It’s an October Surprise that few of us saw coming: the FBI reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server just 11 days before Election Day, citing evidence that it apparently obtained while looking into Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal. Although Hillary has managed to largely sidestep the email fiasco – in the eyes of both voters and of the justice system – the latest Weiner revelation could spell political and legal disaster for the embattled candidate.
FBI Director James Comey dropped a bombshell on Friday with this letter, which announced that “the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” They had been investigating allegations of sexually explicit messages sent to a 15-year-old girl by Weiner, who is the estranged husband of Clinton confidante Huma Abedin.
Predictably, the Hillary machine has dragged Comey over the coals for reopening the politically damning investigation at the eleventh hour of the election. Hillary’s campaign chair, John Podesta, blasted the FBI director in a withering statement.
“It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election,” he 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.”
Comey’s response to the backlash is telling: while he understands the political and professional ramifications of commenting on a sensitive investigation so close to the election, he remains insistent that the new emails forced his hand.
"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 wrote in a letter to FBI employees. "I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record."
Tens of thousands of Abedin’s emails were found on a laptop that she shared with Weiner, who was forced to turn it over to the FBI as part of their sexting probe. Officials have yet to publicly share the contents of the emails, with the FBI claiming that it has not yet begun to sift through them; in the meantime, speculation has begun to mount.
One popular theory involves Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand-based internet entrepreneur who has been tangled in an extradition battle with the U.S. over charges relating to his role as the founder of file-sharing site Megaupload. On Friday, Dotcom ominously tweeted: “Hillary, who signed my extradition request, will get busted by the same mass surveillance system the US Govt used to spy on me unlawfully.”
As the theory goes, Hillary’s deleted emails were never missing. They were stored in the NSA’s cloud server – by the “mass surveillance system” Dotcom refers to – and remain accessible to anyone who knows how to access them. Dotcom figured out how to retrieve Hillary’s deleted emails, according to the theory, and made the process public via Twitter, prompting panic throughout the Obama administration.
The government was always aware that Hillary’s emails were out there, the theory continues, and pressure from WikiLeaks had been forcing the Obama administration to figure out a solution. Dotcom’s revelation scrambled their plan, which was to forget that the email thing ever happened, and now Hillary will have to take the fall to protect Obama and the rest of the Democrats that were implicated.
If the Dotcom theory is true, it would mean that Abedin’s laptop is merely a ruse for the FBI to introduce emails that it recovered from the NSA’s cloud server, and to do so in a way that links the scandal directly to Hillary’s inner circle.
In the summer, Abedin testified under oath that she had handed over all of her devices that possibly contained any material relating to her State Department work: “two laptops, a BlackBerry, and some files that I found in my apartment,” she said during her deposition. If the third laptop exists, Huma clearly perjured herself – but why would she not only continue to store Hillary’s deleted emails on her laptop, but also give her philandering husband free reign of the device?
The Dotcom theory potentially proves that the rabbit hole goes even further. Some proponents of Dotcom’s version of events believe that Hillary and the Obama administration are locked in a sort of political poker game.
Hillary allegedly knows that the contents of her deleted emails will also implicate Obama and several top members of the administration. She can comfortably demand that Comey release his findings, therefore maintaining an illusion of honesty and integrity in front of voters, trusting that the revelations contained within would tank Comey and the Obama administration.
In a spectacularly roundabout way, the antics of Anthony Weiner could certainly end up springing an unfixable leak in Clinton’s once-sturdy ship. Whether the self-described “perpetually horny middle-aged man” was actually sending lewd messages with the same computer that his wife used to store Hillary’s secret emails remains to be seen, but the renewed focus on Hillary’s email scandal will not do her any favors.