the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately. The director himself has said he doesn’t know whether the emails referenced in his letter are significant or not.
“I’m confident whatever they are will not change the conclusion reached in July," she continued. "Therefore it’s imperative that the bureau explain this issue in questions – whatever it is – without any delay. So I look forward to moving forward focusing the important challenges facing the American people, winning in Nov. 8 and working with all Americans to build a better future for our country.”
Clinton then pressed the bureau to release all of the facts of its findings.
In July, Comey announced that the FBI’s yearlong investigation of Clinton’s email server did not find evidence to support criminal charges.
“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony,” Comey wrote.
In an interview with MSNBC, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon questioned the timing of the announcement and noted that Comey's letter acknowledges the emails may not be significant.
“Given that possibility and that likelihood, it boggles the mind why this step was taken 11 days before the election,” Fallon said.
“It is incumbent on Director Comey to fill in the blanks... We now have the worst of all worlds here,” he added.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said in an interview with Vice News airing on HBO on Friday night that the release of the letter with so few details is "troubling."
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta issued a statement calling on Comey to release more information about the discovery.
"It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election," Podesta said. "The director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July."
Podesta also criticized Republicans for "baselessly second-guessing" and "browbeating" FBI officials over the original outcome of the investigation.
Republicans, unsurprisingly, had more positive words for Comey Friday than they have for the last three and a half months.
Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, told MSNBC Comey deserves "a ton of credit" for putting this information out despite its potential impact on the election.
“This guy’s in a tough spot. Imagine if he had not come forward,” she said.
In a rare case of agreement with the Clinton campaign, Conway urged the FBI to release all of the details and let the public judge for themselves.
"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," Trump said at a rally on Friday afternoon.
Trump has previously claimed that the entire investigation was rigged.
House Republicans have characterized this as "reopening" the investigation, although Comey did not describe it that way himself.
"The FBI’s decision to reopen its investigation into Secretary Clinton reinforces what the House Judiciary Committee has been saying for months: the more we learn about Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server, the clearer it becomes that she and her associates committed wrongdoing and jeopardized national security," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said in a statement.
"Yet again, Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in a statement, adding that he is renewing his call to suspend classified briefings for Clinton. The Director of National Intelligence has previously denied similar requests.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) called for the FBI to brief lawmakers on the new findings, describing Comey's letter as "unsolicited and, quite honestly, surprising."
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the announcement is "an important step toward accountability and transparency on Secretary Clinton's private email system."
"With the FBI already determining that Secretary Clinton sent and received classified information through her private email system, it is important for the FBI to fully examine these additional materials," Johnson said.
Democrats in Congress were circling the wagons to defend Clinton.
"Donald Trump and his allies seem to put their faith in the integrity of the FBI only when it serves their political purposes," House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) said in a statement. "I would expect that this investigation will continue to be impartial, and that this additional step--taken only in an abundance of caution--will further clear Secretary Clinton of any wrongdoing."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) issued a statement calling the release of the incredibly vague letter at a time that could influence the election "appalling."
"Director Comey's announcement played right into the political campaign of Donald Trump, who is already using this letter for political purposes," she said. "And all of this just 11 days before the election."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said nothing in Comey's letter suggests the FBI will change its recommendation that criminal charges are unjustified, and she accused Republicans of misleading the public about it.
"The public interest would be served by the FBI providing the facts, rather than allowing Republicans to stoke innuendo and falsehoods 11 days away from a presidential election,” Pelosi said.
CBS News reported that sources say the investigation was never officially closed.
The New York Times reported that the emails surfaced on electronic devices seized from Anthony Weiner and top Clinton aide Huma Abedin during the investigation of Weiner sending illicit texts to a teenager.
In a letter to FBI employees Friday obtained by the Washington Post, Comey attempted to explain his reason for sending the letter to Congress.
"Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed," Comey said, according to the Post. "I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record."
Still, he acknowledged that the information he released could be misunderstood.
"At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression," he wrote. "In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it."
Officials familiar with Comey's reasoning told the Post he feared that the story would leak if he did not notify Congress himself immediately.